Business Transformation

AI and Bots in CX

Frank Eliason
Apr 14
14-15 mins

Table of contents

Key takeawaysCollaboration platforms are essential to the new way of workingEmployees prefer engati over emailEmployees play a growing part in software purchasing decisionsThe future of work is collaborativeMethodology


Frank Eliason, also known as “the most famous customer service manager in the US, possibly in the world”  speaks about how the only way that businesses can provide exactly what the customer wants at the exact time when they want it, is by adopting AI in Customer Experiences.

Frank Eliason is a customer experience leader and has been known for pioneering the use of social media for customer relations. He has been recognized by BusinessWeek as the 'most famous customer service manager in the US, possibly in the world,' and has built a reputation for helping large businesses improve the way they connect with customers and enhance their relationships and is the author of the book, @YourService.

He is also a Board member for both, the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals.

Interview with Frank Eliason


What is the biggest opportunity space for organizations looking to derive higher ROI where Digital transformations can make a significant difference?

Frank Eliason

I think we have to take a step back even. The world is changing- it's always changing. But right now, the Coronavirus is huge in the world, and it's actually going to change everything about what we do. There's a handful of things in history that have completely changed the direction of the world. Things along the lines of the Great Depression, World War Two- You can lump them together. You can lump Vietnam all the way through the gas crisis. These are things that change the world for the next 20 years. You know, in more recent times, we can look at 9/11 and how that changed the world and brought this security focus. 

You're now in this world where we have these fears. People are going to have certain fears of even the very beginning to talk about personal connections, but they're going to have fears of these in-person pieces. You know how this is going to change the world? You know, it's hard to actually say, but my personal view is now going to be more about, how do I get what I need in the safest form possible? Which would mean, how do I interact with the company? It may mean more electronic interactions. How we do that is going to become extremely important. 

Now there are a few pieces to the puzzle that are going on when we call could talk about digital transformation. You know, we have to start thinking digitally and people say they do... But no one does. You know, we think the same analog way we've always thought. Yes, we get excited about the digital stuff, but we still think of it as analog digitized. We have to throw that all out the door.

Right now we have to think about- how do we deliver for the customer before the customer even knows what they want? We've been in this mass marketing world- I'm going to tell you what you want before you even know you want it, and tell everybody the same thing. That's not the way it's going to be. It's going to be about delivering value at the moment that value needs to be delivered. How do you do that? 

Well, that's a lot more complicated than just- Hey! Here it is. We have to rethink marketing. We have to rethink our customer interactions. We're going to have to start thinking about Artificial Intelligence. That's gotta deliver. And it's got to deliver what the customer needs at that moment, and artificial intelligence is the only way to do that. 

But there's a problem, which is, up until now, we have not really been the greatest asset i.e., where we've not been the greatest help for artificial intelligence. The companies that have jumped in artificial intelligence have done so in a way that's like- “Look, I want to tell everybody how great I am, so here we're putting artificial intelligence out there, see what we did. We're smart” But they're not doing it in a thoughtful way. They're throwing it out there. Artificial intelligence requires that time to be intelligent, that time to build up that. So it's also putting it out there in a very learning mode in getting it to understand and actually deliver the right answer at the right time, as opposed to probably the wrong answer at the right time. 

This all needs to be rethought. But I will tell you, the Coronavirus itself is going to change all that. We already see this- Yes, this virus is going on. Is this growth in the use of things like Zoom? You know, we're recording this via Zoom. My family had a family gathering on Zoom. It's going to change how we do things. Video is going to become much more important because if I can't make that personal connection in person, then maybe I'm going to make that personal connection via video, and so we're gonna have to rethink that, And that's going to become a big piece of things, especially because the other thing that's going on is- those that may have avoided these types of things in the past are the ones doing it. 

For example, the family gathering that we just did was actually coordinated by my sister in law, who is not the most technically savvy person. This is not the way she would typically do things, yet she wanted to do it via Zoom. And so, we need to rethink everything. And we need to do it thoughtful yet fast. Because the world is going to change so fast and I don't necessarily know people realize it. And it's all going to be triggered upon this whole viral thing. And it's people staying at home and you and it's gonna change us as a society. 

