Synopsis: In this AI Leadership Insights video interview, Amanda Razani speaks with Eric Williamson, CMO of CallMiner, about the impact of AI on customer experience and his future predictions.

Amanda Razani: Hello, I’m Amanda Razani with Techstrong AI and I’m excited to be here today with Eric Williamson. He is the Chief Marketing Officer of CallMiner. How are you doing today?

Eric Williamson: Good, thanks for having me on.

Amanda Razani: Happy to have you on our show. Can you share with our audience what is CallMiner and what services do you provide?

Eric Williamson: Certainly. CallMiner is the leader in conversation intelligence, and just to put it in plain speak, conversation intelligence is our platform analyzes all forms of customer interaction. So think of a very large customer service center with agents. So it analyzes all those interactions and it helps the agents do their job better to provide better customer service. And then ultimately it mines through all of those interactions and provides insights back up to the chief product officer, the CMO, and those insights help transform their business.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. Well that’s a great segue into our topic today, which is the impact of AI in the customer experience and customer service. So can you tell me from your experience, how is AI impacting the industry? I know you recently released a report with a lot of findings. Can you share some of those?

Eric Williamson: Sure. So [inaudible 00:01:28] level set on the report. So we do an annual CX landscape report, and the report is survey based, so it’s 700 CX and contact center leaders across the globe in English speaking countries. And we try to ask a lot of the same questions, but obviously different topics become hot topics each year. This year it was generative AI, so we made sure to include a lot of questions about that and then that culminates in a report that we distribute across our industry as far as just as a foundation for the basis of the research. But I would say some of the thematics, obviously this is 2023, so you can imagine that AI was a pretty hot topic in the responses and in some of the data that came back.
Some of the fundamentals of the report go beyond AI and they’re talking… If you think about CX in particular, CX has grown up entirely on surveys and a large percentage of organizations, enterprise level organizations for the most part are still just using surveys as their main source of data to measure customer experience, whether that be CSAT scores or NPS and things like that.
So those are some of the fundamentals. I would say before diving into AI, going to the survey based aspect of CX, one of the questions, because our platform is all about unsolicited feedback, so it’s unstructured data. This is not a survey that can be sometimes quite polarizing in terms of the responses. This is measuring emotion during a call. This is pulling out key insights and words from an unprompted unsolicited feedback you get from a customer. So what we’re finding is that most organizations, I believe the stat in 2022 was 79% of organizations were still just using surveys, had not started using surveys and unsolicited feedback like our platforms. It’s changed a little bit, so it’s improved so way to go. It’s 71% as of 2023.
And then the variety of the other areas of focus had to do with how companies are organized in terms of, many times CX is an actual standalone department or group, and several times you have CX leaders that sit in various parts of the organization and there’s differing levels of silos that happen, which provide I think a lot of roadblocks for CX to truly take hold and improve company’s ability to improve customer experience and get a lot of that data up to the people who can actually make changes essentially.
As far as artificial intelligence goes, as you might expect, a lot of high responses in terms of like, are you going to be investing in AI next year? I want to say something like close to 50%, 49% of the respondents said they’re definitely going to be investing in AI to improve their efficiency next year, which part of that makes me laugh a little bit because most of them are already using artificial intelligence in some form or fashion. I guarantee you, in their tech stack, they’re using some technology to improve CX that already has AI embedded within it, which is really very much the case with our technology as well. We’ve had artificial intelligence and machine learning for years as a fundamental piece of how it works. So that part I found kind of funny, but then the other piece about that is of the 49, 50% that said they’re going to be investing in it in the next 12 months, 44% of those people weren’t sure how to begin the search or what exactly to be looking for.
So our observation is… And this has a lot to do with a lot of the media hype and everything else that’s happened around gen AI and ChatGPT is what’s happened here is you’ve got all a sudden, instead of it just being data scientists and some of the academic types who really truly understand what artificial intelligence is and the different variants of it, now you’ve got your CEO or your CFO or COO saying, telling this VP, “We need some AI.” And so they’re desperately trying to go find out what that is and how it could possibly be utilized. I think there’s just a lot of… There’s this fear of missing out. There’s this, it’s going to be a silver bullet, so we have to have it, but they don’t have a lot of understanding of AI 101. And so there’s I think, been a fast track of education.
The research is conducted, I want to say it’s early on mid year, and so you can take that as a timestamp because one of the things that I think we’ve seen shift from just even June of 2023 to now is everybody has gotten educated on it pretty quick and you’ve gone from a lot of just hype, we have to have it to now people are starting to actually raise some worthy concerns. So you think about different industries and their customer service centers. Let’s say it’s financial services. You can imagine that there’s a ton of rules and compliance that are critical to how their customer service agents interact. And so you start to read stories about how ChatGPT has hallucinations or responds back based on the dataset and it’s a hundred percent wrong. So people start to get a little worried about that and that’s probably one of their biggest concerns and they’ve started to wisen up a bit and it’s gone from fear of missing out to kind of like, do we really want do this? So it’s been an interesting evolution in a very short period of time, I’d say.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. And yes, it sure has and thanks for sharing that. That is a lot to dissect. So I’m going to think [inaudible 00:07:34].

