NICE Interactions 2024: Just CX It - Executing on the Vision

21 Jun 2024

At last week’s Interactions 2024 event in Las Vegas, NICE got to showcase its next-level approach to customer experience (CX), and if you wanted to see how AI is poised to transform the contact center, this was the place to be. While I did post regularly on LinkedIn during the event, I wanted to add a coda here about CEO Barak Eilam’s keynote, not just for how good it was, but because 2024 is his final Interactions, and I won’t be attending the EU edition next week.

There was a lot more to take in from Interactions, including Barry Cooper’s excellent keynote about Mpower and the CXOne platform, and an impressive series of customer success stories showing how transformative results are happening now with AI – not down the road. Not everyone is ready for this yet, but for those who are, there is definitely a path forward.

NICE is clearly executing well on its vision, and to better understand why, Blair Pleasant’s review of the event here on BCStrategies is a good complement to this writeup. There are a lot of moving parts in understanding CXOne, especially for the new capabilities, but that’s not my focus here.

The strategist in me is drawn more to the vision, from which everything else follows. Not only does Barak have a clear, forward-thinking vision, but he’s executing on it, which is what good leaders do. Those will be big shoes to fill for NICE, and time will tell how that turns out. For now, here are the big ideas that struck me from his keynote, along with some of my photos.

Elevate your perspective

The main theme of Interactions was CX AI realized – whereby the potential for AI is now being realized for CX. They provided many proofs points around that, but before you can deliver those outcomes, you need a vision. Often, the vision that drives innovation comes from unexpected places, and only by changing your perspective – the way you look at problem sets – will you be able to see new and different ways of doing things.

To illustrate that, Barak cited three great examples of everyday products that had unlikely origin stories. First was the invention of Velcro, followed by the microwave oven, and then the Nike Waffle Trainer. None of these were really tech-driven, but a change of perspective was needed to recognize the possibilities for innovation. If you didn’t see the keynote, digging up the origin stories for each of these inventions will be time well spent, and I’ll just say that the common theme is about how these innovators elevated their perspectives and saw things that others had not.

With that in mind, Barak brought us to the problem at hand: “never in the history of CX has the need for a change in perspective been more vital”. I think that’s a fair statement, and this is the reason why the CCaaS space is so hot – everyone knows that CX needs to be better, but we still haven’t cracked the code.

Bridging the experience perception divide

Your vision to develop the right solution must first be driven by your perception of the problem set, and for CX, Barak frames this as the “experience perception divide”. His narrative was esoteric at times, but he clearly showed why a change in perspective is needed. The starting point is the approach organizations have taken in trying to understand customers, and then to see just how poorly this aligns with the customer’s actual experiences.

In short, organizations tend to have a fragmented view of the customer; Marketing focuses on how customers relate to the brand, Billing is interested in their payment details and capabilities, Logistics needs to know that shipments are received, contact centers typically try to resolve customer inquiries, etc. These are loosely connected at best, and following Barak’s narrative, there is no collective memory of all these experiences.

This is the perspective most business take with their customers, but for those who are truly striving to be customer-centric, this perception divide is at the heart of what needs to change. To illustrate why, Barak contrasted this perspective with Steve, an “average consumer”, who sees things “with a single, aware, unified human mind”. Whereas the business only has data about “point-in-time events with the brand”, Steve has his entire collective memory – both short-term and long-term – to define what customer experience means to him.  

Mpower – creating the experience continuum

As such, “what the organization sees as scattered dots, Steve sees as a grand narrative”, and for NICE, Mpower is the solution to bridge that divide. While it’s fair to say that AI has a long way to go before it can match the human brain for how we experience the world, Mpower aims to at least put agents on a level playing field. Barry Cooper’s keynote covered the mechanics of this, but in terms of vision, the big idea here to empower agents (get it?) with “memory-based augmentation”.

With human-based customer service, agents cannot possibly connect all the dots for Steve’s grand narrative, but with CXOne’s horsepower, AI can synthesize the collective memory of Steve’s experiences with the organization to augment the agent’s capabilities. Barak went on further about how AI and agents will start working more in tandem, creating an “experience continuum” where customers have seamless interactions between live and virtual agents.

That’s a pretty strong and lofty product promise, and that’s why it’s part of the vision. In the contact center space, these represent big leaps forward, but in NICE’s view, they are necessary to address the problem set. However, this is much more than just deploying the latest technology and going all-in with AI. The starting point is how you look at that problem set. Without a change in perspective, you’ll never be able to envision something like Mpower.

Ready to change your perspective?

When Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman was having waffles with his wife in 1971, she saw the waffle iron as a way to make waffles. With Bill, though, something clicked in his brain, seeing rubber instead of batter, and a new way to make training shoes better. Our brains work in mysterious ways – perhaps in ways that AI will never solve – but the rest is history. With that in mind (pun intended), you heard it from me first – maybe NICE’s new slogan will become Just CX It. Not bad, huh?

Oh, before wrapping up – let’s come back to Steve. Bonus points if you remember from the keynote that he was wearing a bar code t-shirt. It’s a small detail, but an important one. I could go on about how in the digital era – one of the fundamental driving forces of change that Barak talked about – consumers are now the products, and with all the data that businesses have on us now, it’s easy to feel like we’re fighting a losing battle.

This is actually key to the “grand narrative” Barak referred to; with CX being so bad historically, part of that narrative is how impersonal and un-valued customers feel – making this a painful part of the customer’s collective memory. If only contact centers – and agents – could change that narrative with personalized interactions that make customers feel valued – that’s the “Holy Grail of CX” Barak referred to earlier, and is exactly what NICE is after with Mpower.

In terms of being ready to change your perspective, Barak closed things out with a thought-provoking but clever question that takes you from vision to the core theme of CX AI realized. Clearly, all contact centers are “facing the same storm – so, which vessel will you be in?”.

Yes, we’re all in the same boat for needing to improve CX, but businesses are not all in the same boat for the choices you can make to ride it out. Choosing the right boat is the ultimate closing message for NICE, and from their perspective, the choice is clear.

For CX leaders who buy into NICE’s vision, the Mpower product promise, and the strength of their customer successes, the choice should be clear as well. Of course, they must do their due diligence across the vendor landscape to determine which one lines up the best. From my perspective, I would just say that it’s more than just the technology; the right boat is just as much about the vision shaping that technology, and the execution that makes it real.


There are currently no comments on this article.

You must be a registered user to make comments

Add new comment

Your name: