3 Top Trends in Customer Experience

May 9, 2017

by Carla Johnson

I remember seeing the first Terminator movie. Holy crap, the machines scared me. They felt no pity, no remorse, no pain, no fear. It was a far-fetched idea in 1984, but now that our vocabulary is infused with artificial intelligence and virtual reality, some people have a great deal of empathy with Sarah Conner.

AI was a big topic at Oracles Modern Marketing Experience this year and with good reason. It wasn’t about scaring people with a world rife with uncontrollable robots. But rather broadening people’s perspective about artificial intelligence, intelligent augmentation, virtual reality and other new technology and how it all fits into the world of customer experience.

Oracle CEO Mark Hurd talks about customer experience as the ultimate differentiator.

Mark Hurd started by giving the audience context for the stress CEOs face.

“Get behind in technology and you can be gone in a snap,” Hurd told the 4,000 attendees from 50 countries. He added a sobering statistic: 50% of the Fortune 500 CEOs have turned over since 2000.  “Forty percent of CEOs have a tenure of 18 months or less. The average is 4-1/2 years. Eighty-five percent of IT’s budget is spoken for before the year starts. When do you invest the remaining 15 cents?”

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, customers continue to grow in sophistication and expectation. Sticking with status quo technology is the path to certain death.

So what’s a marketer to do?

Focus on these three things.


AI  is where we draw the line between creativity and technology,” said Time Warner CMO Kristen O’Hara. “In a data-driven world, heroic experiences are an aggregate of moments that help us get smarter and smarter about our customers and their behaviors.

That means that as AI becomes more embedded into our world, we don’t have to fear the rise of the terminators. It means that we have tremendous opportunities to learn and create better experiences at every turn.

“We’re living in a world that moves so quickly that we can’t wait for things to be perfect to get started,” O’Hara added. “The opportunity costs are too great. AI has tremendous potential. It’s not man versus machine. Human potential will always be critical to business.”

And then she said something that every right- and left-brained person in business needed to hear:

“It’s about using technology and cognitive learning to enhance creativity, not take it away. It frees up time to do what you do best.”


During the conference, Laura Ipsen, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Marketing Cloud, reinforced the need for marketers to create heroic moments – all the little touches done really, really well that add up to an amazing experience. “It’s the blend of human curiosity, intuition and creativity that are vital to heroic moments,” she said.

The perfect example of this was actor, producer and entrepreneur Jason Gordon-Levitt. Gordon-Levitt began acting as a child and is best known for his roles in Third Rock from the Sun, Batman and Snowden. Ten years ago, he developed hitRECord, a collaborative production company, which brings together artists, musicians, filmmakers and others. Together, they produce different types of media, including short films, albums and books.

HitRECord blends community, fair compensation and collaboration to create things that no one isolated individual could have done on their own. When people come together in this way, that’s what makes technology fun. He asked of the community, “What can humans create because of technology?”

His big message about creativity is the same as Ipsen’s and customer experience. If you want to do something really big, do lots of little things. Then it’s easier to make mistakes – because you’re going to make mistakes – learn from them and move on.

It still takes a special kind of person who’s willing and OK with failure. Which brings me to…


Tableau CMO Elissa Fink needs a mountain top from which she can share her message about talent.

She asked: What’s an automation expert or social marketer today versus what we needed three years ago? There’s a big difference. Huge. And in a short amount of time. That’s why what matters most to her as a CMO is building a team of people who can continually learn and advance.

“We are living the possibilities. We need people who can learn,” said Fink. “Being adaptable and learning, that’s what makes the difference. It’s about a learning and doing culture, and dropping things that don’t work. Digital marketing is about speed.”

How people use technology – it doesn’t matter if it’s AI, VR or whatever – you don’t just turn it on and expect it to work. The human element with technology is so important.

“Technology is an enhancement story,” she explained, “not a replacement story. Technology makes people smarter, better and faster. It gets their brains engaged in the things they do best.”

As for checking the boxes when you hire people to make sure they have all the right skills?

“If people are interested and passionate about something, they’re going to be great,” said Fink.

The conversations at Modern Marketing Experience were refreshing in that it’s not about technology saving the day. It’s about using technology to support our creativity and talent so that we can create heroic moments for our audiences.


Photo credits: Oracle Marketing Cloud

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author