How Do We Leverage AI to Inspire, Create, and Improve the Customer Experience?

How Do We Leverage AI to Inspire, Create, and Improve the Customer Experience?

Business AI isn’t just coming, it’s here. Einstein AI is now integrated into Salesforce’s cloud-based CRM, IBM’s Watson has gone commercial, and we’re only scratching the surface of how artificial intelligence will impact the business world. Like any other advance, it will be a mixed bag. Our current generation of AI is already helping businesses solve problems, but like any new solution, AI generates as many questions as it does answers.

The big one: How do we leverage this powerful technology to inspire, create, and improve the customer experience, without sucking the humanity straight out of the process?

It’s not an easy question to answer. When a commercial AI solution proves its value, the natural response might be to give it more responsibilities. The current level of AI is not like popular portrayal you see in movies, where an all-knowing machine simply has the answer to every question. These are purpose-built systems, designed to perform their purpose very efficiently.

Efficiency Is Great, but Not at the Cost of Humanity

When you look at Einstein AI from Salesforce, it’s easy to see how two different businesses might use AI in very different ways. Among other things, the upcoming Einstein Case Management system automates data collection, automatically directs customer service inquiries to the correct reps, and moves high-priority cases to the top of the stack.

All very useful, but the heavy lifting – the stuff that ultimately reflects on the perception of your brand – is still handled by humans. As it should be! If a brand is looking for a magic trick to turn poor customer service into something better, AI isn’t swooping in to save the day just yet. It helps with the logistics, but you still need to have the right people in place to make the most of the technology.

A customer service inquiry gets to the right desk, but that only matters if the person behind the desk knows what they’re doing. If the person behind the desk is rude, unhelpful, or poorly informed, the customer will rightly be just as frustrated as ever. Maybe even more so, if you’ve been bombarding that customer with marketing about your new, AI-based “amazing” customer service. I just had an experience involving poorly informed customer service agents with 1800Flowers… nothing more frustrating than them reaching out to you because of a complaint you lodged, and the agent not knowing why she called.

A Means to an End

Smart businesses with very good customer service see AI as an enhancement rather than a replacement. A system like Einstein AI saves time, and with the right culture in place employees will use that time to better serve customers. The same goes for the information side of marketing and customer service. If an employee has to spend less time searching for information on customers, they can spend more time finding the best ways to put what they’ve learned to work.

Related: Don't Blame Social Media for Less Face-To-Face Interaction

But the people must be an integral part of the process, and they must be in control of the process. There’s no way around it, nor should there be. If you don’t put the right people in place, develop the skills they need to succeed, and empower them to put those skills to work, then AI will just be one more expensive cure-all that doesn’t live up to the hype.

AI has an incredible potential value for integration into the overall customer experience. The key will be using the tech to make it a more human experience, rather than the other way around. Put humans first, and use AI to enhance the customer experience rather than replacing the human element.

Also keep this in mind… if you think you are not using AI in your marketing, think again. If you are buying adds on Facebook or Google, guess what… you are using AI. So consider how indexed content affects everything on Facebook and Google.

This first appeared on Ted Rubin

Ted Rubin
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Ted Rubin is a leading Social Media Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist, and Acting CMO for Brand Innovators. In March 2009, Ted started using and evangeli ... Click for full bio

An Emerging Theme In Thematic Investing

An Emerging Theme In Thematic Investing

Exchange traded funds (ETFs) are popular vehicles for market participants looking to engage in thematic investing. Thematic investing looks to take advantage of future growth trends, including disruptive technologies. Given that forward-looking approach, stock-picking in the thematic universe is equally as hard, if not harder, than in traditional market segments.

Go back to the late 1990s, before the bursting of the Internet/technology bubble. Back then, investors stood an equal chance of selecting E-Toys over Amazon or some no longer in existence networking equipment maker over Cisco.

“History is littered with examples of prospering industries with no indication of which company will come to dominate the industry,” according to Nasdaq. “This suggests that successful thematic investing is more about selecting baskets of investments rather than single securities.”1

The ALPS Disruptive Technologies ETF (DTEC) provides basket exposure to a broad swath of thematic investments. DTEC features exposure to not just one or two emerging technologies, but 10 such themes on an equal-weight basis.

Disruptive Efficiency

The 10 themes represented in DTEC are as follows: 3D printing, clean energy, cloud computing, cybersecurity, data and analytics, fintech, healthcare innovation, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile payments and robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).

