TechBytes with Frank Palermo, Global Head of Digital Solutions, Virtusa

Frank Palermo

Frank Palermo
SVP, Digital Solutions, Virtusa

For the sake of an analogy, humans know more about the Black Holes today than they did in 2010. The same can be said for digital customer experience, which is now embedded in a Marketer’s DNA. Marketing teams now measure their digital competency based on multiple factors, including User Experience (UX), Mobility, Customer Experience Management, Digital Analytics, Big Data, AI, Gamification, Cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), and so on. To better understand how Virtusa builds its strategy for Customer Experiences, we spoke to the Global Head of Digital Solutions, Frank Palermo.

Tell us about your role at Virtusa and the team/technology you handle.

Virtusa is a leading digital engineering and outsourcing services company helping global 2000 companies in their journey of business transformation and innovation. As the Global Head of Virtusa’s Digital Solutions Group, I am responsible for leading the technology practice and focusing on helping clients reimagine their digital future. Our Digital Solutions Group integrates many specialized digital competency areas such as User Experience (UX), Mobility, Customer Experience Management, Digital Analytics, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Gamification, Cloud, and Internet of Things (IoT). The group is also responsible for creating an overall go-to-market strategy, developing technical competencies and standards, and delivering IP based solutions for each of these practice areas.

How do you define ‘Customer Experience’ at Virtusa?

We believe good experience is good business. Companies with superior customer experiences grow revenues faster than other companies with less successful customer experience programs. Over the past 10 years, design and experience companies have outperformed the S&P 500 index by a whopping 228 percent. In addition, companies that deliver great experiences generally have 22 percent higher NPS (Net Promoter Scores). Superior customer experience drives superior revenue growth in industries where customers are free to switch business and competitors deliver a differentiated customer experience.

Achieving operational excellence through the levers of digital technologies such as AI, mobility, and analytics drives business innovation leading to high performance, increased agility, product differentiation, and disruptive business models. When these two factors work in tandem, the result is superior customer experience. For us, customer experience is not a one-time activity; the experience is the brand and digital is the power behind the experience. Another aspect is designing moments that influence a customer’s journey through personalized, relevant, omni-channel experiences.

How does a ‘Gartner recognition’ in specific categories enable any tech company to address market challenges and deliver scalable digital transformations?

As part of vendor research reports like the Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ), analyst firms regularly evaluate suppliers across different technology and domain areas. A report such as Gartner’s MQ rating helps the buyer community make the right decision in identifying the vendor best suited to address their business and technology needs. For us, external, independent research like Gartner’s recognition brings credibility to our capabilities while reinforcing our technology leadership.

At Virtusa, how do you leverage marketing technologies to build better CRM and CX implementation models for your customers?

Our typical CRM/CX transformation engagements have Experience Design at the core. Marketing technologies play a key role in aiding the customer experience journey. We consider the following four areas as key to building innovative and immersive experiences:

  • Data-driven marketing
  • Customer experience by audiences
  • True mobile experience
  • Cross-channel/Cross-device marketing with relevant content

Along with our Digital Marketing Maturity model that helps identify and remedy gaps, we use a variety of technologies and levers to enable CX transformation:

  • Content strategy: Specific plans and guidelines to optimize the customer journey with content at pre-defined moments and touch-points
  • Audience segmentation and targeting: Segment and target audience (prospects/customers) with the correct offers by geographic, behavioral, demographic, and psychographic targeting
  • Digital analytics: Find hidden patterns and behaviors in data to optimize and refine marketing campaigns and site experiences

CRM and campaign management: Segment and target audiences with CRM data across channels to manage online and offline campaigns, and increase revenue by reducing churn

What is the ‘State of CRM and Customer Experience’ technology in 2018?

Currently, this is in a state of flux due to the confusing array of choices in front of a client. The gaps can be broadly classified into:

  • Business gaps: Slowing the marketing automation roadmap
  • Data gaps: Creating disconnected data silos
  • Technology gaps: Technology gaps resulting in duplicative content platforms

What are your predictions on CRM and marketing automation running on AI/Machine learning?

