AiThority Interview Series With Rob Maille, Head of Strategy and Customer Experience at CommerceCX
A major core tenet of CommerceCX solution is helping businesses understand how they want to leverage QTC to disrupt their industry.
Know My Company
Tell us about your journey into Digital experiences and how you began at CommerceCX?
I started out as a systems guy in the Marine Corps in the early 90s, where I was able to work with a lot of different cutting-edge technologies at the time. This allowed me the opportunity to truly see and understand how these systems worked. From there I spent some time consulting, helping businesses understand how the internet was coming up from a commercial standpoint. During my time with Reed Elsevier and Pioneer Investments, I got a lot of experience building unified platforms from an internal perspective – systems that were used to connect the employee experience across these businesses. It was at Fidelity where I dug in on the user experience side from an enterprise level. I gained a deep understanding of how the back end works to make the front end work, and how to create a seamless experience for the user across multiple products and platforms.
I used this knowledge to start my own company Makibie, in 2005, building digital solutions and strategies for enterprise businesses. Around 2011 I started focusing heavily on using digital to create value-based experiences. I co-founded CommerceCX in 2016 with this idea in mind, looking at how we can streamline digital experience by completely rethinking how the end-to-end works without completely rebuilding a company’s processes from scratch while enhancing value and overall experience of the digital solution.
Today our goal is to establish commerce based solutions, making it more advanced – creating a seamless and natural experience for customers and users.
How has the market that you currently work in evolved in recent years?
The way everyone used to think about customer experience (CX) was primarily outside the company with the customers. No one ever really thought about what might happen when we transcend into the company and implement a true end-to-end experience. The CX space has really changed in this regard. In addition, with more and more traditional barriers being broken down by new technologies, changing consumer preferences for example, now we can go deep into a company’s own processes and practices. We can also pull solutions from other areas of the market that traditionally haven’t had a play in CX and use them to create something new to boost and elevate CX for a business.
What part of your daily work involves interaction with AI and Data Science? How do they enable you to deliver on CX promises?
Data is the lifeblood that makes digital transformation work. If your data is a mess and you can’t pull anything insightful and useful from it, then that’s where you have to start.
What we do at CommerceCX is focused much more heavily on data clean up than data science. We have to clean up the data in order for a business’s data scientists to even begin working with it properly. On top of this, the strategy is really what enables us to deliver on CX promises.
At CommerceCX, we start by identifying what a business wants to accomplish and move forward with how to do that. It’s a very pragmatic approach – what do you need to do today to ultimately get to the areas you want to reach? Data hygiene is really important in making these strategies successful as well as helping companies understand what the business environment is and how that maps to the customer journey.
The artificial intelligence (AI) that’s being used more frequently to understand this data is a key tool we use to guide businesses through a new strategy, helping them learn about their customers. By providing new experiences per their preferences and guided selling techniques, our customers can use this to capture a larger market share.
Give us some background on CommerceCX’s QTC offerings. What are the core tenets of your solution(s)?
Our Quote-to-Cash (QTC) offerings provide a portfolio of services for our customers, that helps them reimagine their end to end experience so that it better aligns with their business objectives. A major core tenet of our solution is helping businesses understand how they want to leverage QTC to disrupt their industry. We help them identify the goals they are trying to accomplish and show them how QTC technologies can get them there.
Again, the strategy is the starting point – looking at how a customer wants to transform their business and using QTC as a tool to achieve those goals and end results. Once the strategy is defined and the blueprint is in place, then we help them deliver the solution and ensure that it’s fully adopted by their team.
What do you see, from a technology perspective, as the key drivers in the QTC market right now?
A key driver in the QTC market right now is the increased focus on enhanced user experience that further supports end-to-end QTC integration. We’re seeing a better-integrated flow from configure price quote (CPQ) all the way to billing and order management. In turn, this builds up better integrations with customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions and integrates AI in the whole picture.
Advancing technologies in AI, machine learning and analytics will bring more complete solutions that will drive QTC further and create even more robust end-to-end solutions.
How does AI impact QTC?
AI really takes QTC to the next level in terms of what it can do and how businesses can make it go to work to achieve their goals. It goes beyond simple opportunity management. Think about this: when CPQ came into the picture, it elevated sales by automating key parts of the process. This extended further to QTC.
Bringing in AI streamlines the sales process further than we’ve ever seen before. Now sales reps don’t need to touch the quoting system at all – this part of the sales process is automated fully through AI technologies. Sales teams can use AI to look ahead with more clarity, understanding what new opportunities will arise. With AI sales teams no longer have to focus on the technology and paperwork anymore, the machine does that.
Now they can focus solely on the customers, revenue streams and the actual business of selling.
Why should customers leverage QTC solutions? What are the benefits?
QTC solutions drive growth and profitability for a business. From a growth perspective, it drives things like solutions selling, time-to-sale, renewal management and other processes that help grow the bottom line. Essentially, QTC puts businesses in a position to focus on the business of selling and sell more.
With better visibility into what’s been sold, and a 360 degree view of the customer, sales can be turned around faster, renewals and renewal rates can be improved, pricing optimization can be enhanced and sales teams can better manage the overall customer relationship.
From a profitability perspective, QTC reduces errors and time to sale helping businesses to improve productivity across the board, reducing overall business costs.
What challenges do customers usually encounter with leveraging QTC solutions? How can they overcome those?
The biggest challenge I’ve seen customers come up against is realizing that transformational change does not just come magically with a new technology. This change is more than technology based. To achieve a successful business transformation, processes and organizational structure need to change.
Overcoming these challenges means businesses need to look internally and from a holistic perspective.