Eric Williamson: I kind of went on there a bit.

Amanda Razani: Yes. I’m going to think back on everything you said because I had so many different questions to ask you based on what you said. So let’s start with the fact that yes, AI has been around for a while and it seems like I guess once open AI came out with ChatGPT, that was the door that opened and suddenly everybody wanted to know about AI specifically more generative AI. So what technology is new in the sense of customer experience that can be harnessed and make the biggest impact do you think moving forward for business leaders that are looking to harness this technology in a different way?

Eric Williamson: Sure, and to the point earlier, there’s definitely been artificial intelligence and machine learning in quite a bit of the technology these enterprise customers are already using. I think what’s new in ChatGPT, I think ultimately because of its ease of use and the fact that every day individuals were able to use it and prompt it and get some results back, I think there’s a stat out there that’s not part of our report, but it reached a hundred million users in two months. To put it in perspective, I think it took 18 years or something for Netflix to hit a hundred million users. So you can see just a massive adoption curve. But what that did was kind of democratize it a little bit and those CEOs are trying to push this. In terms of what new aspects of AI can improve what’s already in these technologies, the generative AI is and the large language models, that’s really, I would say the thing that has reached a point of maturity where it can now provide some really interesting results.
Our guidance has been, and it’s been interesting to watch Forrester and some other analysts come up with their guidance too, and thankfully they align is that the problem is what happens is a lot of these tech companies will just say like, “Oh, ChatGPT, I can plug that in and just plug it in everywhere and I’ll ChatGPT my platform.” The problem with that is it’s kind of twofold. One, you can’t just put it anywhere. You have to put it at certain points of the workflow so it actually delivers quality results back for the end user, your customer. On the other part about this is it’s ChatGPT and generative AI is not free. There’s a cost associated with it and add volume the cost of this could be detrimental to that tech company who’s trying to improve their platform.
So what we’ve done is think about it in terms of where exactly in the workflow should we apply generative AI? And think of a good example is where we’ve applied generative AI is a customer service agent has an interaction with this customer. They talk for eight minutes, whatever it is. Now at the end of that call when it’s over automatically a generative AI is going to summarize that call and put it all together as opposed to have the customer service agent having to manually sort of remember everything that was said in that or having just this long transcript of everything that was said, that’s not useful for later use. That’s one area that AI summarization is one, at least in our industry that has been a good use of generative AI, but there’s several other CX platforms and they’re using it in similar fashions, summarizations, areas where it can provide efficiency over something having to be done manually is probably the biggest use case.

Amanda Razani: So my next question is, while there are some great use cases for it, what are some of the concerns that business leaders should have as far as risks and safety?

Eric Williamson: Sure, and I mentioned this earlier when I was sort of rambling on, so apologies. But the number one concern, at least according to the report that we did was compliance. And obviously this goes up and down depending on what industry you’re talking about with its financial services or healthcare being a couple that are easy marks for really, really heavily regulated compliance. I think it’s somewhere in the forties, but I think somewhere along 44 or 45% of respondents said compliance was their number one concern when it comes to generative AI and applying it to their work stream in some way, shape or form. The other part had to do with bias and/or harm to their brand. So you’ve heard about, you’ve probably read about regardless of the model, generative AI can have hallucinations or be looking at the entirely wrong dataset and just come back with answers that might be biased in terms of whoever the agent is interacting with or just be wrong and create kind of a PR nightmare. So those were the two biggest ones.
I think the funniest part that came back from the data on what are you concerned about with AI was there was roughly like 6% that said they had no concerns whatsoever, which that’s 6%. So maybe 1% actually has it figured out and the other five just didn’t understand the question or they just don’t know enough about AI yet.

