Xplor President talks to Crawford Technologies President, Ernie Crawford

Interviewed by Skip Henk, EDP, President and CEO of Xplor International

I have had the pleasure of watching Crawford Technologies over the years becoming a leading provider of customer communications solutions. Their latest solution, SmartSetup, was recognized at the 2023 Xplor CCM Summit with the Technology of the Year award.

Founded in 1995, Crawford Technologies has grown to become a renowned provider of solutions for enterprise communications processing (ECP). Ernie Crawford, Founder, President & CEO of Crawford Technologies, shares his thoughts about ECP and the need to process customer communications for smartphones and tablets.

Skip – What is enterprise communications processing and how is it different than customer communication management?

Ernie – Enterprise communications processing (ECP) is a comprehensive approach to giving enterprises the tools they need to manage and deliver all forms of business communications to their customers, across various channels like email, print, mobile apps and more. It streamlines and automates the entire communication workflow, from composition through post-composition, postal automation, job combining and assembly to delivery and tracking. 

ECP has become very popular because most organizations have multiple CCM platforms and composition software, and it is very costly and inefficient to get them all to provide multi-channel and omni-channel capabilities that are consistent with each other—if that is even possible. It is highly desirable to have a single point of control and that is where ECP comes in.

ECP helps organizations improve their customer experience with consistent on-target, timely communications through their customers’ preferred channels.  At the same time, we see organizations benefit from reduced operational costs by eliminating redundant and manual tasks. This translates into tremendous cost savings that enable the money to be used to improve other areas of the business, such as accessibility.

On the other hand, CCM focuses on the composition of customer communications, involving tasks like planning communication strategies, designing compelling content and adhering to branding guidelines. It’s essentially the creative hub where the communication materials take shape, addressing the customer’s journey and information needs.

Skip – What’s the challenge with using PDFs for electronic delivery?

Ernie – PDFs were created in the 1990s to provide a standard format for sharing documents electronically between computer systems. Today, nearly 80% of consumers prefer reading emails, newsletters and other forms of corporate communications on their smartphones or tablets. Combined with 92% of internet users accessing the internet using a mobile phone, that means there has been a dramatic shift from consumers using computers to smartphones to read news, check email, respond to text messages, communicate on social media, access corporate portals, shop for goods and services and browse the web. This shift, or mobile revolution, makes it a requirement for organizations to make sure that all their customer-facing communications are optimized for mobile devices. As an ECP company, Crawford Technologies ensures that we provide the tools and capabilities for organizations to make that happen. The beauty of doing that in ECP is that we can be made aware of when a user is on a mobile device and provide that format dynamically.

Skip – OK, what format should our readers be using for electronic customer communications?

Ernie – Composing customer communications and formatting them into AFP or PDF is still a regulatory requirement for many organizations in order to match the printed documents. They are a document of record for record retention. Therefore, AFP and PDF are not going away.

We have embraced the concept of processing print files and transforming them into responsive HTML for mobile device communications, without altering the original document in any way.  A good example is a customer of ours which is a very large financial institution. Our software converts their print-ready transactional customer communication documents into responsive HTML for mobile devices. It is done in real time when a customer requests to view their statement from their smartphone.

Skip – Why not compose customer communications in HTML?

Ernie – You could invest in composing customer communications in an HTML format, but that would result in maintaining and storing a print and HTML version of the communication. This approach will increase your labor, storage and operational costs when corporate mandates are to reduce costs and be more efficient. For example, one of our customers estimated that it would cost them in excess of $20 million to generate, maintain and store two communications with the same data.

Skip – Good point.  Any closing thoughts for our readers?

Ernie – Enterprise communications processing is a versatile technology that can be used to improve customer communications in a variety of ways. We provide some of the best, cutting-edge technologies in the industry. If you are looking for a way to streamline your communication processes, deliver communications for smartphones and tablets and reduce costs, then our ECP solutions are a good option to consider.

The future of electronic customer communications is undeniably mobile. Organizations must recognize this shift in consumer behavior and adapt their strategies accordingly. Embracing responsive HTML for electronic communications is not just an option—it’s a necessity for staying relevant in a rapidly changing digital landscape. It’s time for organizations to leave behind the constraints of PDFs, embrace responsive HTML and usher in a new era of mobile customer communications.

Skip – Thank you, Ernie, for taking the time and sharing your thoughts. Best wishes to you and the Crawford family for a happy holiday season.