Transformation doesn’t come from trying to glom disparate technologies and processes together, but from implementing solutions that will complement processes that work and set a business up for integrating new processes. It’s important for any business to understand that the technology itself is not the end solution to digital transformation – it’s a much broader implementation and integration of connected parts.
How do you think QTC technology will evolve in five years? What new innovations are you looking forward to?
There will continue to be a lot happening on the AI and machine learning front, specifically related to the enhancements around the user experience. We’ll also see continued growth in end-to-end integration across the QTC suite.
Since a lot of QTC solutions are built around CRM solutions, I’m interested to see how this evolves over the next five years. Current platforms will need to shift dramatically over this time to address the changes in performance that will be needed as technology advancements continue to evolve.
I’m also interested to see how the current QTC platforms themselves will transform. Will we see more acquisitions in the market with more players moving to their own platform to compete with the giants like Oracle, SAP and Salesforce? This also depends largely on new advancements in AI and other smart technologies as those will have a major hand in evolving QTC tech. There’s not a clear path in any one direction, so I’ll be watching this closely and am interested to see how QTC tech continues to evolve and change.
Let’s talk about Thoma Bravo’s acquisition of Apttus. In what ways does this validate the QTC market?
The QTC market has already proven its value, especially from a commercial and enterprise perspective, but this acquisition validates the market even further. I’m really interested to see what happens next and what Thoma Bravo will roll out as a result of the Apttus acquisition. It’s definitely an exciting time for the QTC market.
What do you predict is on the horizon for this market? Do you have any advice for those looking to enter the QTC market?
We’re getting more and more into a consolidation phase in the QTC market. End-to-end is becoming more of a focal point and businesses are looking more internally to see where things can be streamlined and improved. We’ll also start seeing more solutions that bundle QTC with other technologies as well as core solutions where QTC is already baked in.
For anyone looking to enter the market, it really depends on where they’re aiming to do that. Newcomers shouldn’t focus on trying to create something new as they’d be behind in that regard. However, the market is ripe for add-on products and solutions, so up and coming vendors could potentially see success from that. There’s a lot of opportunity for continued growth with the current players in the QTC market.
Where do you see AI/Machine learning and other smart technologies heading beyond 2020?
These technologies will continue to support and extend QTC capabilities. It’s still unclear exactly how this will move forward beyond 2020, but from now until then we will see even more of these technologies permeate the QTC space. Additionally, security will need to come even more to the forefront – more technologies are focusing here so businesses need to pay significant attention to managing and controlling this tech.
As we move forward beyond 2020 this will really evolve when companies realize that they will need to change from top to bottom to benefit from AI technologies. As I’ve noted above, businesses will need to truly understand that instead of implementing the tech to move them forward. In order to succeed, they need to take a holistic view on how to adapt and change overall business processes with these technologies.
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How do you consume all the information on digital advertising and the impact of AI on the industry?
I used to read as many tech publications as I could – various books, eWeek, Information Week, etc. – but in recent years I’ve become an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal. The journalism is great and there are a lot of good stats and figures on the various companies they report on. They also supply a lot of useful technical information around news and trending topics. On top of this, I do read a lot of books and spend time each day doing exploratory research on emerging markets, technologies and businesses.
What are your thoughts on the ‘weaponization of Digital Interactions”?
It’s something that every business and every professional should pay attention to and watch closely. We’re already getting to a point with voice technology where you can’t necessarily tell what’s real or not. There will be even more issues involving user trust, which is something we’ll all have to work towards alleviating as more technologies are implemented in our businesses.
The Crystal Gaze
What AI start-ups and labs are you keenly following?
I don’t have any specific start-ups or labs I’m following, but I often find myself looking at how some of the tech giants, like Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, and SAP, are disrupting their markets – looking at how this can translate to other markets and businesses. Specifically, though, I’m more interested in connecting and following thought leaders across various businesses and industries.
What technologies within AI and computing are you interested in?
To me, AI is an enabler, once you’re to the point of enablement you can look at what’s on the path ahead. I’m really hoping for some tools to come out that will help guide businesses more effectively in implementing and using AI.
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As a tech leader, what industries do you think would be fastest to adopt AI/ML with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for AI technology?
Because of the Amazon factor, the service industry is definitely the fastest in this adoption. Amazon has been successfully using AI to enter several spaces and use those to elevate their service business. Health and insurance is another emerging market for AI – helping users to understand things like benefits, treatment options, and 24/7 care. The increase in access and transparency already in the industry makes it feel the ripest for a complete AI disruption.
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What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
Quiet time – to me this is the most important thing for increased productivity. I always take a couple hours each day to decompress, focus on a singular task. This helps me get into the frame of mind needed to work more smoothly throughout the day.
Another hack is learning to say no. When you’re constantly saying yes to everything, you place yourself before a mountain of work that can’t be accomplished in any reasonable timeline. Productivity suffers. Saying no actually helps you be more productive on the things you say yes to.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
Thank you, Rob! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Rob Maille is a seasoned creative thinker, entrepreneur and user experience expert with over 25 years in digital strategy, enterprise application development and user experience.
CommerceCX is a global consulting, design, and development firm providing solutions and services that support the transformation to a commerce ecosystem. With more companies moving to the cloud and undergoing some form of a digital transformation, CommerceCX empowers organizations to connect technology, data, and insights that unify and enhance the buying, selling, and service experience that powers the commerce ecosystem.
CommerceCX specializes in CRM, Quote-to-Cash, Cognitive Technologies, and Blockchain with strong expertise in Apttus, Salesforce, Microsoft, and Oracle. Leading enterprises in the retail, high-tech, financial services, healthcare, travel, and retail manufacturing industries partner with CommerceCX to complete their digital journey.
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