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Will It All Come Down to the Conversation?
Talk about “the experience” has become quite trendy lately. It’s everywhere.
But as its ubiquity takes hold, it’s getting harder and harder to figure out what the heck it even means — especially in the context of the technology that supports it.
My continuing work on my first and upcoming ExTech Landscape Report (I'll be doing a guest post on ZDNet introducing it formally) has solidified this fact in my mind. There are just so many moving parts when designing, delivering, and managing a winning digital experience, that it's easy to get lost in the tech weeds.
However, this week's news served as a gentle (albeit forehead-slapping) reminder that it may not be that complicated at all.
In fact, could it really be just as easy as understanding that the experience is about the “conversation” you have with your customer, employee or partner?
Two Big Funding Announcements
The first hint to the potential centrality of the conversation came in the form of two big funding announcements.
The first was Soul Machines raising $70MM to advance its vision of employing "digital people" in service of the customer experience. Among a few others, such as UneeQ and Amelia, the company has been a champion of using full digital avatars powered by conversational AI.
The second was Uniphore’s announcement that they had secured a $400MM Series E round of funding. More focused on voice communications, the company uses conversational AI to enable what it calls “conversational automation.”
The combination of these announcements points to the growing importance of the conversation as a centerpiece of the digital experience — even when that conversation may be taking place in a non-digital setting.
While the technologies these companies offer focus on the literal conversations that customers, employees, and partners are having — whether with virtual agents or live humans — the idea of the conversation being central to the experience extends beyond its literal context.
The Cost of a Bad Experience & What’s Holding Companies Back
Bringing this point home was a new study by Applaus that helps prove what many of us have known and have been saying for a long time: it only takes one bad experience to have a substantially negative impact on an organization.
The study showed that “the vast majority” of respondents reported having left a digital service after only a single bad experience, and that the same large majority would abandon the sign-up process for the same reason.
I know. Duh.
Still, having firm data to demonstrate the very real financial and reputational impact of a bad experience is helpful. And it reinforces the idea that each of these interactions is, in fact, a form of conversation between an organization and its various stakeholders.
To that point, Qualtrics announced this week the release of what it calls XM Discover, a set of tools that help organizations listen in on the conversations that stakeholders are having in the form of structured and unstructured data from support conversations, chat, social media, and on review sites.
It's an important offering in that it extends this idea of the conversation to those interactions that are happening around and away from the direct transaction flow — and helps organizations overcome one of the blind spots that may be holding them back from having better conversations.
Keeping the Interaction the Priority
These developments reinforce the fact that while delivering a differentiated experience to your customers, employees, and partners is incredibly difficult because of the underlying technical complexity — it's also very simple.
It all comes down to the ongoing conversation between you and those you serve.
The challenge, of course, is that those conversations will take place across an incredibly long and complex journey and involve an immense amount of technology.
But none of that will change the fact that every interaction represents another bit of that continuing conversation with your customer, employee, or partner — and it will be another opportunity for you to either delight them or push them away.
Which it will be is up to you.
Illustration by Natasha Remarchuk