To learn more about making your customer communications mobile-ready, register for the upcoming webinar, Mobile Revolution: Enhancing Customer Engagement with Responsive HTML, hosted by Crawford Technologies on December 7 at 1 p.m. ET. It will include tips and tricks to transform PDFs into responsive HTML and show how it can be done using Crawford Technologies’ enterprise communications processing software.

Until next interview! Take care.



Skip Henk, EDP
Xplor International

An Interview with Roger P. Gimbel, EDP, President, Gimbel & Associates

By Skip Henk, President/CEO, Xplor International

Roger Gimbel and I have known each other for almost 30 years. For the last 20, through Xplor as Gimbel & Associates is a staunch supporter of the association as a Platinum Elite Partner, Diamond Event sponsor, exhibitor, speaker and much more. Recently I spoke to him on a variety of technology topics and asked him to share some of his thoughts with our readers.

Skip: For our readers who are not familiar with Gimbel & Associates give us your 15 second elevator pitch.

Roger: The uniqueness of Gimbel & Associates lies in several key aspects that set us apart in the highly competitive landscape of our industry:

With decades of experience in the field, Gimbel & Associates boasts a team of seasoned professionals who have encountered and successfully addressed a wide range of challenges in various sectors of the print graphics and marketing industries. Our depth of knowledge and extensive industry insight is a testament to our expertise.

Gimbel & Associates does not offer one-size-fits-all solutions. We pride ourselves on delivering highly customized strategies and plans that address the unique circumstances and objectives of each client.

Our team of highly experienced consultants thrive on staying ahead of the curve by embracing the latest trends, technologies, and best practices. We’re not just reactive; we’re proactive. Our commitment to continuous learning and professional development ensures that our team is always at the forefront of industry trends.

We don’t view our clients as one-off projects. Instead, we aim to build long-lasting partnerships, providing ongoing support and guidance to help them navigate the complexities of the business world.

Skip: How important is color management in the inkjet world?

Roger: Color management, such as that of our partner, ChromaChecker, is of paramount importance in the inkjet production print world for several key reasons:

  • Maintaining consistent color from one print job to another is critical. Customers expect the colors in their marketing materials, packaging, and other printed products to match their branding and design specifications precisely.
  • Consistent and faithful color reproduction in inkjet production helps ensure that printed materials accurately represent a company’s brand, which is critical for brand recognition and customer trust. Certain industries, such as packaging and labeling, have strict color accuracy and consistency requirements due to regulatory standards.
  • Quality Control: Color management helps identify and rectify color discrepancies before the final output, reducing waste and rework. Efficient color management processes can save both time and resources.
  • Inkjet production print environments often handle a wide range of substrates and print applications. Color management systems can adapt to various substrates and ink formulations, ensuring accurate color reproduction across different media.
  • In a competitive print market, the ability to consistently deliver high-quality, color-accurate prints can give a business a significant edge.

Skip: Have toner-based production printing systems reach their “end of life”?

Roger: Toner-based production printing systems had not reached their “end of life.” They have been a mainstay in the printing industry for many years and are known for their high-quality output, speed, and reliability, making them suitable for a wide range of applications, including commercial printing, transactional printing, and packaging. However, it’s important to note that the print industry is continually evolving, and technological advancements can lead to changes in the popularity and prevalence of various printing technologies.

Several factors influence the continued relevance and adoption of toner-based production printing systems:

  • The demand for short-run, variable data, and personalized printing has continued to grow. Toner-based systems excel in these areas due to their digital nature.
  • Ongoing developments in toner formulation and printing processes have led to improvements in print quality, color accuracy, and efficiency.
  • Toner-based systems are versatile and can handle various print substrates, including paper, synthetic materials, and labels, making them suitable for a broad range of applications.

The choice between toner-based and inkjet production printing systems depends on the specific needs of a printing operation, including print volume, substrate requirements, color quality, and budget considerations. It’s advisable for businesses in the printing industry to regularly assess their equipment and technology options to determine the best fit for their evolving needs.

Skip: Can interactive print change how people view the printed page?

Roger: Yes, interactive print has the potential to change how people view the printed page by adding new dimensions of engagement and interactivity to traditional printed materials.

Printed materials often have limited space for text and images. Interactive print provides a way to overcome this limitation by offering readers the option to access more in-depth information, supplementary content, or links to external resources.

Interactive print can be used to deliver personalized content or experiences based on the reader’s preferences or location. For example, a magazine might provide customized content recommendations or special offers tailored to the reader’s interests.

Marketers can use interactive print in campaigns to create memorable and interactive advertisements. QR codes and AR experiences can provide customers with product demonstrations, discounts, or additional product information directly from printed ads.

By creating interactive print printers have the potential to breathe new life into the printed page by blending the benefits of traditional print with the interactivity and richness of digital media.

Skip: Roger, thank you for your time and insights. For those that would like to learn more about Gimbel & Associates you can visit their website at: http://www.rogergimbel.com/ as it contains a wealth of information that I am sure you will find helpful. Roger will also be at the 2023 Xplor CCM Summit, November 14-16th in Orlando. Stop by and say hello.

What Do Messagepoint and AI Have In Common?

A discussion with Atif Khan, VP AI & Data Science at Messagepoint
Interviewed by Skip Henk, EDP, President and CEO of Xplor International

I recently read an article generated by ChatGPT on “The Future of CCM.” The article referenced various technologies and processes including Omni-Channel communications, hyper-personalization, Natural Language Processing while stressing that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a pivotal role in the future of CCM.

I recalled a press release recently from Messagepoint which spoke about MARCIE (their AI-powered content Intelligence engine) and harnessing the power of ChatGPT and GPT-4 and decided it was a good time to for me to learn more.

Skip: For our readers who may not be familiar with Messagepoint, please give us your elevator pitch.

Atif: Messagepoint is a pioneer in the CCM space, providing an intelligent content hub. Distinguished from other competitors, it has a unique content-centric approach that allows for customization and precise delivery of messages across various channels, including print, web, mobile, and email. Messagepoint has also revolutionized the field by heavily investing in AI, introducing its award-winning platform, MARCIE, which uses the latest Natural Language Processing, Deep Learning, and Large Language Models (LLMs) to enhance content quality and efficacy. As a result, businesses can reuse content, create highly personalized communications, and enhance their engagement with their customers. It’s a comprehensive solution designed to optimize your communication strategies in the most efficient way possible.

Skip: There has been a lot of buzz around ChatGPT, Google Bard and other AI text generators this year. Messagepoint recently announced its own integration with ChatGPT and GPT-4. Can you describe how you have incorporated these tools into your customer communication management solution?

Atif: Messagepoint has fully embraced the capabilities of AI text generators like ChatGPT and GPT-4 through MARCIE. These integrations enable the enhancement of the company’s Customer Communication Management (CCM) solutions, particularly in terms of creating and editing content.

The integration of these LLMs completes the AI Assisted Authoring feature of Messagepoint. The LLMs provide real-time feedback to content authors about the quality and usefulness of their messaging content. They offer rewrites to make the content more impactful, ensuring it’s easy to read, upholding the appropriate sentiment and presentation of a message, and maintaining consistency with corporate branding.

MARCIE leverages these AI text generators with robust, problem-specific prompt creation to ensure the consistency of AI-generated content and its alignment with the user’s desired outcome. This prompt engineering is context-aware, use case-focused, and adaptive to the task, properly handling CCM artifacts such as variables, dates, URLs, addresses, and telephone numbers.

All these features are contextualized within the existing workflows and activities of the Messagepoint platform. The integration provides a simple and natural user experience that minimizes effort while maximizing results, ensuring that the best answer is achieved for the given task.

Skip: What are the benefits of using a solution like ChatGPT integrated with a solution like Messagepoint vs on its own, outside of a CCM solution?

Atif: Using a solution like ChatGPT integrated with a platform like Messagepoint brings several benefits, particularly when compared to using ChatGPT or any other large language model on its own.

  • Contextual Understanding: Messagepoint’s MARCIE platform, combined with ChatGPT, allows the language model to operate within the specific context of your business and communication needs. MARCIE’s prompt engineering ensures the AI is context-aware and considers key concepts (like variables, dates, URLs, addresses, telephone numbers etc.) during the rewrite process.
  • Content Optimization: The integration provides real-time feedback on the quality and utility of the content. It offers suggestions to improve readability, sentiment, message presentation, and alignment with corporate branding, enhancing the overall impact of the content.
  • Simplicity and Efficiency: By incorporating ChatGPT within Messagepoint, users can manage all aspects of their customer communications within a single, streamlined platform. This integration fits seamlessly into existing workflows, making the process simpler and more efficient.
  • Specialization for CCM: MARCIE’s tailored prompts are heavily specialized for Customer Communication Management use cases, ensuring optimal results for specific tasks. This specialization would be extremely hard to reproduce when using a standalone AI language model.
  • Improved User Experience & Interaction: Messagepoint’s modular approach to content management makes accessing and applying AI-generated content suggestions extremely user-friendly. The process of requesting a suggested rewrite and applying it involves just two clicks.

