Change is inevitable, someone once coined. The last two-plus years, it’s all we’ve known.

That was the message from Rich Hein, Editor in Chief of CMSWire, in his opening keynote at last week’s CMSWire DX Summit virtual conference

“Change keeps coming at us from every direction it seems with disruption coming from technology to the pandemic, supply chain issues and more,” Hein said. “Many of us have had to do more with less. But with that said, things are slowly getting back to whatever normal is.”

And marketers and customer experience professionals are getting better, too. For the first time since CMSWire first published its State of Digital Customer Experience report, more than 50% of organizations have some type of personalization in place. 

“However, we should temper that knowledge with all of the customer data and privacy issues that are top of mind with today's CX leaders,” Hein said. “Is your organization positioned to make the necessary course corrections required to move to a first-party data world?”

CMSWire’s virtual conference this month is one of four this year. The first two are available on demand. The next one is Aug. 1718 with the theme, “How Great Organizations Empower Customer Experience Teams,” followed by the 2022 series finale on Oct. 2627, “Future CX — Blending Physical & Digital Experiences.” CMSWire debuted the DX Summit in Chicago in 2015 and has held them every year, switching to virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are some more takeaways from the May 2022 virtual DX Summit: 

Resolving Intent Through Conversational AI

Seth Earley, CEO and founder, Earley Information Science, discussed the state of conversational AI. Earley said he looks at chatbots as a “channel to knowledge and content and data.”

CX and marketing professionals still need to have content and data to begin with, or else the chatbot can’t be of much help, he added. “If somebody asks a question that you don't have content for, it's not going to find it,” Earley said. “So we need to have the content. I look at it as a retrieval mechanism, just like search is a retrieval mechanism."

Brands need to make sure they're helping conversational AI systems understand the signals and resolving an intent that many times has multiple dimensions. “The idea here is that you have to be able to design the content and the architecture for retrieval,” Earley said. “And so a lot of organizations are building new AI Content Management Groups. Well, it should just be content because it's componentizing that content, and it's making it readily available to have a specific use case in the specific audience.”

Related Article: 7 Takeaways from CMSWire's DX Summit 2022 Winter Edition

You Can't Outsource All AI

Earley added that some organizations have tried to outsource platforms like conversational AI to the vendors asking them to own it, manage it, train it and evolve it. 

“And my answer is this: one day this is going to have to be a competitive differentiator,” Earley said. “This is going to require that this is core to the value proposition and you can't outsource your core differentiator. You can't outsource your core capability that will be a differentiator in the marketplace that's strategically important to the organization.”

He acknowledges a lot of capabilities around AI are available out of the box. Many organizations have professional services groups that will continue to evolve and design knowledge bases.

End of day? This really needs to be internal. 

“You need to build that core capability and that maturity of a space so that you can build your knowledge models and your language models, because it's going to go far beyond the generic use cases and the out of the box capabilities,” Earley said. “It's really going to be about the knowledge of the enterprise, making that more readily available."

That list of people who need that knowledge includes employees, partners, channel partners, field service, marketing, customer self-support, call center support and embedded product knowledge among others, according to Earley.

Organizations need to build knowledge capability, knowledge architecture and engineering, Earley said, adding, “because at the end of the day, this is what they compete on. They compete on the knowledge and the expertise. That's a competitive differentiator. You can have standardization for efficiency, but you need to have differentiation for competitive advantage. And this will become part of the competitive advantage and that cannot be outsourced.”

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Major Enterprises Leading Nascent Market

Paul Roetzer, CEO and founder of the Marketing AI Institute, called the conversational AI market nascent. He also found in his research that only around 2,500 globally have conversational in their professional titles (900 in the US), while noting there are 11 million marketers globally.

So who is leading the charge in organizations, and at which type of organizations? Turns out, most major enterprises, the Fortune 500s, have leaders with conversational in their titles.

“They have people dedicated to conversational; they're focused on this,” Roetzer said. “The key thing to remember in all this is language AI, the ability for machines to understand and generate language, is relatively new at the current levels.

"There's been massive leaps forward in language AI in the last three years powered by open AI, Google, Microsoft, Nvidia, the big players. They have made leaps forward in language capabilities. So three years ago, the reason most of the chatbots sucked was because the language AI sucked. And it’s moving rapidly now: the improvements in language capability, understanding generation. And that, I think, is going to open the door to lots more case studies in the near future.”

