Art and science

“How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection. That is all wrong. The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative… the true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly.”

-Isaac Asimov

Not a week goes by without a new headline about how artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics are being applied in ways that are changing how we shop, get our news and entertainment, work more productively, or even create art, just to name a few areas where AI is already having a significant impact. Most of the coverage of AI focuses on its potential to create more personalized recommendations, automate, and simplify the work we do, or replicate the benefits of human expertise without as much time spent by actual humans. While these are all important contributions of AI, what’s often missing from the discussion is how the benefits of AI are greatest when combined with a deeper understanding of human emotions and how to inspire human beings to act. To truly unlock the potential of AI you need to achieve the right balance between art and science.

There’s a reason most marketing executives have risen to their position by demonstrating their ability to fuse creativity with an ability to deliver the numbers. But all too often the art and the science have been at tension with one another, like two competing schools of thoughts. The true promise of AI is to help get the best of both. We are already seeing this across a range of use cases where the learnings of social media, ecommerce, and customer service optimization are starting to be applied more broadly across the full customer journey.

What these use cases have in common is the ability to mine large volumes of unstructured data, often text but increasingly video, building models that allow you to generate powerful insights about what people are feeling, not just saying. Using analytics to score unstructured data sets such as ratings and reviews, social media posts, in app messages, live chat, voice-to-text transcriptions, or open-ended questions in surveys allows you to synthesize insights and create new data that can be appended to these unstructured data records and linked to specific actions customers take along the customer journey. Qualtrics’ acquisition of Clarabridge, a market leader in AI and unstructured data analytics, illustrates the shift from traditional survey-based approaches to one powered by AI and “intelligent scoring” of these customer interactions. By linking AI-driven text analytics of unstructured data signals with other operational data along the customer journey, you can conduct powerful experiments to optimize the content and calls to action you deliver to customers. While this can be more easily scaled for digital experiences, the same approach can also be applied to optimize human interactions from your frontline employees in industries ranging from retail to hospitality to financial services to healthcare to utilities. 

AI enables you to build a stronger culture of experimentation. For this to be most impactful, you need to leverage AI to drive improvements along three equally valuable pathways. First, use AI-powered insights to optimize the content and calls to action that you are providing to customers along their journey. This will enable higher conversion of the right behaviors, while also making these investments self-funding through savings on research and testing as you apply a regular stream of data-driven insights. Second, develop stronger insights to measure whether the actual experiences you are delivering are congruent with the experiences you want to provide as part of your brand strategy. In doing this, pay careful attention to not only what people are doing, but what they are feeling and saying along the customer journey. Finally, engage and empower your employees to deliver ongoing improvements in the customer experience. Provide them with regular, actionable feedback so that they can self-correct, making them more self-aware and empowering them to act. Taking it a step further, conversations among these employees can then become an additional source of unstructured data to strengthen this feedback loop.

This is an area of incredible innovation in the art and science of experience management. I’m looking forward to discussing your own journey sparks for where you are pushing the art and science forward. Please share your stories on our website or contact us to continue the conversation!