How IBM, Similac And Other Marketers Think Beyond The FAQ When It Comes To Customer Support


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Article by Ernan Roman
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Recently, the annual list of companies with the worst customer service came out and it got me thinking. It’s time that marketers seized the opportunity of “helpfulness” and use its value at every stage of the purchase journey, from prospect to long-term, raving fan. All too often, helpfulness is dismissed as a throwaway, when it can be transformed into your most valuable engagement strategy.

According to Forrester, good customer service is all about being anticipatory, helpful and responsive using predictive analytics and cognitive engagement.

Customers want effortless interactions over web and mobile self-service channels as well as via new channels such as video chat.

Proactive engagement for pre-purchase consumers answers the questions that drive the pre-purchase journey. Learnings can then be used improve operational performance and to predict future customer behavior.

Post-purchase satisfaction is dependent upon preemptive service that offers faster resolution at lower costs, with deeply personalized engagement, better planning and anticipation of future customer needs.

Similac Offers Help Now For Goodwill On Purchases Later

It may seem counterintuitive to offer breastfeeding help when you are a baby-formula company, but Similac knows that information means goodwill. And goodwill breeds legions of devoted customers.

The company offers a wide array of online help as well as communities on its website that range from “My Pregnancy” to “My Baby” to “Feeding Expert.” This demonstrates that the company is offering help quite literally at every stage of a new mom’s and new baby’s lifecycle.

The company took on the controversy of breastfeeding in a TV commercial campaign called “The Sisterhood of Motherhood.” “We make formula, and parents who use our products are often judged for how they parent and the decisions that they make,” said Misha Pardubicka-Jenkins, director of Pediatric Nutrition at Abbott. “So we’re putting a stake in the ground and we want everybody to support one another in the spirit of acceptance. All moms want to feel empowered in the decisions they make and feel supported by everyone.”

The feedback since the video went up has been “very positive,” with more than eight million views onYouTube. Additionally, Similac ranks in top spots on the 2015 list of leading baby formula brands in the U.S.

IBM Gives Business What It Needs To Succeed

In a b-to-b environment, IBM has taken not only the necessary steps to understand the industries it supports with products and services that help businesses perform at a higher level, but they have also gone one step beyond to offer helpful research and studies on topics that are important to those industries.

Regarding the use of Instagram for b-to-b engagement, Katie Keating, social content & engagement strategist at IBM, commented, “We prioritized engagement over number of followers. This put the IBM account way ahead of larger b-to-b companies [that] are well-known for their social media prowess… [We] curate content that is intriguing to our audiences, that maybe teaches them something simple but useful, and builds trust among our followers…. We don’t want to speak into a void but to an engaged, interested audience, so listening and gathering feedback is a critical first step before we publish anything… give access and meaning to your brand. Don’t try to promote, sell, drive clicks … You will drive engagement and preference for your brand by being real and staying true to the platform.”

IBM is one of the top Instagram accounts named as No. 1 by the simply measured “Retail Brand Social Media Report,” with 9,265 followers and an engagement rate of 4.04%, (versus the average engagement rate for the top retail brands of 4%).


1. Marketers need to stop thinking of support as a list of stale FAQs.
Being truly supportive means being relevant and helpful at every step, addressing everything from pre-purchase questions to post-purchase issue resolution.

2. Develop value-based content and resources outside of sales-driven messaging that demonstrates authentic understanding and concern for your customers.

3. Create resource centers that are accessible on multiple media, address the needs of a variety of consumers and where they are in their life stages, careers and their dealings with your company.

Marketers need to position themselves as invaluable resources for “helpfulness” to customers throughout every step of the purchase and post purchase journey. Now is the time revisit support strategies to transform them into powerful engagement vehicles.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ernan Roman
Ernan Roman (@ernanroman) is president of ERDM Corp. and author of Voice of the Customer Marketing. He was inducted into the DMA Marketing Hall of Fame due to the results his VoC research-based CX strategies achieve for clients such as IBM, Microsoft, QVC, Gilt and HP. ERDM conducts deep qualitative research to help companies understand how customers articulate their feelings and expectations for high value CX and personalization. Named one of the Top 40 Digital Luminaries and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing.


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