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You know how in high school, when springtime comes, you beg the teacher to have class outside? A few years back I thought it’d be great if we did something similar at Enterprise Connect.

I thought: Hey, we’ll be in Orlando in March, a lot of people come to the show from up north. Let’s have a session outside, on the lovely event lawn at the Gaylord Palms hotel. It’ll be like having class outside. The topic we picked was AI.

I figured the only thing that could go wrong was if it rained, and we had a backup plan for that. I didn’t count on 90-degree heat in mid-March. There was one small patch of shade on the lawn, and the whole audience crowded into that space. The panelists and I were dripping with sweat by the time we left the stage.

Four years later, there are no outdoor sessions at Enterprise Connect, but there is a lot more AI on the program. As its name suggests, our Practical AI track focuses on the uses of AI in applications such as speech technologies, network management systems, and contact centers. That last area—contact centers—is where a lot of the real-world benefits of AI are already being seen, as illustrated in case studies shared on No Jitter that show how contact centers have achieved ROI from AI-based projects. These kinds of early successes are also why the Enterprise Connect 2020 Contact Center & Customer Experience track features a session on The AI-Infused Contact Center.

The word choice in that session title is important: AI isn’t likely to “take over” your contact center, or any other part of your communications environment. It’s not going to replace anything; it’s going to permeate, or infuse, the systems you already use: CRM, IVR, post-call reporting, analytics, and so on.

Within the communications environment, new technology almost always hits the contact center first, because that’s where enterprises can show a hard-dollar payoff from the implementation. That’s clearly become the case with AI and the contact center. But to understand how you capture this payoff, enterprise leaders need to focus less on how AI works, and more on how their business works. Consultant Chuck Vondra of Communication Strategies, who authored the No Jitter piece linked above, recommends a process for AI implementation that involves “first stating the business problem and then creating ‘next steps’ to solve it.”

Finally, we’re spotlighting AI in a main-stage General Session on Wednesday, April 1, in a high-level discussion, Transforming Customer Experience—Where’s the True AI Payoff?, led by my EC program co-chair Beth Schultz, joined of course by consultant Sheila McGee-Smith, the top independent contact center analyst in the business. They’ll be quizzing top executives from the biggest contact center vendors, pressing them to provide practical advice that can inform a broader vision for AI’s role in your contact center and customer experience strategy going forward.

I must admit I smiled when I saw that Barry O’Sullivan, VP and GM at Genesys, is joining Sheila’s all-star panel. Barry was up on that stage with me on the Gaylord Palms lawn four years ago, sweating it out as we tried to discuss why AI was going to be so important. Significantly, Barry was there representing the contact center-focused startup he founded, AltoCloud, which Genesys later acquired. Barry was among the visionaries who saw AI’s potential for the contact center early on.

So while it may not be as bad as sitting under a pounding Florida sun, I’m confident Beth and Sheila will make Barry and his fellow panelists sweat at least a little bit under some tough questioning. I hope you’ll be there to see it.

Eric Krapf
GM & Program Co-Chair Enterprise Connect & WorkSpace Connect
Publisher, No Jitter

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