I actually also think from a work perspective, it's going to make work from home become more normal than it. So you know, that's another component that we're going to have to rethink. There's gonna be a clock going on, and it's, but it's gonna be fast and furious, and those that are not ready for it, are gonna fail. 

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Nishita Goyal

Yeah, especially in the work from home perspective- I think employees are going to be more flexible. Since they have been adapted to working from home- they'll be like, “Oh, yeah, it's fine. I can just work from home and get it done because I'm used to doing it now.” 

Frank Eliason

That is correct. We're retraining people. Whereas up until now people work from home, Maybe they work from home on Fridays or they work from home once in a while. And even then the suspicion was “they’re not working.” It's all changing. And I actually think your educational systems are all going to change. Right now- at least in the U.S., Education for college is outrageously priced, and it is not sustainable at the pricing levels it's at. But people are gonna still want that education. Although we've had e-education, e-learn e-university courses really haven't taken off. I think this whole situation is gonna change all that and our college education’s actually going to become much more virtual than it is today. 

Nishita Goyal

Yeah, definitely. I see Indian schools also actually having online sessions for kids so they don't want to sacrifice that students are not able to come to school, but that is actually going virtual and digital right now. So I think that's a phenomenal step that they're taking. 

Frank Eliason

It even goes down. I have kids in middle school, they're doing all “e-learning” right now, and it's all done virtually. They’re on Zoom, they’re on various platforms, actually. And they’re already digital natives. Now they're going to be even more digitally native because of the way they're doing things, and I think that's going to change that whole entire aspect. So we're gonna be learning new things as a society, and how we interact together. 

The other thing that I think is also going to be extraordinarily important- It's already been happening. This is not new, but I think in more people's mindsets, we're going to realize that we're one world as opposed to all these different countries or barriers, artificial barriers that exist. And then there's another piece that I think is going to change things, which is also going to be this notion that we're society together. Right now, we've had the haves and have nots. We've had to split, People make a lot of money and then the workers, and it really flanks. 

That split has been getting further and further apart. Now, who are the essential workers? The essential workers are not the CEOs. The essential workers are the front-line people. And so they're being called to put themselves at risk in this whole virus. And I think that is going to change dynamic across the board as well and it's going to shift power to that workforce because they're going to realize how important they really are. 

Nishita Goyal

That's right- The world is gonna get more collaborative right now. 

Frank Eliason

It's what we always said about social media, but it never happened. You know, with social media, from 2007-2008 when we started in social media- we all talked about how this is going to get closer together and instead of that, it actually divided us. You know, it put us into our whatever or bubbles were, and you know? It changed all that. 

I still see those bubbles right now. They're still there today. But the reality is those bubbles all be bursting. You know, we see it. We see this, you know, as people start to realize, “I do need information from this other bubble.” Just using U.S. Politics is an example, you know? And I/m not trying to get political, but with U.S. politics, there's been a divisive view of Coronavirus and what it's gonna be. It's going to be nothing- It's a hoax, or it's gonna be this horrible thing and all these millions of people [are going to be affected] and the answers are always somewhere in the middle. And yet people weren't exposed to whatever side they took. They only still were exposed to their point of view. 

Now they're realizing that maybe that other point of view has a point to it. And so that's gonna help bring this together where everybody realized the answers are in the middle. They’re not at these extreme ends. And I think that's a good thing for society. I think that it helped build this understanding. And I also think this lack of human interaction that we're having currently will create a desire to be more human. 

So instead of looking at maybe someone in a different part of the world as “they're not us” to “oh no, they’re just like us. They are us.” We're all human. So I think there's gonna be a lot of interesting things that are really going to change everything about how the world works. That's why like- you know? I have seen people say “the winners of the future are going to be XYZ companies.”

But I don't know that, I can't tell you who's gonna win it and who's gonna lose in this whole thing? Because the change is going to be so dramatic, that it will only be those that are truly ready for it. So you can even have a digital company that appears that they’re digital. But they're not ready for this human change that's going to happen. And that's gonna create the opposite effect for them.

So, just watch, these are the components- It’s going to be more human, it's going to be smarter, and it's going to be togetherness. And that artificial intelligence will oversee all this in a way that's not like in the past- in a way where it was more freaky. It's going to be in a way that's adding value. And so it's all going to be about adding value to any of those constituencies, whether it's your customer or whether it's your employees. So it's going to be fun to watch, but it's going to still be scary. But I think people are now going to be ready for it. 

Nishita Goyal

Yeah, I think it's going to be scary. But then I think it's more exciting that’s going to be built out of us. I think that's right. So, since you've been talking about the pandemic which is going on right now- so you did mention a few of the changes which are going to be there after the crisis. Which leads me to my next question...


What do you think- according to you will be the new normal now? So as you said over the multiple changes, what is going to be the normal new? Also what, and you being an expert in the customer service domain, what do you think is going to be a major change in customer service and experience out there?

Frank Eliason

Yeah, I think the biggest change in customer experience is going to centre around artificial intelligence and delivering smart answers right away. I think that's also the same is going to happen in society. So I think both can- They're one and the same in many ways. Ah, I think the other components that are going to be extraordinarily important is we have stopped thinking about things like our Web domain and the things we own. I think that's gonna be a shift. And we've seen this more in Asia up until now than we've seen elsewhere in the world. 

So in Asian countries, a lot of things reside in a variety of chat platforms. That's where the customer is, that's where their interactions are you know, yet companies haven't really done as well floating into those spaces. Because they kind of think of it as “I own my website. I own, I own, I own,” and it's not gonna be about owning. It's going to be about delivering, and it's gonna be about delivering, you know, in the way that the consumer wants. And so I think you're gonna see a lot of service platforms shift to those things. I think the security is gonna become a continue to be an issue.

But I also think it's going to be about- more importantly about delivering with that customer once. And so there's gonna be that balance. It's going to be struck. Whereas up until now it's been a fight, one thing or the other, and I don't necessarily know it needs to be that. So I think that's gonna be a big component. 

As I said before, I do think that video is gonna become a big component. But that's only because- up until now, I've not been a fan of, you know? “Oh, retail's going away” and all that stuff, because people crave touching, feeling products. They want to see it before they get it. They also crave interacting with people that work there.

But that fact is, I think, that our craving that interaction’s going to now be balanced with “Could I get sick from this?” So, I actually do think that people will back away from some of those things that, up until a month ago, I probably would have said “hey, you know stores are at fault because they're not rethinking what a store looks and feels like. But now I'm going to say this whole thing may change all that, and it may shift it more to the web. 

Is that good or bad? I'm not making that decision. This is what I see happening. Ah, and then the bigger component is going to be how to treat each other. And that is going to be a huge dynamic because up until now, it's either you're with me or you're against me. That is gonna change dramatically but it may take six months to a year, or more. So whenever we've had these situations, 9/11 as an example. You have an immediate reaction to things, which is probably some extreme measures, and whatnot. But then you have a longer tail of things, which is bigger changes that are societal. And I think that the bigger tail, for this virus, is going to be what we really need to watch. 

Don't pay attention to these short term moves, you know, pay attention to where we go from there, and I think that's gonna be hard for companies. Companies are going to want to do that instant reaction- so they can prove how smart they are, whether it be for their employees or anybody else. But I think that longer-tail is going to be where they need to play out. And that's going to be, you know, rethinking our treatment of employees. That's going to be rethinking about how we position ourselves in the world. Are we with society or we against society? 

And I think how we also handle that financial divide that we see in the world- that's not going to rely on companies. That's going to rely on CEOs, and the people that have those funds to realize that they're nothing without their workforce. They need to rethink that compensation package. I actually think you know, it's been discussed in the past, but I think we're also going to rethink it would shape, even a board of directors. You know? And It may include things like employees on it. So we're gonna have to rethink a lot of different things, and that's the longtail stuff, and that's the stuff that's harder to predict. But I think that's gonna be where the fun is, and that's where you were going to reshape the world together. And that requires reshaping the business. 

So that's going to be valuing the employees you have. Bringing in the people that actually understand these things to drive it forward. And there are people out there that are ready and rearing to go. And there are software companies out there that have the capabilities that are ready. Then it's going to be combining those two to create the best world path forward. And I think that there's a lot we could do on that. 

Nishita Goyal

So basically just to conclude as to what you mean- The companies and the organizations who focus on the long term or long tailed values and objectives will be the winners out there? And somebody looking out at a short tail, like an instant reaction will not be able to sustain or carry this impact longer?

Frank Eliason

That is correct and using a simple scenario. There's gonna be companies, once this whole thing is done, they're gonna buy all this PPE. Just make it national, like things like masks and stuff like that- They’ll buy tons of them because we have to have them, and they're going to overbuy. And that might be a component to your world, but that's an overreaction. Buying the right amount, might be the right thing. But being like “oh we need stockpiles of this,” you know? But that's how we react to things. When something happens, we want to do everything in full force NOW. 

In that same [scenario] is going to hold true for technology. You know, it's doing it right. Such as artificial intelligence. “We need this now” and throw it out there. No, we need to do it RIGHT.

Yes, you do need it. But you need to do it right. This means you need to build this plan out, that does it right, has the learning going on and gets it out there at the right moment. You put it out there too soon? All that does is frustrate people. You get it out there when it's actually fully engaged and understands these things, understand those interactions. So artificial intelligence a lot of times is used to answer customer questions. Okay, if I’m the customer I wanted to actually answer my question, not something else. I wanted to be right the first time, and so you make sure it's getting that- Make sure it's getting it right, before you throw it out there.

So it's that longtail,  that longer planning being smart. And if you're smart, that's what you're doing. And that's across the board in all your planning stages. You know, Companies today you know, have been planning since 9/11- any scenario they could think of bad scenarios in a company, But truthfully, very few, if any, have ever planned on a global pandemic of this scale. 

They planned on things going on in this region or that region, you know, not something going on in every region at the same time. So now their reaction could be “we needed to plan this out.” But that was post 9/11. 9/11 came around, they needed to plan. What if we were in New York and this happened? How will we deal with it? You know, that was that instant reaction. Now it's being smart. We have to learn to be smarter and think that more things beyond just what we just experienced in this pandemic. 

Nishita Goyal

Yeah, You need to be aggressive to adapt to new things, but you need to be smart about it. Makes sense, makes sense. Okay, so moving over to the next question...


How would you define customer experience? And why do you think expedience design is an important aspect of going digital right now?

Frank Eliason

There's been a problem in customer experience, and customer experience is not new. People have been talking about it for years. The problem is, when they're talking about it, they're talking about it in whatever bucket their experience is. So a lot of technology leaders talk about customer experience, but really, they're talking from the technology bucket, and that's what's important to them. When I think of customer experience, I think of three circles intersecting- technology, process, human. And where they intersect is your customer experience. And, you know, it's a balance of each of those. 

The problem is, if you do too much in technology, you can invest tons and bring out the coolest technology. But you could be surpassed by so many other things, and there are companies I'm thinking about but I don’t want to say anything. I've watched companies that focused on technology, “I'm gonna deliver this cool technology.” But then someone else is delivering something that's more human, that’s understandable. That doesn't require me to buy more things which is a common theme among customer experience. They want people to know more- “I want to force you to get this.” Well, I want to use what I already own, which is this. And so that's that human side of what the customer really wants. 

So it's people-process-technology combining and getting it into that sweet spot in the center. And when I say people, I am very much about humans, which is the other piece to it- it seems common sense to think “human.” The reality is we're all bad at it because we look at it with our own lens, not the lens of others. The other piece that I'll say in this- it’s a bit of a problem in customer experience from day one. We talk about things like customer journeys and journey mapping. Yet when I worked for companies-  I’ve worked for some of the largest companies, and I look at their journey maps. What do I find? Their basic process maps. Nothing more. 

A good journey map is actually not following the company where the process is. It's following the customer's emotional touchpoints- why they think the way they do. And the problem to it is- what's emotional for me, might not be for you. We may have different reactions to an emotion we make. You may go to the right. I may go to the left. This is what journey mapping is about. It's about understanding those emotional touchpoints and how they become drivers. Either with a product buying a product, we're using a product, or we're getting rid of a product. 

And so you know, those emotions are key to actually understand that journey because then you can actually deliver things that are more advanced before they even know they have that. So someone has this emotion? Oh, here's the direction they're going, so let me deliver this. Yeah, and that’s the same as what we're going to think about our website, which is and that's where artificial intelligence is going to come on the web, which is basically the gist of it is- “I need to know you better than you even do know yourself. So I need to be able to deliver when you want it. At the moment you want it. Not before, not after.”

And the problem is most of the time we keep delivering it, whether we want to or not. I use this story about a pair of shoes from one time. I found them at an outlet store, they’re Nike high tops that were really cool looking. And, you know, they're regularly some like $170 or something like that, right? I got them for like 20 bucks, and I was like, “what a deal!” And I bought them and I went home, and the first thing I did was I wondered if I really gotta deal. So I googled them and I went to a shoe website, and yet they're still for sale for $170. I got a really good deal.

The problem is, for the next month, I saw ads for the shoes I already owned constantly. You know why? Because they saw I looked at that page, so I must want to buy them. That’s not why I was there. It wasn't looking for me, it was looking from their perspective- “You looked at this. You want this!” I already have it. You're wasting your funds on those ads, but you're also not adding value to me. In fact, you're usually annoying me. By seeing this ad every website I go to. 

So these are things to think smarter, and it's hard. It's hard to understand all that. It's hard to take those things that are outside of our control, such as buying a shoe somewhere else and then looking at the price. But these are the things that companies need to think about and in the way they deliver things. Delivering it just in time, to the right person, at that right moment. And not after. Not annoying them. You annoy them, people tend to have a backlash, which means they leave. They don't support you. 

And so these are the challenges that we have. But there are people with the know-how to actually start to guide people in that direction and help them and then how to take artificial intelligence to learn even more, so we could make smarter decisions on those things. So those are the things that I see happening, and it will be exciting, but it's going to be scary for some people too. 

And the other key component to all that is doing in a way that doesn't seem like Big Brother. If you come across as Big Brother, you also get a backlash for that. So it's this balance, you know? And there are parts of Asia that are very excited about some of this stuff and doing some of this stuff. So a lot of this isn't that new? It's out there, but it's really funny because they go to places like Europe- which is the other end of the spectrum, which has tons of privacy rules on all this stuff and has that kind of that political question I talked about earlier. 

The answer somewhere in the middle and it's finding that right spot, and I think we've always struggled with that. We tend to play in extremes and so we have to find that right spot. If we do, we could be successful. 

Nishita Goyal

You have to find the right balance. We are always to the right or always to the left. The point where you said that businesses have to understand from a people perspective, I think it's more of also refining the process each time when you understand different sets of people. 

Frank Eliason

That's right. Just like artificial intelligence needs to keep learning, you need to keep learning. You as an individual, you as a business. And unless you're in that mindset and that gets us to this whole kind of change of management thing where it has to happen constantly- you can't go from here to here. You have to keep going here, here, here, here, here, and keep moving along. And if you do that, you could be successful. But if you try and go from here to here? I can guarantee you- I've watched it, You’ll lose. 

Nishita Goyal

You might miss the lessons that you’re going to learn on the way. You're just taking a direct leap. Okay, since we're talking about AI out here...


How do you think AI and automation will have a huge impact? Yes or no, maybe? In the workplace and MIS departments of tomorrow?

Frank Eliason

Well, I think there's another component to all this, which is- so I've been talking more about customer experience but one of the things I'm also very big on is employee experience. I think we’re going to have to rethink what it's like to be an employee. We're going to rethink what Human resources is. We're going to have to add that human back into it. I think that these are the components that are going to be very difficult, but artificial intelligence can actually do this. 

Now, here's how it does it. I have used artificial intelligence in the past to actually constantly remap process flows. So, to make them smarter. There's a lot of things that we do that are a waste of time. We're paying the neck, yet your employees won't give you that feedback because it's always been that way. This awards what they know. Artificial intelligence can actually work on the back end and analyze all that and actually start to deliver it. There's a lot of tools to do this, but people don't use it successfully that way. So that’s a huge component that I think will change things. We have to make their lives easier. We have to make employees' lives easier. And by doing so, we then can make the lives of our customers easier, especially because most employees, some way, shape or form serve your customer. 

Whether they're in a service function, or design function- It doesn't matter. Their end result is something that will get delivered to a customer. And, truthfully, if they don't deliver, or have anything that delivers to the customer? Then I question why are they there? So somehow, someway, they are there for the customer and that goes to pretty much every business unit you have. 

So measuring that impact on where that is and understanding it, which we don't always do, or sometimes we don't want people to know what the end results are, because it might be so minute that maybe my function is not needed. But we should be utilizing that artificial intelligence to analyze all that stuff so we can do it right and do it smarter. Because this is not going to be about this- up until now we've been moving our workforce more and more to a 24-hour workforce.

