eBay

CX Bold Moves: eBay’s Vibrant Marketplace of the Future

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of CX Bold Moves. See all the DoingCXRight CX Bold Moves stories.

Two years ago RJ Pittman and eBay made a big bet and made AI (artificial intelligence) a core discipline of the company, similar to brand marketing and sales. The organization was able to focus and build upon existing technologies to create a truly personalized experience on eBay. This is the definition of a big bet, and the reason why eBay is part of our AI (Artificial Intelligence) series.

In the retail world of RJ Pittman, the conversational commerce does more than assist us in buying an outfit, it uses predictive analytics and AI to design the outfit if it does not exist anywhere in the world.  Now that is the ultimate personal relationship any brand can have with a customer. Once eBay is able to consistently deliver this value proposition to the customer and to scale it for the 3Bn online users today, Amazon will finally have a match – and become less ubiquitous.

How did eBay get here?

“Don’t start from the tech, start from the experience and start with transformative experiences that your customers will feel…” is how RJ Pittman summed up his approach at the Forrester conference in San Francisco this fall.  eBay is an excellent case study of a brand that followed the principles for self-service that we laid out last week – the brand will enable the customer of the future to post and sell any item without any effort or friction. Through computer vision, deep science looking at images, real time pricing, conversational commerce with interactions, and a world price guide, eBay is building an AI-enabled ecosystem that will have the power to create many real personalized experiences for all of us.

What about the eBay brand?

“The brand is the product is the brand” are the words of RJ Pittman that sum up the future of marketing. Today marketing is less about ad campaigns and more about a brand’s products and the customer experience that accompanies them. This year JetBlue achieved $33M of ad spend equivalency with its launch of facial recognition technology at the gate. This is much more brand exposure than an ad campaign. Without the existing social media and mobile technologies, that would have been impossible. But in the world in which we live, the brand is more about keeping and living the promises you have made as an organization and less about what those promises are.

This is an important note of caution for all those who have brand marketing and customer experience under two different executives. How are you ensuring that there is a real alignment between those two legs of your customer relationship?

What did eBay really do?

eBay applied technology to build a dream no one has imagined yet. The innovative brand did not merely optimize its responsive website (some of us actually even call responsive design digital revolution:( ), it invested heavily in a conversational commerce that will define how customers purchase in the future.

This disruptive strategy is not a science project. It is the birth/built of a vibrant marketplace of the future. Rik Reppe said on stage in San Francisco that courage, flexibility and imagination will make or break our efforts with AI. Listening to RJ Pittman it felt like he has all three of them. Do you?

 

 

*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

Is AI Really The Answer?

Earlier this week we shared some of the pitfalls of implementing  self-service and highlighted the importance of strategic and empathetic implementation.  AI (artificial intelligence) is one of the self-service tools in the customer service professional toolbox today. It is also one of the new buzzwords, together with blockchain (for the curious ones  – my favorite explanations of blockchain are this video and this article).

The primary current positioning of AI is in call centers. The value proposition is that with AI, companies will empower customer service employees to make better decisions/recommendations, thus increasing employee engagement. Additionally, through AI, organizations will achieve significant ROI by automating the role of the customer agent (in JetBlue’s case, the crewmember) and scaling customer support without incremental headcount.

So what exactly is AI? Do you really understand what this technology can and cannot do? If you do not, keep reading as all working professionals today should understand at least the basics of AI. If you are like me, you probably get 100 sales emails every week telling you that you are running late and must leverage AI in your call centers. But do you really need AI? What problem do YOU need to solve? And is AI the best way to do that for your company?

Last month I was invited by Execs In the Know to join their AI Advisory Committee with the below mandate:

“The final group output will come in the form of a report. The exact nature of the report will be determined and framed by the group, but may include areas such as:

  • A summary of ways AI is enhancing CX channels
  • Best practices on where and how to start
  • Trends and technology in AI to improve service
  • ROI of current AI customer service initiatives
  • Perspectives and predictions about the future of AI and customer service”

This is no small mandate and it is encouraging that we have a group of professionals who are examining these questions before we all get ahead of ourselves with AI and compromise the ROI we all want so much.

The most common use of AI is ML (machine learning).  Basically, this is data mining and predictive learning on steroids that enables a computer to make decisions and interact with a human. With that basic understanding I already have a few questions to all the companies that are calling, emailing, inmailing etc., to offer me AI enabled solutions. Who, or rather what, is enabling those solutions? Is it my company’s data? Because if it is, I have a lot more work to do internally before I respond to those sales pieces.

Erik Brynjolfsson and  Andrew Mcafee provide a comprehensive explanation of what AI is and what it is not in their publication The Business of Artificial Intelligence. In it they state that AI technology is ready for implementation in the business world and that “[t]he bottleneck now is in management, implementation, and business imagination.” I do have the business imagination, but I also am taking my time to know exactly what capability I am buying with AI. It might be cheaper to streamline processes and fix existing software tools or integrations to enable my employees to deliver excellent customer service, instead of paying for yet another software integration that makes decisions based on my bad data (since I would have prioritized the purchase of the expensive AI solution over cleaning my existing data).

Although it is clear that AI will be a solution that needs demonstrated ROI and employee adoption for success while it is learning, it is also clear that we cannot wait too long to get comfortable with this new technology. As Erik and Andrew say, one thing is pretty sure: “[o]ver the next decade, AI won’t replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don’t”.

That is the exact reason I chose to join the AI Advisory Committee. More to come!

 

 

*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.