The Promise of AI and the Plague of Silos, A Q&A with Genesys CEO Paul Segre

Shortly after delivering his keynote address at Genesys' CX18 user conference in Nashville, Tenn., last week, company CEO Paul Segre sat down with CRM magazine's associate editor, Sam Del Rowe, to discuss the current state of customer experience. The following are excerpts of that interview:

Del Rowe: Blended artificial intelligence was a major theme at Genesys' CX18 user conference. Can you elaborate on the concept?

Segre: AI is very real. There are concrete things you can do with it. You can demonstrate real value today. That should be beyond debate.

Having said that, there's a lot of hype around what it can do and its ability to do complete automation, which is nowhere near ready from a customer satisfaction perspective for interactions of any complexity.

Our notion around blended AI is that there are some older technologies that people are very comfortable with. Directed dialogue which is when you call into an IVR or something like that and it asks whether you want sales, service, support; it asks you questions before it says, "Just tell me in common language what you want to do." People like that more, and you get better results when you actually get to AI.

Blending number one is blending some of the traditional technologies with AI. The next level of blending is to create sort of an orchestration layer that can integrate with multiple bots from different vendors and sort of pull them in at the right point in time. The notion there is that no one is going to be all things to all people in the bot world. The last bit of blending is that things of any complexity can't be done all in self-service, and even if you could do something in self-service, would you want to? You might get some bot on a telco site, and [when a customer asks], "How do I disconnect my service?" you probably don't want the bot to say, "Let me help you with that," and just do it; you probably want to get that caller to a person who can try to retain him. That's the next level of blending.

Del Rowe: Another major theme at the conference was striking a balance between automation and human interaction. How do you see that evolving going forward?

Segre: You automate more, which means the need for people goes down; but it's unclear where the people go down. In banking, you call the bank more often than you did when you had to go into a branch. When you automate banking, what actually is impacted isn't contact center remote support. That actually goes up, because people are calling more. What's impacted is the branch, which goes down because people aren't going into the branch.

The big loser in this is brick-and-mortar retail. More and more things are going to be done digitally. They're going to automate more.

The other thing is that the easy stuff is getting automated, so what remains is the hard stuff. The people who are doing the hard stuff are not your minimum-wage, outsourced, or offshored low-value resources. That's what's actually going to be automated, so that's the other big loser. For the live assist, whether it's sales, service, or support, demand will go up. The actual skill level will need to go up too because you're dealing with more complicated things. You're going to create higher-value jobs within the contact center.

Del Rowe: In addition to AI, what are some other technologies that you see transforming the customer experience industry going forward?

The key ones that I have my sights on are messaging apps and AI. There are some other ones that are less clear. Virtual reality and augmented reality are actually moving really fast; those are on deck and can start transforming some experiences. IoT can start transforming some experiences, particularly in healthcare.

There are a lot of exciting things that are a little bit longer term. The nearer-term ones are AI and messaging. On the messaging side, the really interesting thing is what we're doing with Apple Business Chat, Facebook, and some others. We're allowing you to interface with the company by messaging on your phone. You can pick it up, flip to messaging, see the last transaction you had with your favorite bank or whatever, pick it up where you left off, dynamically open the app, and things like that. It's a very different experience than calling blindly, going to a website, or having an app. It transforms how you would interact with a company and what your expectations are. If you send a chat, or a Snap, or something like that at 11 p.m. to a company, you don't necessarily expect something back immediately. If you do respond, maybe it's automated, and what's the etiquette of that relationship? There's a lot to work through for the industry.

Del Rowe: What are some of the biggest customer experience challenges facing companies today?

Segre: The biggest one—and we've been talking about this for at least a decade—is the promise of a 360-degree view and holistic customer experience where contact center and marketing know what sales and support are doing.

There are just a ton of silos in our customer base. Any large sophisticated company might have geographic silos. They might have silos by different product lines. You can have marketing and sales, and those will often be addressed by different groups that have different systems that don't share data. They give you a crappy experience. You have to repeat yourself. It's frustrating; it's inefficient; it takes a lot of your personal time, and destroys brand value. At the same time, those same companies are actually spending more money.

The silos are really the chief impediment to providing great CX.

Del Rowe: So how do we fix that?

Segre: We'll provide the products. We also work with them on some of the best practices, and we have a consultancy in that domain. But, at the end of the day, it takes will power. It's hard to break down these silos in companies, and often they're carrying a lot of legacy systems. The newer the company, the easier it is. The older the company, the harder it is.