Overall, integrating ChatGPT within Messagepoint’s CCM solution enhances the user’s ability to create and deliver high-quality, personalized content, offering a more holistic, targeted, and effective communication management system.

Skip: How do you see AI impacting customer communications in the future?

Atif: The impact of AI on customer communications is anticipated to be substantial and transformative. Here are a few ways we foresee AI reshaping the landscape of customer communications:

  • Enhanced Personalization: AI, specifically Large Language Models (LLMs) and image generation models, can drive deeper personalization in customer communications. By understanding content and customer profiles, AI can help craft highly tailored messages and visuals that resonate on an individual level, improving customer engagement and response rates.
  • Improved Content Quality: AI can generate and enhance content, ensuring it is readable, impactful, and aligns with the desired sentiment and corporate branding. It can offer real-time feedback and suggest improvements, enabling the creation of higher-quality content that effectively communicates the intended message.
  • Holistic Smart Search: AI can improve the ability to find and retrieve information through semantic search capabilities. By understanding the context and meaning of search queries, AI can return more relevant and precise results, streamlining content management processes.
  • Intelligent Classification and Clustering: AI can categorize and group content based on various factors, including topic, sentiment, or customer segment. This can lead to more effective content organization, easier retrieval, and the development of targeted communication strategies.
  • Automated Image Generation: AI can generate custom images or variations of existing images based on described constraints. This capability can ensure visual consistency in messaging and branding, and allow for more personalized and impactful visual content.
  • Real-time Adaptability: With AI’s ability to analyze data in real time, customer communications can be dynamically adapted based on changing customer behavior, market trends, or business needs, making communications more relevant and timely.


Skip: That is certainly impressive. Do you have any closing thoughts?

Atif: In the future, we expect AI to become an integral part of customer communication management, significantly improving content quality, personalization, and overall effectiveness of communication strategies. With platforms like Messagepoint investing early in AI and LLM technology, they are paving the way for these future developments in the field.

Skip: Atif, I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me and share your thoughts and vision on the impact of AI on CCM. For anyone that has any questions for Mr. Khan or would like more information on MARCIE or Messagepoint please contact: info@messagepoint.com or visit www.messagepoint.com/ai

Until next interview! Take care.



Skip Henk, EDP
Xplor International


About Messagepoint: Messagepoint is a leading provider of customer communications management software.  Only Messagepoint harnesses AI-powered Content Intelligence to automate and simplify the process of migrating, optimizing, authoring and managing complex customer communications for non-technical (business) users. Our customers rely on our award-winning platform to consistently deliver exceptional, highly personalized customer communications across all platforms and channels. For more information, visit www.messagepoint.com

Gimbel & Associates Hosts Attendees from XPLOR22

Gimbel & Associates hosts what has become an ‘Annual Dinner‘ meeting in Delray Beach, Florida on Wednesday, February 22, 2023. 

The follow up meeting consisted of some Gimbel & Associates hosted attendees from the XPLOR22 Conference in Tampa that took place in September 2022. They look forward to having the group back as Gimbel & Associates’ guests at Xplor’s 2023 annual conference in Orlando, Florida.

I’m Not Anyone – A Colorful Story of Disappointment, Endurance and Reinvention from One of Today’s Top Entrepreneurs

Roger P. Gimbel, EDP is a well-known entrepreneur and business executive in the commercial print industry. He assumed management of the family business, expanded it, and had it taken from him. Over the course of his career, he’s experienced many ups and downs; some of them humorous, others heart-breaking.

I’m Not Anyone is a memoir of how Roger arrived at where he is today and what drives a person to continue moving forward.  The book includes lots of stories about Roger’s experiences with the people, technology, and trends of the printing business as well as anecdotes about life in the Gimbel family.

