Love in the Age of AI

Love is in the air… well, it’s in the voice. Tom Hebner shares a few thoughts on why he loves smart speakers and AI for customer service.

I love my smart speakers.

I have three in the house from two different manufacturers. Why do I love them, and why am I writing this post on Valentine’s Day?

Let’s get this out first – it’s not THAT kind of love. I’m not putting in earbuds and going on picnics with my smart speaker, ala Her. So what kind of love? Let me tell a little story, with some background first.

I have the fairly unique experience of raising a toddler in the late 90’s and a toddler now. In the late 90’s when my son said, “I want to hear Beauty and the Beast,” (he loved the “Gaston” song) I had to go find the CD, put it in the cd player, click next next next next (yes it’s the 4th song, and yes I still remember) and then he’d get his song. Today, my youngest son loves the “Belle” song, so now I just say, “Play the “Belle” song from Beauty and the Beast,” and it’s playing.

This story is not about why both my children, almost a generation apart, love Beauty and the Beast (I think that says more about me); it’s about ease of use. The smart speakers make it SO easy.

I keep hearing from my Enterprise customers about “digital transformation”. When I hear this, I translate it to, “We are finally trying to make things easier.” So many of my customers are using things like smart speakers and virtual assistants in their personal lives and experiencing how easy they are and thinking, “Our company should be this easy.”

But do the smart speakers and the VA’s themselves make it easy? No – they enable easy experiences, but there’s work to integrate to music services and to train the recognizer to understand all the songs available. In the Enterprise there is work to do to be easy. Right now, enterprises that want to digitally transform, or become easier to do business with, should stop looking for technology to do this for them. “AI” alone will not solve their problem. They should be looking internally at their own complexity, facing it and fixing it, and leveraging technology to help enable “easy”.

I love my smart speaker because it made raising a toddler just a little easier. I want to love my Bank and my Insurance Company, too; all they need to do is be a bit easier.


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Thomas Hebner

About Thomas Hebner

Tom Hebner is a the World Wide Leader of the Cognitive Innovation Group. He has 18 years of experience designing, building, and managing large complex contact center automation solutions. He personally manages the most strategic and innovative contact center solutions, partnering with our customers to move the contact center market forward. Tom holds two Masters Degrees in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University and a BA from Villanova University.