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Last week, customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) leaders arrived in Austin, Texas to attend CONNECT 2023. Previously hosted as two separate conferences — Reworked CONNECT and CMSWire CONNECT — this year's event brought together both EX and CX tracks under one roof at the JW Marriott Austin. 

With more than 150 sessions spanning topics like omnichannel, artificial intelligence, unified commerce, workplace monitoring, employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, and the hybrid office, our experts spent three jam-packed days learning from their peers at some of the world's most successful organizations. Here are their key event takeaways to share with your teams.  

1. Employee experience and customer experience are connected. 

In today's more digitally interconnected world, there should be no line between the employee experience (EX) and the customer experience (CX). They are reciprocal and directly impact each other. You cannot effectively solve either without thinking through the impact on the other. Frontline and backline workers impact the customer (and the customer impacts both frontline and backline workers) even if they don't engage directly.  

2. Empathetic workplaces are the future.  

COVID drove more humanity into the workplace. We became more empathetic in the workplace because we were all aligned by similar challenges. The lasting impact of the pandemic is still seen in the sympathy towards "return-to-work" initiatives and our ability to think differently about how our teams work in an increasingly hybrid work world. This impacts both the employee and customer experience as we move forward. 

3. View the office as a destination. 

Office-based work is more intentional with employees coming on-site to attend meetings or accomplish a specific objective. The hybrid office is a primary destination for team meetings, social gatherings, highly collaborative project meetings and creative brainstorming. In an EX session led by MillerKnoll, presenters shared key statistics related to what's motivating employees to return to the office, including: 

  • 74 percent of surveyed employees said they want to collaborate, build camaraderie and facilitate in-person meetings.
  • 15 percent of surveyed employees said they are seeking a quiet space to focus on getting work done.
  • 11 percent of surveyed employees said they visit the office to put in face time with management.

They also shared data related to why employees do not return to the office. Top factors include the time and expense of commuting; mental, physical and emotional well-being; and inflexible schedules packed with meetings. To "earn an employee's commute," organizations must align employees' needs with the capabilities and design of the office to offer flexibility and adaptability to overcome existing friction.

4. When it comes to AI/ML, focus on the fundamentals.  

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are buzzwords that content publishers and technology companies are applying to everything. The reality is many of these technologies aren't new; some have been a part of marketing, customer experience and employee experience for more than decade. 

On the employee experience and marketing side, simple current- day examples include predictive text, auto-complete sentences and platforms like Grammarly. In contact centers, ML is used to predict spikes in call volume and automatically scale staffing, as well as provide insights to call center supervisors on customer sentiment analysis. In marketing, we've been playing with personalization and recommendation engines for many years. We're seeing the logical evolution of those capabilities as we (and the systems) grow in our sophistication. 

While AI and ML are hot topics, it's important to get the fundamentals right first. It's all about a solid foundation of quality, curated data to train your AI engine. Poor data equals poor results. Most organizations haven't developed an AI/ML strategy or mastered the basics of AI to inform operations, become more predictive and increase operational efficiencies. In a session hosted by Daniel Wu of JPMorgan Chase, he suggested a five-step framework for developing an end-to-end strategy for generative AI: 

  1. Data strategy
  2. Train your people in AI/ML
  3. Compute: Training these models can take months and significant computing power.
  4. Operations: How do you integrate AI into your software/IT ecosystem?
  5. Governance: In many cases, data governance is an overlooked element, but, in Wu's opinion, it's the most important.

5. Customer experience requires an enterprise-wide focus.

To maximize their competitive advantage, organizations must elevate CX leaders by giving them a dedicated title and team. By taking this first step, CX leaders will be better equipped to build organizational alignment. They can develop stakeholder strategies, connect the dots across business units, and collaborate with senior leadership and human resources (HR) to establish a company culture that cares deeply about its customers. 

During her session, Karna Crawford reflected on her prior experience with Ford, Verizon and JP Morgan Chase. She has found the most successful CX leaders are the ones who are empowered to create a truly customer-first, outside-in approach (building around the needs of the customer rather than the needs of the business). 

Keep learning about EX and CX 

Don't let the insights end in Austin. Fuel your passion for learning and share our top digital experience resources with your teams to drive momentum toward achieving your initiatives and transforming your EX and CX.