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CXBuzz Interview With Tony Rhem Artificial Intelligence Thought Leader

Hi Tony, tell us about yourself and how you got to the Artificial Intelligence space?

I consider myself a scholar-practitioner in the areas of Knowledge Management (KM) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Having the opportunity to publish and contribute to several books, articles, and blog post through my blog Knowledge Management Depot, teaching KM and AI as well as consulting and research projects in KM and AI through my firm A.J. Rhem & Associates has kept me entrenched in these disciplines going on 3 decades.

As far as how I got started in the AI space, it was through the Computer Science Masters program at DePaul University. My area of concentration within the computer science program was AI. I was so intrigued by the possibilities of AI; it became an obsession! I specifically focused on Expert Systems and Artificial Neural Networks (ANN). After spending a few years (1989 – 1993) designing and developing expert systems I participated in the IEEE conference on AI, in which I wrote an article entitled “Getting Started in Artificial Intelligence”. Published in: [1993] Proceedings IEEE International Conference on Developing and Managing Intelligent System Projects.

Online commerce was booming in 2020; how did it affect brands’ digital transformation strategy?

Due to the effect, COVID-19 has on every brand, those who had a strong digital presence were able to engage their customers and deliver their products. As more brands started to move their products to an online model this directly contributed to the boom that online commerce was and is experiencing. Those brands that were not able to effectively engage their customers and influence, new customers, with a strong digital presence, negatively affected their ability to generate revenue and survive.

What should be the main focus for brands this year?

I believe that digital savviness will be at the heart of any brand’s digital transformation strategy for this year and beyond. Whether you are a B2C or B2B; selling a service or a product a sound digital transformation strategy is essential. This strategy must bring ease-of-use digital capabilities to sell to your customer and allow your employees to work anywhere and anytime to complete their jobs and seamlessly deliver the company’s product and/or service.

The changing role of CEO

How much has the role of the CEO changed in the social distancing era – what role digital transformation has in this crisis?

CEO’s must be able to adapt the corporate strategy and culture by providing digital capabilities to their workforce in order to facilitate the flexibility to either work remotely, onsite or some hybrid model. The pandemic has accelerated the need for all organizations to have a digital transformation initiative in order to continue doing business, which in turn will keep people employed and the company moving forward. While all businesses are not able to just create a digital presence and keep moving forward, a significant investment must be made to create a working environment that promotes social distancing, mask-wearing, and plastic barriers between workers. The CEO must communicate a holistic “we are in this together” mentality and institute ways to actively support all employees during these unprecedented times.

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?

The biggest lesson I learned in 2020 is to remain flexible. Flexibility allows you to adjust as you learn more. Learning more not only about the pandemic, but how the pandemic is affecting your employees, your business, and customers. Flexibility allows you to listen, analyze and collaborate before you react.

2020 was the year of webinars and online events, what was your favorite one?

My favorite webinars and online events included:

  1. KM World Connect 2020: KMWorld Connect 2020 – The World’s Leading Knowledge Management ONLINE Conference
  2. KM Institute Webinar: AI Ethics and it’s Impact on Knowledge Management
  3. How to put AI Ethics into Practice by the AI Policy Exchange
  4. Women’s Board of the Chicago Urban League Small Business COVID-19 Panel. Supporting our Black Businesses.
  5. Department of Defense and Federal Knowledge Management Symposium Implementing Knowledge-as-a-Service Through the Digital Workplace.

It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future, how should CX Executives gear up to the changing times?

Having a digital transformation strategy that is flexible and will adapt to employees working from home will remain crucial. As I mentioned earlier, companies equipped with online capabilities and strategies will be best positioned to adapt to a “new normal”. It remains important for the CX Executives to communicate a consistent message even when that message changes.

Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?

Those that have invested in building out digital capabilities are continuing to generate sales and engage with customers and this has caused other brands to react and try to catch up.

I actually have two. The first is NPS or Net Promoter Score. NPS, because it shows how you are positioned in the thoughts of your customers. Understanding if your customers would recommend your company to others builds brand loyalty and will lead to producing sustainable revenue even through difficult times. The second one I believe supports NPS and is Customer Loyalty. Loyal customers can be incredibly strong advocates for the company. Understanding how often customers return after their first purchase and how often they purchase versus the competition provides an understanding of the possibility of regular purchasing habits and potential revenue.

About the author

Alon is a Tel Aviv-based CMO a VC Consultant and the General Manager of CXBuzz. As a veteran in the Israeli Start-Up scene, Alon supports b2b tech startups in capturing customers' sentiment and embedding customer experience in the decision making process.


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