Holding Hands with Artificial Intelligence: Key Takeaways from DCX 2017

Danyel LaGow & Patricia Camden

Last week, Strong-Bridge Envision attended the Digital Customer Experience Strategies Summit in Chicago, put on by the Strategy Institute. Now in its fourth year, the conference had a strong contingent of speakers. From the content and conversations, a clear picture emerged of how intrinsically digital is tied to every other facet of customer experience. And, how organizations can best use emerging technology to enhance their CX.


The resonating takeaway was that digital and any other aspect of CX simply cannot be considered separately. Of course, this shouldn’t be a surprise; it is a pattern that mirrors real life. As consumers, we know that we don’t exclusively separate the digital experience we have with a company from the one we have in-store. They all count.

An end-to-end CX strategy needs to include all channels with which a customer interacts. It should go without saying that a great experience follows customers in any channel in which they approach that brand— seamlessly.

The New York Times’ Ejieme Eromosele discussed the importance of thinking about Customer Experience through a few lenses to ensure digital success:

  • Customer-First: to see DCX opportunities
  • Bottom line: for cost-savings (easier) AND revenue potential (harder)
  • Technology: building bridges with technology teams

Specifically, Eromosele suggested getting technology teams “intimately involved” in the strategy building process. This way, CX teams are able to build a prioritized roadmap that clearly interprets the role of digital channels.

Of course, before the roadmap, you have to have a logical plan of attack for customer experience. The framework we build at Strong-Bridge Envision helps in developing an effective customer experience program. Digital is woven in nearly every corner of this framework — from the analysis of customer insight data on the web and beyond, to building personas that weight a customer’s propensity to use digital channels, to mapping the customer journey with digital touch points, to optimizing and implementing improvements which could include digital assessments and tools, to measuring the experience (and so on).


It isn’t about screen size, or any singular digital experience. It’s about mobility— and meeting customers where they are. Again, the idea isn’t new. But, for many companies, the practice will be— because it requires a shift in approach. Consumers today take a multi-device path to purchase. You can probably see this behavior in your own buying habits. Maybe you’ll research a little on your phone and continue online, continuing back and forth until you make a purchase decision. It may even change depending on the product or service, and where you are physically at any given moment.


Discussion around technology at the conference was focused on the inundation of data from connected devices, and what that means for the delivery of customer experience, from artificial intelligence (AI) to the internet of things (IOT). As the adoption of new technologies rise, so does the urgency for us, as CX professionals, to drive better and more in-tune customer experiences.

Speaker Amelia Dunlap from Prudential said, “Life insurance has declined, not because families no longer need it, but because the insurance industry has failed to keep up with changing buying habits.” She emphasized the importance of understanding, and testing, new technology so that you can walk in step with customers. At Prudential, Amelia shared they have started to put things into a “test and learn” process before going big on an implementation. This allows them to get customer feedback along the way with focus, agility, and transparency.

My own research suggests that, when it comes to amplifying customer experience, there is a lot to be gained from leveraging emerging technology. There are an abundance of technologies and tools available in AI alone. Propensity modeling, for instance, is AI-driven and can be used to anticipate customer behaviors in order to pinpoint a future need, or ward off undesirable outcomes. And, a new field in data and language science, Natural Language Processing (NLP), is being used to analyze human speech to (very successfully) summarize large amounts of text, and even conduct sentiment analysis.


All the talk around emerging technology was tempered by pragmatism — making sure that the technology we are chasing isn’t overriding our intentions.

Gordon Littley, Managing Director of CX with Verizon Wireless asked the audience, “Are we relying on technology too much in customer service?” He explained that when determining human versus automation, we should use whichever way will minimize experience gaps. Always give customers what they expect.

A Harvard Business Review quote was shared during the conference that puts this into perspective: “By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human.” Littley said that if you decide to automate, be sure your existing process isn’t broken (or in need of improvement), have a “human safety net” in place, and always make your customer the priority.

Ultimately, you must find the balance between automation and humanity. This comes from understanding and listening to your own customers—what they want. Where would they like to have automation versus human touch (across the end-to-end experience)? No matter what, it is important to ensure the experience is seamless.

Perhaps the best way to summarize the themes of DCX17 is to share three tips provided by Jodi Wearn, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Clicktale:

  1. Understand the entire customer experience and organize your team to effectively support it.
  2. Keep an eye out for disruptions or shifts in your marketplace that will change the consumer engagement model.
  3. Always be improving.

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