Generally speaking, fund issuers have been quick to respond to disruptive and transformative technologies, bringing products to market to tap these themes. Prior to DTEC coming to market late last year, there were ETFs devoted exclusively to cloud computing, cybersecurity, robotics and other themes featured in DTEC. However, few use the basket approach to themes employed by DTEC.

Related: Getting Paid to Play The Energy Patch

February, a rough month for U.S. stocks, highlighted the advantages of DTEC's multi-theme methodology. Seven of the 10 themes found in the fund finished the month lower, but DTEC was able to outperform the S&P 500 on a monthly basis.

Focusing on individual themes can be rewarding over the long-term, but not all investors have the risk tolerance for such a strategy. Consider this: the Indxx Global Robotics & Artificial Intelligence Thematic Index jumped more than 48% in 2017. That type of performance is enough to seduce many investors, but that same benchmark slipped 7.60% in February, generating monthly volatility of 34.10%.Said another way, that robotics and AI index's February slide was more than triple the loss experienced by DTEC during the month.

More Advantages

While it probably is not accurate to call the indexes devoted to individual disruptive themes “old,” many use old school weighting methodologies. For example, the two largest components in the ISE Cloud Computing Index are Netflix, Inc. (NFLX) and Inc. (AMZN). Only two members of the S&P 500 have larger market values than Amazon while Netflix currently has a larger market cap than Wal-Mart (WMT) and McDonald's (MCD).

Holdings subject ot change as of 12/31/17

For its part, DTEC not only equally weights its 10 disruptive themes, but its 100 components as well, potentially reducing single stock risk in the process. As the chart below confirms, equally weighting stocks is rewarding across sectors and market capitalization segments.

Past performance does not guarantee future results

Annualized returns for the past 10 years show seven of the 11 S&P 500 sectors, when equally weighted, outperform cap-weighted equivalents, according to S&P. Three of those seven sectors – financial services, healthcare and technology – are prominent parts of DTEC's roster.

1 Source: Nasdaq Dec. 28, 2015

2 Source: ETF Replay data


An investor should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses carefully before investing. To obtain a prospectus which contain this and other information call 866.675.2639 or visit Read the prospectus carefully before investing.

An investment in the ALPS Disruptive Technologies ETF (DTEC) may be subject to substantially greater risk and volatility than investments in larger and more mature technology companies.

There is no assurance that the market developments and sector growth based upon the themes discussed in the article will come to pass.

ALPS Disruptive Technologies ETF shares are not individually redeemable. Investors buy and sell shares of the ALPS Disruptive Technologies ETF on a secondary market. Only market makers or “authorized participants” may trade directly with the Fund, typically in blocks of 50,000 shares.

ALPS Advisors, Inc. (AAI) has engaged IRIS Werks, LLC (IRIS) to produce analysis and commentary on ALPS-advised ETFs. IRIS currently has a compensated business relationship with AAI. AAI is not affiliated with IRIS.

The content and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author and not the views and opinions of AAI.  In addition, AAI assumes no responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the content written by the author.

There are risks involved with investing in ETFs including the loss of money. Additional information regarding the risks of this investment is available in the prospectus. Past Performance is not indicative of future results.

The fund is new and has limited operating history.

ALPS Portfolio Solutions Distributor, Inc. is the distributor for the ALPS Disruptive Technologies ETF. AAI is affiliated with ALPS Portfolio Solutions Distributor, Inc.

The author is not an investment professional and this article should not be considered investment advice. While the information and statistical data contained herein are based on sources believed to be reliable, the author takes no responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the content. Additionally, this article should not be relied on or be the basis for an investment decision. Information that is historical is not indicative of future results, and subject to change.

S&P 500®: A capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries.

S&P SmallCap 600®: A capitalization-weighted index that measures the small-cap segment of the U.S. equity market.

S&P MidCap 400®: A capitalization-weighted index that measures the mid-cap segment of the U.S. equity market.

Indxx Global Robotics & Artifical Intelligence Thematic Index: The Indxx Global Robotics & Artificial Intelligence Thematic Index is designed to track the performance of companies listed in developed markets that are expected to benefit from the increased adoption and utilization of robotics and Artificial Intelligence ("AI"), including companies involved in Industrial Robotics and Automation, Non-Industrial Robots, Artificial Intelligence and Unmanned Vehicles.

Tom Lydon
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IRIS Co-Founder and Editor and proprietor of Tom is a frequent contributor to major print, radio and television media including Forbes, The Wall Street Jou ... Click for full bio