Related Article: 5 Takeaways from the DX Summit 2021 Summer Edition

Treat Conversational AI As Part of Your Brand

Radhika Dirks, CEO and founder of Ribo AI, said that when considering creating conversational AI via a chatbot that speaks for the brand, you must ask what you want that experience to be.

“When you start a company and think about the brand, the design, the logo, the look and feel of the brand, the same perspective needs to be the first thing you create as you're thinking about the conversational AI,” Dirks said. "Because that becomes the interface for the customer experience.”

Learning Opportunities

Dirks has brands she loves because everything is a curated experience for her: the customer service agents take care of her, and she has great digital experiences at her favorite brands.

“That's the kind of experience you want to create to start with the look and feel versus what most people end up doing today, just copying anywhere else,” Dirks said. “This what the chatbot experience should be: this window popping up from the side that keeps asking me annoying questions every two minutes. Do you want to talk to me? Hi, can I help you? If I need the help, I'm going to reach out.

"So don't start from a product-first perspective. I always like to say whether you're designing ambitious technologies, or even a product of any sort, start from the vision first. Start from the vision and then go into what can technology do today?”

Related Article: 7 Takeaways From CMSWire's DX Summit 2021 Spring Edition

How AI, Algorithms Impact CX, VoC

Markus Giesler, consumer sociologist, editor at the Journal of Consumer Research and associate professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business, spoke about the influence of AI and algorithms on customer experience and Voice of the Customer (VoC). 

Giesler explained that AI can make customer journeys more captivating, exciting, efficient and convenient through its four primary capabilities:

  • Listening
  • Predicting
  • Producing
  • Interacting

However, those four capabilities also come with four major concerns: the surveillance of society, the creation of unequal worlds, the rise of transhumanism and the complication of humanized AI. 

For instance, in the case of unequal worlds, Giesler used the example of tech displacing workers. He compared it to how he’d often call his mom when he’d have a question or want a recipe while in the kitchen. But with the advance in tech, he stopped calling his mom and instead turned to Google, which offered just-as-good or even better answers.

And while advanced tech is very helpful, research shows that, as a society, our fear of algorithms is on the rise. People worry that AI will misunderstand, replace, alienate and exploit them.

"Consumer experiences are complex, multi-layered,” said Giesler. “We tend, in companies, to constantly simplify the conversation to things that are easy to digest and that we can use and ... implement effectively in the decision context."

Giesler argued that, if we look at AI as a fundamental human experience shaped by lots of different human actors — instead of a prediction machine — we can use it along touchpoints in the customer journey to turn those four fears into positives. 

Instead of feeling misunderstood, marketers can use contextualized AI to tap into individual insights and make people feel understood. Instead of alienating people by replacing all human contact with tech, we can use AI to help people feel more connected. 

"Once we unpack each of [AI’s four capabilities],” said Giesler, “there's a complex world of experiences, both positive and negative, that companies can leverage and tap into in an effort to hopefully create an experience that is larger than the sum of its parts."

Where Privacy Meets CX, Cookies

Camille Stewart, global head of product security strategy at Google, discussed a wide-ranging batch of topics surrounding customer data privacy. She touched upon cookies, which she called “an interesting space and a space where you really should be having a conversation with your security team.”

“There are rich data stores, first created in the ‘90s and are great for remembering where a buyer added something to their cart or where they last left off in a search or some recent searches on your site,” Stewart said. “And that's really where it began at that first-party engagement.”

Later, we added third party to determine how the user is engaging with other brands or moving across the internet — and how that information can enrich what we know about them and how we serve them.

But that’s changing, too. Google is phasing out third-party cookie tracking on Chrome and coming up with alternative personalization approaches.

“The landscape here is changing as privacy concerns about how third-party cookies collect user data and pass it around,” Stewart said. “It's led to action from regulators and web browsers and the landscape is changing. But that first-party information is still very rich, and there are still a lot of opportunities for that third-party data, usually in aggregate. Browsers and phones are instead of serving targeted ads, are using large groups to understand user bases with similar interests to understand communities and demographics.”