Especially anybody in a management role would they're connected to the phones so they’re always working. One of the things I think is coming out from all this is people are valuing family, as opposed to “I need a career to do this.” Family is becoming more important, and yet, it's been so decreased in business. Yes, we could say, “Oh, you work from home more or you do this?” But that's not necessarily adding to the family, and so it's going to be also this separation from your devices. So you don't have to work constantly.

So I think that these are all the things that need to be mapped, figured out, and changed. And this is where the coronavirus thing’s going to force change within us. So all the interesting things in the components of people aren't even thinking about today because we're too much in the midst of the virus. 

Nishita Goyal

Yeah, and circling back to the employees part out there. So there’s a famous writing that says “the first step to keep your customers happy is to keep your employees happy.” And I think that's where we touched base. 

Frank Eliason

Yeah. Very simple. But you know, if you look at the world, it's not as simple as people thought. 

Nishita Goyal

I agree. Okay, so I'll move on to the next question-


Do you believe chatbots and conversational experience design will play a significant role in the future? How and wherein the digital transformation of companies as well?

Frank Eliason

Yeah, so it's all going to be about that now. Chatbots themselves in, like one of the areas that I talked about briefly, was meeting customers where they are, such as in Asia, where they're already using these messaging platforms extensively- and chatbots are actually a huge component to delivering in those areas and delivering answers to questions and helping people. It's easily implemented- I've done a lot of work in that area for companies like J&J.

And so you could do some really great aspects to deliver that. But it's also watching this change in the way people do things which are going to happen across the board. So, you know, we will probably see, you know, Zoom as an example. There's gonna be a lot of different ways that people interact with each other going forward and it might be not- It might be nothing that's defined today. It might be things that they start to get experience, and then a newcomer may come along that actually winds up owning it. 

So I don’t want to make predictions to the winners of that. But, I think chatbots can be extraordinarily important. I think the failure of chatbots has always been this lack of knowledge or building that knowledge over an extended period of time, which is not the fault of the technology. It's the fault of the implementation. So it's getting that right. I think those areas are gonna be important. Artificial intelligence helps deliver on those things. 

I also think there's gonna be components where we want to humanize it. And so this is where it might get interesting- People haven't really thought through. Which is, to humanize I might have it where it's done, when I might do it with a person. Alright, so now I'm having a video conversation with someone, but how do we make sure they get the right answers at the right time? This is another use where you can use chatbots and artificial intelligence. They're listening in to the conversation and maybe recommending the proper answers to the representative to make it faster and easier for them so they can actually spend the time building that human connection.

I think that's another component that is a little different than what we've thought about up until today. So, chat is going to be extraordinarily important. Artificial intelligence delivering on that will be extraordinarily important. And the things that we're going to have to think about is what things do we need to own versus not own. 

So, do I need it to be on my website and be my own chat platform? Or do I need it on some other website? And that may vary by country for today, But I actually expect that they even change because we're gonna become much more global after this is all said and done. And so we may even see, where Today I think there's like 20 major platforms when you start going through just the Asian countries of what people tend to use. But I think that will change as we become more one, and then deliver on those. But then we have to get past our own fears of security and stuff like that, which for many things it's not- It's a nonissue. 

Yes, if you're talking about someone’s bank account balance- you don't want that in a public sphere. You don't want that is something you don't have control over. I get it. But if you're talking about, buying that shampoo, I don't think security is that big of a deal. Security is huge for that credit card, but it's not huge for the “What ingredients does this have?” And so these are the things that you know we have to think through very much so. 

And then the other components and this is more for product companies, which is up until now, most product companies it's been about delivering through intermediaries through shops, et cetera- What if they went away? How are you delivering on your own? And also how are you making it functional? Where maybe one company is selling the product, but you're the one delivering it? Ah, and so there's going to be a lot of things that these combinations that are going to be confusing for companies to figure out. Especially those products that are used to selling in bulk and then where they have become the deliverer of the product, So having the right people to understand that and to also then understand that customer interaction piece, which may be with the company? Or maybe with a different intermediary- How do you ensure that the right answers are on that? 