In honor of Roger’s parents, Audrey and Hy, he is donating all proceeds from the sale of this book to the Herman L. Gimbel and Audrey M. Gimbel Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship impacts the lives of college students with financial support that makes a college education more affordable for students while promoting the graphic arts industries. Scholarships are offered for full or part-time study at an accredited institution of the student’s choice.

By purchasing this book you get a fun and inspiring read while supporting the scholarship fund for an incoming student. Feel free to purchase multiple copies to give to friends and employees as you help to support our next generation of graphics arts professionals.

Click here to get your copy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0578325950

What readers are saying:

“This is a collection of some funny, some scary, some cringe-worthy, and some quite inspiring experiences in the life of the larger-than-life Roger Gimbel. Quite a tale.” —Allison McCord

“Roger Gimbel could be the most interesting man I know…Motorcycles, drugs, clothes, clubs, yachts, and Forrest Gump-like experiences with some of the most iconic people in recent history. More than anything though, this book is about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur — brains and, shall we say, intestinal fortitude. Roger lays out in a clear, fun, and humorous fashion his anecdotes about his life and what it takes to build, grow, and maintain a successful business in any industry.” —Lance Drucker, ChFC, AI

“Engaging…A tremendous insight into how people are shaped and influenced by their life adventures.” -Kevin Ward, Former Vice President, Wealth Management Advisor, Bank of America Merrill

Xplor President/CEO Provides an Update on the XPLOR21 Conference

Skip Henk, President and CEO of Xplor International, discusses the upcoming  XPLOR21 conference with Mark Michelson, Editor-in-chief  with Printing Impressions.

PODCAST: 30 Minutes with the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse!

Last week I had the privilege of being interviewed by Deborah Corn, internationally known as the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse. You can check her our at www.printmediacentr.com.

As always, I had a great time.

Check out the podcast to hear about what’s new at XPLOR21, being held in St. Pete Beach, November 16-18th as well as some insights into the status of Xplor as it navigates the pandemic.

Until next time! Take care.



Skip Henk, EDP
Xplor International

AI is an enabler of Customer Communications Transformation and Modernization

This is part 2 of an interview with Steve Biancaniello, CEO of Messagepoint; read Part 1 here!

Artificial Intelligence has become a growing component of Customer Communications and the overall experience. Software vendors have started to integrate into their software offerings with some companies further along than others.

Messagepoint has taken a leadership role and has put AI front and center in their offerings, so I wanted to touch base with them and get their thoughts on the subject. What is AI, the value proposition, what should organizations be thinking about, and what recommendations our friends at Messagepoint have.

Steve Biancaniello, CEO of Messagepoint was kind enough to take the time to share some additional thoughts for this, part two of a two-part interview. Part one is available here

Skip: Some vendors are looking at applying AI to transformation initiatives. What have you seen in the market relating to modernization and transformation?

Steve: I think COVID-19 has kicked a lot of digitalization initiatives into high gear – the need to be digital but also do so in a way that customers demand. We are hearing from both direct customers and partners that organizations are looking to transform and modernize customer communications processes and systems. This has been a big challenge in our industry – it’s perceived as a risky venture requiring too much time, effort and money to tackle content silos and justify the ‘transformation’, and as a result, lots of companies are stuck in molasses. I liken it to having a “Communications debt” – because you didn’t invest in modernizing in increments along the way, you are left behind and it becomes this very large program that is daunting or perceived as too hard to do.

AI is helping to change that by enabling people to realize they have options here whether they want to optimize the content they have in their current system, optimize the content and migrate to a new system, or take action in whole or in parts based on a deeper awareness of the state of their content.

Skip: How can AI assist with transformation and modernization initiatives?

Steve: The biggest barrier that exists today is the traditional approach to content migration. The average enterprise migration takes 3 years and costs millions. These are averages from services organizations that are using scripts to assist with parts of the process, regardless of that help – it is costly and slow and prone to errors that come with manual processes. It often relies heavily on tribal knowledge and a shrinking pool of SMEs who understand the nuisances associated with the legacy content and platforms that house this content.

