Kevin Lindsay DX Leaders interview: "Ironically, we may use AI and ML to create a more human-like experience… where we can enhance human efforts at scale.”

Over the course of his career, Kevin Lindsay has seen the need time and again to clearly demonstrate the value of each new digital experience technology in order to dispel customers’ natural skepticism and doubt.

“I think back to one of my earliest roles at Verity when we were launching a search engine for ecommerce,” Lindsay said. “People were saying, ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever enter my credit card online — it’s too risky.’” Customers need to be constantly reassured of the value of adopting new technology whether it’s around improved ease of use or scalability or other factors, he added.

Lindsay is currently director of product marketing for Adobe Experience Manager at Adobe. He came to Adobe in 2009 when Adobe acquired Omniture and had previously worked at search software vendors Mercado and Verity.

Key Digital Customer Experience Milestones: Connectivity, Analytics and Mobile

After graduating with a BA in Communications from the University of Calgary, Lindsay started working for the university as a recruiter driving to high schools around rural Alberta. He then became an internet evangelist and looked for ways to get the university online and realize better communication across the campus. When the university applied to become a new media center of excellence, among the companies funding that effort was Adobe. By that point, Lindsay had decided he loved technology and left academia in search of work in the tech industry.

Lindsay calls out three key technology developments he’s witnessed in the digital customer experience market so far. First of all, was the debut of high-speed connectivity which made it possible for websites to provide rich content with which customers would want to interact.

“More recently, analytics gave us the ability to understand how customers interact with us and our brand – what they do and don’t do, what makes them convert and buy, what makes our customers tick,” Lindsay said. “Then came mobile, which represented an entirely new way for consumers to interact with brands, for instance, through micro-moments, and changed the entire digital experience forever.”

Adobe is one of the sponsors of CMSWire’s DX Summit taking place Nov. 12 through 14 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago.

We spoke with Lindsay for his take on the likely impact of emerging technologies like AI and IoT on digital customer experiences and his thoughts and advice on personalization and digital transformation.

Constantly Try to Understand How Customers Use Your Products

CMSWire: How are AI, machine learning, chatbots and IoT impacting digital customer experiences? How should organizations prepare to take advantage of these technologies?

Lindsay: This is about how we need to focus on human experience, not just digital or customer experience. It’s about what humans are trying to achieve and their expectation when dealing with a brand and trying to accomplish a goal.

If you always bring it back to the human experience, it frames what you’re trying to do. So then, you’re not just using chatbots for the sake of using chatbots or using AI for the sake of using AI.

The potential is to really augment the human experience. For reasons of scalability and cost, you can’t have humans in every situation with a customer. You don’t even want that, humans can get overtaxed and they may have a bad day. So, these technologies provide ways to augment what humans are naturally good at.

CMSWire: What types of digital experiences will emerging technologies be able to deliver to customers?

Lindsay: Voice and AI are playing a role to enhance the empathy you have for your customers and provide the ability to step into the customer’s shoes to understand what they’re trying to do.

The promise for AI and machine learning (ML) is to understand what a series of interactions represent and what the human [customer] is trying to achieve. Ironically, we may use AI and ML to create a more human-like experience — I’m not really talking about avatars or replicating a human being — but where we can enhance human efforts at scale.

IoT is a bit different. It allows companies to look at where else experiences could take place. For instance, internet-connected devices like Owlet, which can monitor a baby’s heart rate and breathing while they’re sleeping in their cribs, bring value to nervous new parents.

CMSWire: Where do you see the gaps today in the kinds of digital experiences companies deliver to customers and the kinds of digital experiences those customers are expecting? How should companies work to close those gaps?

Lindsay: This is a hard issue particularly for enterprises. They’ve all been investing a lot in digital experience and digital transformation but most of them still have some dependency on legacy systems. So, tying everything altogether across the customer lifecycle from the moment of purchase and over the maturity of that relationship is a challenge.

A lot of companies are looking to microbrands, the newer companies popping up on the scene. These startups are digital-first and can address the customer lifecycle more fluently, because they are nimbler and new. This is why millennials are flocking to a lot of microbrands, why companies like Stash are doing so well in getting young people to invest in the stock market and retirements because the customer experience is so fluid and seamless.

Enterprises have to look at their foundation, content and data and what they need to do to build experiences on top which really facilitate the end-to-end experience that the customer expects.

Customers don’t care what legacy technologies you use; they just want experiences that help them accomplish their goals. There’s also not as much brand loyalty as in the past, so you better get it right.

CMSWire: How should companies go about striking the right balance in using personalization to appeal to individual customers while not being perceived as overly intrusive?

Lindsay: Personalization can’t just stop at converting a prospect into a customer because you recommended something they liked. Even though they might be a known customer, you can’t take that relationship for granted.

Millennials may be very happy for you to use their personal data if you provide great experiences. For the rest of the population, they may be more like: ‘Here’s what I’m going to let you know about me.’ And, then they’ll not only tolerate personalized customer experiences, but they’ll expect them.

When that personalization doesn’t happen, it will be very jarring and will lead to a poor customer experience.

CMSWire: How should companies think about reimagining their digital customer experiences within the context of a broader digital transformation initiative?

Lindsay: There are a lot of baby steps that have to happen. With any organization, you have to be continually showing progress and showing successes. Customers tell us they need to show returns on investments and we tell them how analytics, A/B testing and personalization can give them quick wins.

It’s also considering what your digital transformation destination looks like even though it’s always moving. You need to constantly be reimagining what your customers want.

A company will say to us, “Tell us what the best-of-breed is across industries, not what my nearest competitor is doing.” Amazon and Netflix have set the bar [for digital transformation].

It’s about looking two to five years from now and then embarking on a steady march to get your data, content and platform in order so you have a foundation to build upon for the future.

CMSWire: Do you have any advice for organizations based on Adobe’s experience in transforming and evolving its own digital customer experience?

At Adobe, we can relate to struggles that other companies like us go through. One thing we’ve learned — which has been critical to our success — is constantly trying to understand how customers use our products and get value and where they’re not using a product to its greatest extent. By looking at dashboards, we can see where customers need a little bit of help and some product tips and tricks.

At our Summit in March, we launched Experience League, a place where customers can go to see how they’re doing with our products, to access training, videos, support and self-assessments. We’ve taken a lot of the insights we’ve gained from so many people using our products, and turned it into some kind of action and experience to give customers the ability to be successful on their own.

CMSWire: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Did you take that advice? What piece of advice do you wish you’d taken, but you didn’t?

Lindsay: I remember my brother, who I really admire, always had more friends than anyone I know. His advice was to build success based on relationships and I’ve taken that to heart.

It’s what I need to do in an organization like Adobe and in dealing with customers. It all comes down to building relationships and thinking of and understanding what other people are trying to do.

My brother also always gave me the piece of advice that I haven’t taken to “throw caution to the wind and go for it.”

I was just always a bit more cautious. I wish my wife and I had moved to California earlier and that we had traveled more before we had kids. But everything has worked out well, so I don’t think I have any regrets. After all, I don’t have the ability to A/B test my life!

Learn more about the Digital Customer Experience (DX) Summit here.