In an experience economy where companies are now competing on the quality of their experience, AI and machine learning will create additional opportunities to enhance that experience through more sophisticated targeting, deeper personalization, and relevant offers. Machine learning will provide the ability to do micro-segmentation by going beyond basic demographic, geographic, and industry segmentation. Machine learning allows you to pull out descriptive buyer-level insights, attributes, and sentiments that provides an understanding of what is most relevant to buyers.

AI will also provide a way to automate many of the mundane tasks associated with CRM systems. These include managing reminders, contracts, and appointments that will allow sales executives to focus on what really matters, building relationships and closing deals.

Why do marketers find it hard to attribute customer success to experience management? What are your recommendations to overcome these challenges?

A disconnected customer journey that is not tracked and integrated with various technologies creates a challenge today for marketers. Marketers face challenges with data, business processes, and technology integration to identify customers from various interactions and touchpoints in the connected customer journey.

Having a connected customer journey is key to overcoming these challenges. A company needs to have the customer data structured with first-party and third-party attributes to leverage that data for acquisition and retention marketing. They need to have a digital transformation plan to align with the marketing automation solutions needed to deliver personalized content that is dynamic and delivered to the right audiences.

How would you define Personalization- Segmentation- Optimization, and Automation at various stages of your digital campaigns?

When it comes to personalization, segmentation-optimization, and automation at various stages of the digital campaign, the ability to track the customer journey touch points from online ad engagement to conversion across media channels and devices is key. A company must have the correct marketing automation solutions implemented and enabled to track, measure, and optimize the customer journey across the funnel.

We know today that not everyone is ready to purchase products right away, so lead nurturing maintains an open line of communication until the prospect is ready to buy or customers are ready to buy upsell offers. Having the right marketing automation solutions implemented and enabled is necessary to retarget prospects and customers through the integrated customer journey. To achieve this, you must be able to:

  • Engage the customer: – Streamline lead nurturing capabilities to integrate with CRM data and have a 360-degree view of prospects and customers. This helps provide the right offer to the right person.
  • Enhance the customer experience: – Suppress customers using CRM data with a data match partner and target prospects for acquisition sales and customers with cross-sell/upsell messaging.

Tell us about your most outstanding Digital Transformation story? How did you measure its success among the audience?

For a large global bank, we recently helped them launch a next-generation all-mobile digital banking platform aimed at millennial consumers. The platform helps millennials save more, track spending, and gain better control of their finances. Customers can open a checking and savings account and a debit card but never have to set foot in a branch to open an account. The banking app is very different from most banking apps as it brings some psychology into play by allowing customers to rate their purchases as a “want” or a “need.” Customers then can assign an emoji to a purchase. We studied millennials over a period of 15 months and learned they want an all-mobile banking app that is friendly. They didn’t want to feel judged about the way they handle their money.

The platform also enables spending goals. It won’t allow a user to spend more than they have in their account. It also lets users automate savings, such as putting aside $20 every pay period or setting aside $5 every time they go shopping. They can also designate savings for specific purposes or projects.

Given the fact that this is a pure online mobile bank, it allows the bank to sidestep any regulations that limit the markets in which they can operate. The launch of this platform almost doubles the bank’s addressable market and offers an experience unseen in any other banking app.

How do you leverage AI/ML and data science at Virtusa? What AI companies are you particularly interested in

AI is a rapidly growing area for us that is impacting everything we do. We are leveraging AI and data science in all aspects of the customer journey from enabling micro-segmentation and targeting to providing more sophisticated next best actions. We are using machine learning to automate and optimize media buying, automate email marketing campaigns, and for CRM and sales activities.

We are using AI-based virtual digital assistants or chatbots to simplify front-end buying journeys and support human sales and service reps. Our focus is not to replace human interaction by extending capabilities through the use of AI. AI is also enabling the use of voice-based analysis and visual engagement technology that parses facial expressions to interpret sentiment and expression.

The AI space is rapidly evolving. We are focusing on major AI platform players – such as Google, AWS, IBM, and Microsoft – and building our core AI solutions. But we also regularly keep an eye on the emerging space with companies like Cogito for enhancing phone interactions, Valassis for providing automated chatbots, Rocket Fuel (now Sizmek) for high performing machine learning analytics, and Cognitv for measuring sentiment in images, to name a few.

We believe AI can ultimately make customer experiences better. It’s just about finding the right balance between man and machine.

Thanks for chatting with us, Frank.
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