The story is the same whether you’re doing it yourself or leveraging a professional services firm – the process is highly manual and resource-intensive. No one will invest that time, or money to make the

transition, which is why these projects often get cancelled or pared down to a lift and shift. The problem is that optimization gets left behind and content that gets brought over is often riddled with problems – duplicates, variations of similar content, off-brand content, outdated regulatory content, content this is difficult to read and understand – essentially all the problems that were buried in the legacy system hampered by years of ineffective content management and sharing. For years people stalled these migration and transformation efforts because the technical debt was too steep to pay – Now AI makes it possible to address this technical debt and position organizations to be more much more intelligent and agile when curating content to improve customer experiences

We have introduced Rationalizer which leverages the Messagepoint Advanced Rationalization and Content Intelligence Engine, known as MARCIE. This engine automates and improves key processes relating to content migration to make the entire process fast, as AI accelerates the content management processes – such as automating ingestion, content comparisons, and analysis. It also makes it accurate – no more human error, similar content objects overlooked. It also makes content processing repeatable at scale to enable enterprise-scale migration and instantaneous help for content authors, no matter the size of the team. Lastly, it lowers risk, as it democratizes knowledge, so you aren’t relying on one central figure to continue on.

Skip: What does AI do specifically to change the process?

Steve: In the case of Rationalizer, it breaks the process down into 5 key steps.

First off is intelligent ingestion of content from Word, PDF, HTML, print streams, and CCM solutions. It ingests the content, breaks it apart into its pieces, and tags those pieces. Secondly is discovery, which reveals key findings about your content such as duplicate content, similar content, brand violations, reading level violations, and sentiment issues. Third, with a single click, you can consolidate duplicate or similar content objects. Fourth, optimization within the system revels opportunities to correct those issues relating to brand, reading levels, and sentiment. Finally, you can migrate to your modern communications management system.

Rationalizer, leveraging MARCIE drives significant benefits of substantial time and cost savings, increased accuracy, the ability to scale these content migration and transformation programs and the democratization of expert knowledge to reduce the risk of the move and position for more intelligent, agile content authoring experiences going forward.

Skip: What recommendations do you have for someone thinking of embarking on this type of transformational journey?

Steve: You need to set clearly defined goals and outcomes for your business. Is this just about technology modernization or do you want to improve the customer experience? That will determine what technologies and partners you select.

You also need to get the various stakeholders together early and on the same page early. If you are focused on the same goals and believe this type of transformation is tenable with AI-powered solutions, then you will get ‘unstuck’ together.

Don’t settle for a manual approach that will cost you unnecessary time and money. Some vendors are focused on leveraging offshore resources because that is their only option. AI tools exist today that can

have a dramatic impact on the process and the outcomes. Don’t think of optimization as a one-time event, as it’s ongoing. Look for a solution that will optimize your content and keep things optimized over time.

Finally, respect the pivotal role of content curators – look for solutions that offer intuitive, intelligent, instantaneous content authoring assistance while preserving the curators’ right to have it their way as needed.

Skip: Thank you once again, Steve any closing thoughts?

Steve: You are welcome and of course if anyone has any questions and/or would like more information they can feel free to visit www.messagepoint.com or email us at info@messagepoint.com or call us at 800-492-4103.

About Messagepoint
Messagepoint is a leading provider of customer communications management software. Only Messagepoint harnesses AI-powered Content Intelligence to automate and simplify the process of migrating, optimizing, authoring, and managing complex customer communications for non-technical (business) users. Our customers rely on our award-winning platform to consistently deliver exceptional, highly personalized customer communications across all platforms and channels. For more information, visit www.messagepoint.com.

PODCAST: #XPLOR20 Goes Virtual with Skip Henk, President/CEO

I had the pleasure of chatting with an old friend, Deborah Corn as we discussed an overview of this year’s virtual event, and how Xplor looked at industry and market trends to develop all of the #XPLOR20 tracks and sessions to keep the Customer Communications community moving forward. Check it out!

Until next interview! Take care.



Skip Henk, EDP
Xplor International

Not Just a Buzzword: AI Will Play an Essential Role in Your Customer Communications

Part 1 of an interview with Steve Biancaniello, CEO of Messagepoint; read Part 2 here!

Artificial Intelligence has become a growing component of Customer Communications and the overall experience. Software vendors have started to integrate into their software offerings with some companies further along than others.

Messagepoint has taken a leadership role and has put AI front and center in their offerings, so I wanted to touch base with them and get their thoughts on the subject. What is AI, the value proposition, what should organizations be thinking about, and what recommendations our friends at Messagepoint have.

Steve Biancaniello, CEO of Messagepoint was kind enough to take the time and share his thoughts.

