Paul Greenberg, Managing Principal at 56 Group, LLC, blogger, and author of “CRM at the Speed of Light” examines the evolution of artificial intelligence and IOT in customer service, and the one thing all human beings have in common.
In this podcast, Paul is interviewed by Oracle’s Jeffrey Wartgow.
Jeffrey Wartgow: Hello everyone, and welcome to Oracle’s Innovators in Customer Experience podcast. My name’s Jeffrey Wartgow, and I’m the Director of Outbound Product Management for Oracle Service Cloud. On this podcast, we interview innovators in customer experience including customers, partners, analysts – anyone who has a unique view on how customer experience is changing and developing in this current dynamic marketplace.
In this episode, we wanted bring somebody in who has been following the space for many years and is tuned in to how things have changed, how things are changing, and where the whole customer experience and technology market is headed.
The first name that came to our heads was Paul Greenberg, author of “CRM at the Speed of Light.”
For those out there who might just be getting introduced to Paul Greenberg, tell us a little bit about yourself and what made you start covering this space.
Paul Greenberg: Oddly, before I ever got into the space – the customer facing space – I was in politics for 20 some odd years. After that I got into building practices around Oracle, and SAP, and ERP practices. In 1997 I realized there was something on the horizon that was really interesting. I’d just been hired to be an EVP at a small company, and this thing on the horizon turned out to be Customer Relationship Management (CRM). It fascinated me.
You know why it fascinated me though? It was because it was a science of business that attempted to reproduce an art of life, which is how humans interact. It was the behavioral side of it all, not just the quantitative measurement and KPI side of CRM, and the sales/marketing customer support operational side. But it was also how human behavior worked. I had never seen a business science that did that.
I began looking into it, and I wrote a book on it called “CRM Speed of Light,” which I was lucky enough to have take off pretty much in its first edition.
Jeffrey Wartgow: It is an amazing space. It’s not just software – it facilitates interaction on both ends of the line. I agree with you; that’s one of the reasons I’m so fascinated by this space as well.
I was reading one of your latest blog posts on CRM in 2017, and you were talking about some of the trends, and some of the stuff that’s real and some that’s not. I know you have strong opinions on IOT: the Internet of Things.
Paul, what’s real? How is IOT really going to impact customer experience?
Paul Greenberg: Right now, what most of us are attracted to about IOT is the consumer side of it. We’re all wearing smart watches of one form or another, or a health-related device of some kind. We’re watching automobiles send data off to our auto dealers to help them figure out what’s not just going wrong with the car, but what kind of efficiencies the car has, and how to improve things. In some cases you’ll get a message in your actual automobile on the tires being low in your car. The ability to gain this kind of knowledge from devices – all done through the Cloud – and aggregated in one place fascinates people.
On the manufacturing side, we’re seeing a lot of that also through robotization, and again, data through sensors. But, here’s the problem. Where IOT really has difficulty is this: there are roughly, depending on whose account you believe, between three and 400 IOT data platforms. Now, none of them are interoperable. Meaning they can’t talk to each other. Ultimately IOT goes nowhere without the ability for these different platforms to talk to each other.
What has to happen is that there has to be a standard evolved for IOT now that allows for interoperability among those platforms, and allows for some standardization of the data itself. But until that interoperability standard actually occurs and then people use it, and adhere to it, and are certified with it, and so on, IOT’s going to be fascinating and amazing on the consumer side, and less important on the business side.
But, eventually it will happen. On the one hand, the promise is immense. I’ll put it this way though, the market projections for IOT range from the possible to the absurd. You can’t listen to the projections. You have to look at the valuing, you have to look at the possibilities, and then build toward and solve the problems, which is where interoperability has to be grounded.
We’re right on the verge, but we’re not there yet.
Jeffrey Wartgow: I agree with you that the standards haven’t developed yet. However, I go and I talk to customers all the time, and everybody is poking around this, trying to experiment with IOT. In a world where the standards aren’t there yet, what advice do you give them to get started?
Paul Greenberg: Make sure you have use cases and business outcomes that you can identify for it. For example, you have companies like Toyota and others who are using IOT, and using sensors in cars, which is always a very good example because they’re fairly advanced there. You’re getting enough information from your devices to manufacture a better car, or drive the car better, or solve a problem before it happens, or make an improvement to the car that people want, given usage – which they haven’t necessarily verbalized. In other words, there are specific use cases, and there are specific outcomes that you can identify.
That’s how you start in anything. You can use any one of the 400 platforms for that. As long as you have the use case and the outcomes that the use case will provide, you can pretty well use any IOT platform you want to build something that you need because the use cases are there. But find the use cases first, always.
Jeffrey Wartgow: Absolutely. I want to shift gears a little bit. We’re a technology company at Oracle so we’re always elbows deep in IOT and other cutting edge technologies. But the other area where we’ve been asked to invest a lot where there seems to be a massive resurgence in customer interest is artificial intelligence, and people wanting to automate all different aspects of the customer journey. What is your opinion here? Is this really going to change everything? Are we going completely to a bot driven world in our customer experience?
