“Ice-T? Why would they have Ice-T at a conference dedicated to customer experience?” Well by the conclusion of my two days at the CMSWire CONNECT conference in Austin last week I had my answer.
But more on Ice-T later.
First off a nod of thanks to my CMSWire editors Dom Nicastro and Siobhan Fagan for arranging for me to attend the conference as a CMSWire contributor. It was great to spend time in person with people I’ve been writing for over the last six years. It was also an excellent opportunity to meet other members of the CMSWire team too.
Early encounter with AI personas
My two days started off with attending a very thought-provoking Breakfast Briefing from Erin Reilly of the University of Texas on The Rise of Virtual Beings and how they are transforming the customer experience. I must admit I hadn’t given much thought to the use of three-dimensional avatars beyond gaming applications, but her examples of AI-driven personas certainly gave me pause to think about how the digital landscape is continuing to evolve.
Metrics of CX – data and experience
In his discussion on The Customer of the Future, the University of Texas’s Art Markman discussed the application of cognitive psychology to customer behavior and how we measure it. One point that really caught my attention was the observation that
“If we spend time just looking at data we start to think that every interaction is a digital experience. We need to look beyond that and embrace the real-life experiences and engagements.”
This really resonated as I’ve had several conversations recently about the relative importance of quantitative and qualitative metrics when it comes to determining the quality of content-driven interactions. This drove home that both are equally important. As one later speaker put it, and I’m afraid I missed taking a note of who it was, it’s no good knowing the ‘What’ if we don’t know the ‘Why.’
Katrina Taylor of LuLu Lemon also summed it up nicely in her excellent presentation on Human-Centered Design for Omni-Channel Delivery when she stated:
“You can go through all the data in the world, but you will learn way more in a 30-minute conversation with those on the front line who interface with customers.”
Intelligent content drives personalization
I must admit my heart gave a little jump to hear Matthew Shaeffer from REI talk about the need for intelligent content in his talk on Modernizing the CX Stack. His observation that Intelligent CX needs to be a series of uniquely assembled interactions driven by content that is structurally rich, and semantically categorized was great to hear. Engineering content in such a way is key to delivering the granular levels of personalized interactions most companies are looking to achieve, and it was great to hear of a major retailer adopting this approach.
Tarunam Verma from Lowes made a smart observation during his presentation on Hyper-Personalization that what we think of as personalization isn’t just about applying technology, in reality, it’s a mix of culture, mindset, and the technology.
Is AI really Augmented Intelligence rather than Artificial Intelligence?
The second day of the conference had a strong theme around the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) with some excellent observations and talking points discussed throughout the day. Here’s a snapshot of some of the ones that caught my attention:
- “Use AI in support of creativity not instead of creativity” – Karna Crawford (ex-Ford)
- “AI is most useful currently as a back-office application that detects operational inefficiencies.” / “There are two waves of AI: (1) recommendation engines – which are established, and (2) generative – which we are still trying to figure out.” / “Don’t implement AI just for the sake of it, know what problem you are trying to solve. / AI requires us to rethink how we do things.” – Daniel Wu (J.P. Morgan)
- “Think of AI as ‘Augmented Intelligence” that helps us do our tasks better, not ‘Artificial Intelligence’ that will replace us.” – Raj Krishan (Microsoft).
One of the best questions of the day came from CMSWire facilitator Kate Cox who posed her panelists a pretty philosophical question:
“If I use AI to craft an email and you use AI to read it, are we actually communicating?”
Ice-T on Walls and Boats
Which brings us back to Ice-T as the conference closing keynote. I wasna sure what a former gangster, turned rapper, turned actor would have to say that would be relevant to an audience full of technologists. In fact, I was in two minds about staying, thinking I’d leave a bit early to get ahead of the Austin downtown Friday traffic exodus; but I’m glad I did as he delivered one of the best conference keynotes I’ve seen.
It was entertaining, full of amazing stories, and above all an inspirational discussion on handling change. Here are just a few of his observations that I jotted down:
- “There are walls – things that you can’t change – and obstacles that look like walls. Get over the obstacles by talking to people that have already got over them. But then make sure to put in the work that they put in.”
- “Don’t ever get annoyed at the lack of results from the work you didn’t do.”
- “Anything you do you bring your perspective to it. That’s your value. Make it your own thing.”
- “Don’t complain, just figure stuff out.”
- “Take opportunity when it turns up. A lot of times the opportunity is right in front of you. Just get in that boat, at least for long enough to say ‘I don’t like it.’ If you don’t you’ll never know.”
And if the CONNECT conference was one thing, it was a great opportunity to learn from, meet, and network with a whole raft of new people. Thanks to all I chatted with be it after presentations, at vendor booths, or over coffee or meal breaks.
Here’s to getting in the boat.