Hi James, tell us about yourself and your background.
I am a visionary leader with 23 years of experience in IT operations, global infrastructure, project management, digital cloud transformation roadmaps, and data-driven solutions implementation across various domains. I hold 5 AI & Cognitive Science patents and am the Founder of 13+year Ontology Group. My skill is leading and implementing complex departmental mergers that reduce technology costs and improve quality along with aligning IT-based initiatives to business goals.
How did you start working in the customer experience space?
Technological applications are only useful if they are used. To simplify using them and provide for a more engaging user experience will always increase the adoption rate of technology. The more users are connected to a networked system, the more powerful the system.
I worked in customer experiences as an architect working on Watson implementations for IBM. We would determine the needs of the clients (what channels they wanted to use – web, phone, Google, etc.), what kinds of “questions” or operations they wanted to be able to access via those channels, what the parameters were for performing those operations and finally what kinds of “answers” the users expected to see/hear.
As an example, when we built systems for a major bank in the deep south, we had to get the system to understand regional colloquialisms and accents, and to answer the questions using the same idiom.
Can you tell us a little bit about your current role?
I am CEO of a company that specializes in building Artificial Intelligence interfaces to complex systems. We do this by working with the technology, developers, executives, and stakeholders to create a simple, easy to use combination of services with a simple channel input and output (any channel, with the return not needing to be on the same channel). We build systems that provide a simplified interface (via web, Google, SMS, phone, Alexa, Facebook, etc.) into very complex backend systems and processes. We take things like workflows, data lakes and document engines and provide simplified interactive interfaces to them, making it very simple to use these complex systems. We specialize in medium-sized business that want to have the power of a Fortune 500 AI system at a fraction of the cost.
How can companies better listen and understand their customer base?
The customer wants to know they are heard.
By integrating the customer into the workflows you can allow the customers to do things like:
- Have input into priorities for the development team;
- Have a recourse during any issues – CRM can be invoked as a workflow and they know their issue is being worked on;
- If there is a customer issue, slack teams or other dev teams can be immediately notified of critical items, and escalation procedures can be built in- either directly into the workflow or by interfacing with another scheduling and escalation system;
- Combine and integrate their existing workflows with all of their current systems (with our without assistance).
Executives, Architects, and developers need to approach all feature development with an integrated customer advocate as part of the Agile team. This person should preferably be a good representative of the average customer.
What are some companies that you think are doing an excellent job at customer experience, and why?
A technological solution is only useful if people will use it. A company should have a customer advocate in every design and development meeting (embedded with the agile team for instance).
The best CX systems are intuitive. So, an example would be something like the Apple systems, which have put usability at the front of the design, or Google Assistant, or Alexa – which provide simplified methods for accessing systems and data (such as a simple command phrase).
Many companies fall short in this area as they a) don’t design with a customer-focused approach or b) don’t have good mechanisms for customer support.
Many companies are currently undergoing digital transformation processes – what are your tips on a successful digital transformation?
Digital transformation is a general term for either building new functions and facilities into a platform, building a new platform or service(s), or very often, a company will move from an on-premises or siloed environment to more of a cloud or managed approach.
80% of the cost of software (and very often any kind of transformation process) is maintenance. So, the transformative approach must be designed to accommodate rapid and easily configured changes.
My suggestions would be:
a) only transform aspects of your core business. Spending money on things that are ancillary to your core business takes focus away from the corporate differentiators;
b) outsource anything not related to your core business that can be managed by another firm;
c) ensure your core business can be integrated and used with another standard tooling.
What are some CX solutions or tools that you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
There are some plugins for word press development I’ve been tracking for things like accessibility or GDPR or other services that need to be present in the mediasphere. I’ve recently seen movement in the low-code multi-channel bot interfaces – so several of those have improved. Most excitingly, for developers, there are new open-source, low-code graphical frameworks for developing Service Orchestrations.
Did you read any interesting books this past summer that you’d like to recommend?
I’ve been getting a lot of material from Emerj AI Advisory and Research group. I can recommend their research papers, and/or their AI in business podcast (I have an interview there).