Picture this: You’re a new parent shopping your favorite car company’s website. In the past you’ve bought convertibles, but your needs have, perhaps regrettably, changed. Suddenly a deal pops up on the screen for an SUV. Simple enough—or so it appears. But millions, sometimes trillions, of data bits have likely been crunched to lead to such “serendipity.” That, in the parlance of CX or customer service, is success.
At the bleeding, leading edge of that success is Cerebri.AI. Operating out of Austin and headed by French-Canadian Jean Belanger, it draws on six years of product development to deliver market-leading speed and quality data via its CVX 3 platform. Just in time, many might say, considering the pandemic has increased work- and stay-at-home hours, leading consumers to increasingly lean on digital commerce and services. Techonomy spoke with Belanger about the most important things companies need to understand about their customers, why AI is so helpful in data engineering, and how he makes the most of Cerebri.AI’s startup-style limited resources.
Techonomy: I know CVX 3 involves patent-pending innovations in AI and reinforcement learning, among others. But in basic terms, you gather a company’s data, organize it, and extrapolate information from that about its digital customer. Can you describe the process?
Jean Belanger: In today’s world, everyone wants to do everything digitally. And all of that leads to the obvious question: If no one’s talking to the customer in real life, how do you serve them? You may have a chat bot, you may have this or that. But to make such things work well you need to know about individuals. And where we stand today, most enterprises of any consequence have an enormous amount of data but they have that data in separate silos. Getting those silos to talk to each other is difficult. It’s excessively difficult if you want to provide really fast customer service.
Techonomy: So you provide what you call “answers as a service.”
JB: Yes. We start with creating what’s called the customer journey, which details all of an individual’s interactions with the company in granular terms. Then we make predictions in four basic categories. The first one is propensity, which is a fancy way of saying, “Are you going to buy in the next 30 days or are you going to churn, meaning leave for another vendor?” The next set of models looks at affinity: I know you want to buy because the model tells me you want to buy, but what products do you like? The third looks at action. For this, we study things a consumer has done in the past—at the marketing offers they received and their rate of acceptance and the like. Finally we look at, how engaged are you with the vendor? For example, you buy a new car every four years, but how does a company know you’ll buy from them again? Keeping the customer engaged helps with that.
Techonomy: How does AI figure into your process?
JB: The first big advantage is, AI can handle the number of variables. Most BI (business intelligence) tools can’t handle 1000 variables. AI can. The next big advantage is that AI models compare you to similar customers in similar circumstances. They’re looking for patterns in the billions of data points. Humans have a heart attack just looking at all of that information.
Techonomy: You spent years developing CVX 3, and have worked with clients including Verizon and Mercedes. Now Cerebri.AI is newly focused on growing its client base. As a member of Oracle for Startups, how has their program helped you scale your business?
JB: The Oracle sales organization is absolutely massive. And world class. They have tentacles into a lot of companies that we would never, ever be able to reach. Just this morning at the crack of dawn, actually before dawn, I was on the phone with a wireless company in Central Europe that was arranged by the Oracle market specialist in their geography. I wouldn’t have been able to A) get that meeting and B) if I had, to get the CEO and high-level marketing executives that were there to attend. I wish I could tell you my charming personality would accomplish that, but it just can’t.
Techonomy: CX can be a sensitive area for consumers. When done well it’s very helpful with discounts and such. But things like spam can be invasive. What’s your take on treading that line?
JB: The ultimate goal is, I make you an offer for what you want, when you want it, via the right channel at the right price. The ability to do that makes people more efficient. So customer service may not be glamorous, but it matters because we all want to increase productivity and make our money go further.
(This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
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