Paul Greenberg: Well yes and no. Artificial intelligence, of all the trends we’re seeing now, is probably the single most important one and probably the most viable one. Artificial intelligence itself has been around since the late ’50s, early ’60s. Now we’re scaling to millions of customers at a company, and we’re scaling to the need to personalize the interactions with those customers. We’re scaling to the place where a lot of what has to be done has to be automated in ways that change over time.
Look for example at what you guys are doing. You built a firm artificial intelligence foundation. You’re basically saying, “Right now we’re at a point where we know company X has millions of customers. Those millions of customers are not interested in the other 999,999 customers, they’re interested in what kind of interactions they’re having with you as an individual.”
Yet we have to basically take care of all million. What can we do? Well, we know this: most service interactions, for example, are automated or can be automated. They’re queries that have to be responded to in some channel, or a set of channels, or via some device. The thing is though, over time, people want changes. Consequently, to deal with a million individuals who are looking for personalized responses, we have to develop machine learning so that we don’t have to have human beings actually talking to each of those million, or trying to come up with an insight about each of those million. We have to build the algorithms to the point we can trust them, and they can do that.
The science of AI is so advanced that you can do that. You can not only take the processes, and have the processes learn, but at the same time you can develop the insights as the customer’s behavior changes over time at scale. Given we’re so interested in how customer journeys work, and what kind of experiences customers have with a company over time, and what kind of interactions they have via engagement. That becomes invaluable. We’re finding companies everywhere that are investing in it. You’re investing in it, all the big guys are investing in it. But there’s a lot of little niche companies out there also investing in artificial intelligence to provide the kind of algorithms necessary.
This is a big deal. Now that said, just to be clear, this isn’t Skynet, okay? We’re not a world where all of a sudden the bots are going to take over and run the world, and start killing us off, and we need John Conner to come in and save us. A chief scientist at a company said, “One of the things that’s really important to understand, aside from the fact that this isn’t Skynet, is AI doesn’t want anything.” Which I think is a perfect expression, because ultimately, yes, it learns, but human beings still have to point it in the direction it’s supposed to learn from, and learn in. That’s what human beings will still be doing for a long time to come. We’re nowhere near the point where the machine itself is running it.
That said, on the biggest scale, there’s a lot of worry that AI is going to ultimately lead to the point where human jobs are going to be obliterated, and we’re going to have massive unemployment. That’s not how the world has ever worked on the mega scale. What happens is the nature of work changes. And people then build programs to educate people to the change in work.
Those who don’t want to change what they do when change is eliminating their particular kind of job are the ones who end up losing jobs. But those who are willing to learn a new skill and a new capability are the ones who gain a new job. The world will not eliminate. AI is not only viable, it’s real, it’s now. It’s not dealing with the edginess of, say, IOT. It’s actually something that we can execute against. The use cases are solid, the case studies that are out there in terms of success are real, and AI itself is an advanced science. We’re dealing with something that I think has massive implications for business and the world.
Jeffrey Wartgow: I was speaking to a customer not too long ago, saying, “Is artificial intelligence going to replace all these human beings?” I thought about when I got my first computer. Everybody was like, “Well the computer will automate anything, so people won’t need to do anything.” It actually didn’t. It unleashed capacity, and we’re all doing even more now. It’s another tool that allows us to accomplish interesting things.
How do you think all of these technologies converging are going to impact human behavior?
Paul Greenberg: Every single one of the trends is driven by one thing – every person wants a highly personalized experience and interaction with the institutions that they interact with. They want to see some reflection that the institution or the individuals they’re dealing with at those institutions have enough knowledge of them to show them that this is personalized. If you look at AI, it’s all about personalized interaction. You look at account based marketing (ABM), it’s about personalized ways of approaching marketing. You look at customer success management – it’s all about personalized interactions.
Every human being on this planet – and I’m writing an actual book on customer engagement on this very topic – every human being on this planet has one thing, and one thing only in common. All seven and a half billion of us want to be happy. Our journey is toward happiness. That means we’re self-interested. That means that as self-interested individuals who want to be happy, we want our interactions to be such that they will achieve something that we want them to achieve. It could be something convenient, it could be something purely utilitarian, it could be something delightful – it doesn’t matter.
Thus, any technology company, any business out there, has to be able to provide that personalized interaction in some form in order to keep their customer happy with them.
AI is more than a novelty because it’s actually being embedded in an incredible amount of devices, and we’re seeing results from it. It’s a whole other world, and it’s really exciting. When it becomes normal is actually when it becomes exciting. It’s cool when it’s new, and it’s really exciting when it’s normal because it’s like the Jetson future that you thought about when you were a kid. It’s actually becoming a reality, and you’re living in it, and that is awesome.
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