Amanda Razani: Or they’re just that enthusiastic.

Eric Williamson: I guess. More power to you.

Amanda Razani: So from your experience then, and in hearing this and in working with business leaders, what advice do you have when they’re trying to implement this AI and in some of these digital transformation initiatives? What are the key things they should consider and what’s the first step in moving forward?

Eric Williamson: Our advice has been, and we took a very measured approach. You’ve seen how 2023 went. This has all happened very, very fast in terms of the media storm that’s happened around generative AI. So we took quick pause and then tried to develop a good POV as opposed to just jumping into the hype. But our guidance has been what I would dub as responsible AI or let’s call it deliberate AI, meaning on the responsible part, being very clear that you want to apply generative AI or AI in general in very specific aspects of the workflow to ensure that it’s actually delivering value that can provide some efficiencies and value back to, in our case, through the agent to that ultimately the customer. If the customer’s not actually getting any value out of this, it’s just AI for AI’s sake and it just kind of falls into the hype.
The other part of the guidance is a little bit of industry guidance and it goes to that cost I was talking about earlier. If you don’t actually understand that there’s a cost associated with putting something like ChatGPT right into your flows, you could easily run yourself out of business based on increasing your cost of goods sold by that much. And then the last one is generally just to go fast. So yes, definitely change your product roadmap like we have and put a lot more how we’re going to implement AI in those responsible ways, but do it in a measured fashion, roll it out in a beta style and then of course get yourself to a point where you have GA, but don’t move so fast to where you’re putting your entire company at risk, perhaps going to that brand risk of perhaps a PR nightmare.
Do some very measured testing before you roll anything out would be my main recommendations around AI at this time. But absolutely, jump in and you should be investing in it. I think if you’re looking for areas of advice, you should look to some of your best trusted technology partners who probably had AI in their platform and you never knew it to begin with. The other areas of advice I would say would be go to the Forresters and the Gartners of the world and ask for advice there because I’ve seen some of their articles and there’s good guidance there. And then lastly, and this is definitely something I think everybody should do, is there’s enough artificial intelligence 101 and generative AI 101 that’s out there. Educate yourself. The other thing we found is most people really… This has put a spotlight on that most people don’t really understand even the basics about artificial intelligence versus machine learning or generative AI versus other types of AI models. It’s really shown a spotlight on that.

Amanda Razani: The year is almost coming to a close. What are your predictions for 2024 as it relates to AI as fast as this technology is evolving?

Eric Williamson: So predictions, some of these based on what we’ve just talked about are no-brainers, but I think AI is going to continue to be at the forefront of everybody’s minds in terms of the technology they’re investing in and trying to implement and figure out the most over all other forms. And hopefully that includes platforms like ours, conversation intelligence, which is built and based around artificial intelligence in terms of the CX industry. I think we are going to have more mergers and acquisitions that happen within a lot of these smaller players from artificial intelligence. And so I think that’s going to have a ripple effect on the enterprise customers that are using these platforms that have developed a tech stack based on a certain ecosystem of products and all of a sudden they’ve got to, that’s been upended. So I predict that’ll be something that happens.
As far as artificial intelligence itself, I think what we’re going to see next year is… So this year was all about generative AI, largely around large language models. I think next year we’re going to see a surge in multimodal, which is all forms, not just language, it’s images, it’s multidimensional, if you will. So I think we’re going to see that, but come to the forefront next year. Maybe not at a tipping point level of ChatGPT, but I think that’s going to be really interesting. And I think most tech companies, since they would’ve already shifted to how to implement more AI into their platform, that’s going to become the next thing that they’re trying to figure out for their platform.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. Well, it’s going to be very exciting to see where this leads the enterprise, and it was great talking to you today and thank you for sharing your insights.

Eric Williamson: Absolutely. It’s been great to be on your show and let me know if we can answer any other questions.

Amanda Razani: Absolutely. Thank you.