14 Mar, 2024
4 min read

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A New Era in Experience Management
Unpacking Athena AI Announcements from the Medallia Experience '24

Following the Experience ’24 conference in Las Vegas in February, we’ve gotten a bunch of inquiries from clients about their AI announcement and whether they are something they need to start thinking about or planning for.

In short, Medallia unveiled a suite of AI tools that they promise will reshape the landscape of experience management. ‘Ask Athena’, ‘Intelligent Summaries’, ‘Smart Response’, and ‘Themes’ will all soon join the Medallia Experience Cloud (for free!) and in my opinion the company is not just introducing new features- it’s attempting to chat a new course for the CX industry with potentially huge implications for the corporate experience management industry.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting folllow-up articles with a deep dive on each of the new features, how they compare to current best practices, and our takeaways on the ultimate consequences for your CX program. This week we’ll start with ‘Ask Athena”.

Simplifying the Complex

Ask Athena: In essence, Medallia has built a conversational AI tool that will be instantly familiar to anyone who has used ChatGPT. Imagine having a conversation with the entirety of your customer experience data, including complex questions (e.g. “Show me a breakout of the NPS of our pharmacy customers in the Midwest division from the last year and explain the areas that we need to focus on”) and getting clear, insightful answers and visualizations from the AI.

However, the devil, as always, is in the details- or in this case, the execution and practical application
The Promise: Beyond Surface-Level Interactions

The concept of engaging with AI in a natural, conversational manner to navigate through vast datasets is not just appealing; it’s the next logical step in the evolution of data analytics. The potential for Ask Athena to democratize data, making it easily accessible to stakeholders across an organization, regardless of their technical proficiency, is by far its most striking promise. This could empower teams to make informed, data-driven decisions at a apace and with a level of details that was previously unattainable without the direct intervention of dedicated analysts and data scientists.


My skepticism arises from the comparison to existing conversational AIs like ChatGPT. The novelty of Ask Athena lies not in the conversational interface itself- which has become increasingly familiar to a lot of us- but in how effectively it can interpret and present complex customer experience data. The real test will be in its ability to handle the nuances of CX data, such as understanding the context behind customer feedback (especially across industries), identifying trends over time, and suggesting actionable insights based on a deep understanding of the data. Many corporations still lack the type of clean data, metadata, labeling, etc that are going to be needed to make this truly useful.

I honestly believe that the true value of any AI tool in the CX space hinges on its ability to translate data into actionable strategies for improvement. If Ask Athena can achieve this, offering specific, evidence-based recommendations for enhancing customer experience, it could indeed be a game-changer.


The Verdict: Cautiously Optimistic with an Eye on Implementation

As a CX veteran and data scientist, my take on Ask Athena is cautiously optimistic. The concept is sound, and the potential is vast. However, the true measure of its success will lie in its implementation: How hard will it be to set up and train? Can it genuinely understand the complexities of CX data? Will it offer insights that go beyond what data-savvy professionals can ascertain without it? And crucially, will it integrate seamlessly into the workflows of CX teams, enabling them to act on its insights efficiently and effectively?


In conclusion, Ask Athena has the potential to be more than just another chatbot- it could redefine how organizations interact with their customer experience data.Yet, for all its promise, its impact with ultimately be determined by its ability to deliver nuanced, actionable insights that can drive meaningful improvements in customer experience.


If you’d like to set up time to talk with me in more detail about Ask Athena and the implications for your CX program, please schedule time with me here.


Marc Rauckhorst, Director of Data Science

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