There are ways to do that with artificial intelligence and technology as well as these other functions working together with those companies. So this is smart networking on thinking that long tail as opposed to that shorter tail, here's the instant answer. There's a much longer answer and longer analysis that will happen. But I actually expect some of your best product companies will actually have those answers. And I do expect that they'll take a little bit more control over answers for their specific product. 

Nishita Goyal

Yeah, I think that makes sense. That's correct. So I also see a lot of companies are keen on adapting to new technologies as a part of the digital transformation. But there are a lot of security concerns moving onto Cloud- those come as a hindrance. So not sure as to how flexible the product companies have to be incorporated in that or is it that traditional companies that have to change their mindset to adopt new technologies? 

Frank Eliason

So I think it comes down to our reaction to things. We tend to have these instant reactions. So something negative happens on Cloud-based things- “Oh, we can never go on Cloud!” The same negative could happen because- Guess what? Your own servers or the cloud whether you realize it or not. So some of the things that we do are these instant reactions, and I think that has to kind of slow down a little bit. Bring in the experts to help you figure it out. So, the other component. This is one of the bigger challenges for companies is- understanding that we need to actually be smarter about all the different device software that we have. And to get them to work together? 

Whether it be cloud or server-based or what? It doesn't matter. At the end of the day, as you know, a great example is CRM. CRM is about great data about your customer, and that should help you deliver something just in time for that customer because it should have the data in it that understands what that customer’s wants, desires are before they even know they have it. But it requires artificial intelligence to link that to other behaviours, such as things they're doing on the Web or with their IP address is doing, and you can see. And so, you know, we have to think across the board now, as opposed to up until now, it's usually been one department implementing. 

So if your department is responsible for CRM, you brought in artificial intelligence, you brought in your own bucket. But then the web bucket over here is doing their own thing- That does not work. You need to think across the board and you break free of your buckets. 

This one of the things that I found that consultants actually are, you know, we're partnering with the right software vendors is usually the better approach because they don't think in the silos that you do inside your organization. Naturally speaking, we think in silos. Why? Because we want our bosses to think we're smart. We want to protect our job. You know, there's things we want to do, and so you know that tends to create conflict inside the organization.

So sometimes you need someone from outside to go- “Here's how you do it across the board” and think through all that. But that also requires the CEO to be smart and go- “Let's get the right people in Bartlett's. Put someone at this level in charge of it, and let's figure this out across the board.” Otherwise, if you leave it, go to your individual silos to do it, you're gonna waste money and you're going to not necessarily get the answers that you want because you’re going to build stuff just for those silos. And so we need to get much more across the board. Cloud-based is a huge piece to it. And we have to start realizing our own stuff’s cloud-based, whether it's not. And then beyond that, how do we get that to interlink?

So that way the employees at home are getting all the right stuff; that customers going on our website or some other website, are able to get the right stuff that they want at the moment they need it. These are all the pieces to the puzzle without getting caught up in the trap of, “I own this” or “I'm thinking of just in this neck of the woods.” Go back to that customer experience piece, fire that technology, people. Yes, you're coming out with the coolest technology, but you forgot about people and the process piece, and you're missing those. 

So it's all the same, and so business transformation, customer experience, everything has all those elements involved. You need to get it right in that center to do it right. Good customer experience? People can help you deliver that. 

Nishita Goyal

Yeah, so basically a product that connects all the dots together can basically the modules talk to each other. There's one that can be successfully used by an organization to even connect from the employees to the Customers end? 

Frank Eliason

That is correct. 

Nishita Goyal

Makes sense. So I’ll move on to the next question-


So, we do believe that there are going to be a lot of changes when this crisis gets over. Where do you believe the spending allocation is going to differ? What departments? What will the business focus on?

Frank Eliason

I think it's gonna vary by company, but I think we're one of the things we're going to see is we're actually going to see the human element. So I’ll say human resource- which typically has been an area that gets cut. I think we're for companies that have people that have been labeled as essential employees. three USC and increased spend in that area because up until now, maybe they have not gotten it right. And so now they need to figure that out. So I think you're gonna see an increased spend there. I think you're going to see another increase in spending you know, in the past, I would say, marketing or customer service.