This is a two part interview. Part two is available here.

Skip: Steve, thank you for taking the time.

Steve: It’s my pleasure. Thank you for asking.

Skip: So let’s get right into it. Why is AI important to customer communications and customer experiences?

Steve: First, I think its important to define what AI is. AI is essentially a technology that can learn and perform cognitive functions/tasks independently. This enables the intelligent processing of raw data at scale to perform any number of tasks.

AI adds speed, power, and scale to the processing of complex problems that would be extremely difficult, tedious, and repetitive to accomplish manually or with normal software tools. It also automates repetitive, labor-intensive cranial tasks, recognizes patterns that are not obvious to humans, and can democratize expert knowledge.

This can quickly translate into tangible business benefits, such as lower costs, improved quality of communications, faster and more context-specific responses to customers, and even more intelligent offers to customers.

Skip: Where do you see organizations getting the greatest value from AI in the area of customer communications?

Steve: There are lots of points within the customer experience today where AI already plays a role. For example, online personal shopping assistants powered by IBM Watson, chatbots that handle customer service inquiries, or targeting of personalized offers via email.

But when it comes to customer communications, we feel the greatest value lies in managing and optimizing content. There are a number of thorny problems with content – the sheer volume that most enterprise-scale organizations have and the slight, subtle variations that lead to redundancies and

duplications, the need for the same content to be published across all the different channels through which we communicate with customers. With its ability to handle scale and process information quickly, AI seems perfectly matched to help address those challenges.

That’s why we built The Messagepoint Advanced Rationalization and Content Intelligence Engine, known as MARCIE. MARCIE automates and improves key processes relating to content management, optimization, and migration, all at scale. Think of it as an intelligent assistant for content authors when creating and managing content and communications.

Skip: What should organizations be thinking of when it comes to managing and optimizing content with AI?

Steve: Content operations at scale are very complex, especially when you’re dealing with customer communications. Much of the content leveraged for customer communications is still stuck in old systems that require programming, deep tribal knowledge, and manual processes to work with it in anyway. These systems represent key barriers that stop organizations from being agile and responsive.

First look for content management tasks that you can automate to simplify and scale operations. A good example of this is using AI to analyze content and tag it with the appropriate metadata. Humans are notoriously bad at doing these kinds of tasks at scale.

AI can also perform functions that require understanding the meaning of the content. This formerly required human intervention to make judgements but AI models are becoming increasingly effective here. Given this, it also makes sense to look for ways in which AI can help you improve the quality of your content. For example, you could support a content optimization effort by identifying content that conveys the wrong sentiment.

Some AI-based capabilities will also identify content that performs better, or which content is most relevant to a customer to truly deliver on the right message, at the right moment, to the right person

With MARCIE we have chosen to focus first on enforcing brand guidelines, reading comprehension, sentiment, and consolidating duplicate and similar content. As organizations expand the ways they think about managing and optimizing content, MARCIE will also expand their capabilities by supporting additional AI-assisted content management use cases.

Skip: What recommendations do you have for someone looking at a solution that promotes the use of AI?

Steve: Recognize what you still want humans to control and what you want the machine to control. Many AI solutions learn over time and that is a great thing, but it needs relevant data to learn from to understand nuances in your own communications. This is particularly true when the tasks are complex, such as writing new correspondence. If you automate too much of the content creation process for example, you might suddenly hit the wrong note and end up with a customer experience problem for the sake of efficiency. A solution has to strike the right balance between providing insights that enable more intelligent action and full automation. This can be achieved when AI-assisted authoring is seamless, intuitive, instantaneous, while not restraining the expertise of the content authors.

Skip: Thank you once again. I am sure our readers will benefit from your insight. Best of luck to Messagepoint and thank you and Messagepoint for your support of Xplor and the industry.

Steve: You are welcome and of course if anyone has any questions and/or would like more information they can feel free to contact us.

Look for part two of the interview with Steve Biancaniello, CEO of Messagepoint in the next issue of E-Document News.

About Messagepoint
Messagepoint is a leading provider of customer communications management software. Only Messagepoint harnesses AI-powered Content Intelligence to automate and simplify the process of migrating, optimizing, authoring, and managing complex customer communications for non-technical (business) users. Our customers rely on our award-winning platform to consistently deliver exceptional, highly personalized customer communications across all platforms and channels. For more information, visit www.messagepoint.com.