I actually think that over the past few years, we've watched technology move to market. I'm gonna make the opposite view. I think we're gonna start seeing technology recapturing all that, because the problem is, it's not been going across the board- where your IT department tends to spend it and look a little bit more across the board. So I think we're going to see that shift back from marketing a bit and into technology. It doesn't mean they're not spending it. They’re still spending it on similar things. Artificial intelligence, CRM. I still think these were going to be important components, but we're not going to do it in a bucket. 

Why? Because we want it to actually go to customer service. We wanted to go to Employee Service. We wanted to actually go across that board. So I think you'll see your shifts back towards technology in many ways. Ah, and also deeper analysis as to what we're spending on because, you know, until now, a lot of companies will buy multiple CRM systems. I think that's all going to start to slow down- that someone's gonna go “Whoa, whoa, Time out.” 

I think that we're going to go to Singular Systems- we're going to go to artificial intelligence to overlink a lot of that stuff. But then it's going to need to work and function for those different areas so we don't splinter again. So that's going to be the challenge for the software vendors to make sure that they're delivering for each those departments needs in a way that works, you know? And so that's going to software vendors gonna have to hit each of those forms. Not just ask technology- has this from working for you? But going to those different areas- “Has this worked for you? What do we need to do better? Are you even using it?”

The one problem I've seen in the past when technology implemented something no one used it. because they didn't own it, it didn’t work for us. And the feedback never got back to the right people. It just sat there. So, then you move into those areas- now I see them using it just but, just in their area and then someone else doing the same; Spend somewhere else with something. And that's not working either. 

The answer- back to that political aspect as, it's somewhere in the middle. And it's something we've always struggled with. So I think that's going to be a key component going forward. I think you're gonna see human resources and technology will be where the spend is at. I think the bigger component is- Is it delivering across the board? And that doesn't matter if it’s the human component or the technology component. It's going to be about delivering across the board. 

Nishita Goyal

Yeah, And how much does the technology, let's say, or the human resources offering value to it. How much does it offer in value to reach out to your objective? I think that that's what I understand from it. Okay, that's great. So finally...


Are there any sound bites that you want to leave my audience with?

Frank Eliason

I think the key thing is, and this goes for- I don't care for your business or anything else. Listening is key. Up until now, we're great at hearing the words, but not understanding them. And you know, it doesn't matter if the politics, business, it doesn't matter. If you want to get success- Deeper listening to what people really mean by what they're saying, what they want, what they desire and its employees, it’s everybody else. That's your customers.

And so you know, it's not, and people may say one word, but if you know them well enough, you should know by those words that we actually mean this. I think that's the challenge in the world- Part of that polarization we've had. I think that's going to be key- understanding what people really mean by what they say and then trying to deliver for them on that. It's that human element. 

And I think that that's where we're headed. I think it's going to be key, and I think that you know, we can't just talk the talk. We need to walk the walk. I hope that that is what is happening going forward. So that's what I would want to leave everybody with. Technology is not something to be scared of. Technology can actually make us better but I think that you know, we do need to understand each other better. We need to understand business together, but also our customers as well as society. And I think if we all do that, I think we can make this world a better place, and that's my goal. And everything is trying to make the world a better place.

Nishita Goyal

Of course, I think that's what everybody wishes for. So thank you so much Frank. It was amazing listening to you. And I think your insights were really helpful and will personally help me look at the way I look at things right now. So it was a wonderful talk and I look forward to working with you in the future.

Thank you so much. I hope you guys enjoyed this episode of the Engati CX series. We will be launching more interviews with experts across the globe. Until then stay tuned. Have a wonderful day.

Check out the 200 CX Thought Leaders to follow in 2021!

Frank Eliason

Frank is a customer experience leader and has been known for pioneering the use of social media for customer relations.

He has been recognized by BusinessWeek as the 'most famous customer service manager in the US, possibly in the world,' and has built a reputation for helping large businesses improve the way they connect with customers and enhance their relationships and is the author of the book, @YourService.

He is also a Board member for both, the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals.

Andy is the Co-Founder and CIO of SwissCognitive - The Global AI Hub. He’s also the President of the Swiss IT Leadership Forum.

Andy is a digital enterprise leader and is transforming business strategies keeping the best interests of shareholders, customers, and employees in mind.

Follow him for your daily dose of AI news and thoughts on using AI to improve your business.

Catch our interview with Andy on AI in daily life

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