You just had that amazing first idea. The one that is going to be the foundation for the future. The future that will re-define or re-envision your product in the marketplace. You are starting to put together a plan. You are stoked about this new idea that has now turned into a viable product. You have had so much success, you just got seed funding.

As you look around at your team, you have all the players, all the folks you think you need. Then it occurs to you, you don’t have anyone who knows anything about the customer experience. No one on your team has done that. No one on your team wants to do that. What do you do?

This is the common state of many startup companies in Silicon Valley. They get ready and they roar onto the scene. Almost all are ill-prepared to care for the heart of their company – the customer. In my conversations with these startups, one very frequent question I get is, “Where do I start?”

Fast forward to the sunny shores of western Florida and the 15th Anniversary Customer Contact West: A Frost and Sullivan Executive MindXchange. This is where I tell people to start. They need to learn what a best in class customer contact event looks like. They must rub shoulders with the best and brightest in the industry. It is imperative that they listen, learn, and engage.

In so doing, they will better prepare themselves to take care of their new or long-standing company’s heart.

The Customer Contact East: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange was a playbook of how to build, maintain, and evolve a best in class customer service team and customer experience. There were so many amazing topics and learnings. Here are the top 4 insights that I am bringing back home to my people:

1. Rachelle Devers spoke about the importance of foundationally understanding your customer’s needs and then going forward to create a product and brand that becomes essential to their day to day lives. She followed by sharing her model of how to tie customer experience and employee experience together through emotional affinity.

2. Bruce Millard and Kandy White demonstrated real world innovative uses of AI and Bots in their company’s products and processes. These forward looking evolutions are driving significant improvements in cost, quality of experience, and employee satisfaction. It was most helpful to learn the “do’s and don’ts” of Bots and AI. A clear message I walked away with was “Bots are not the enemy and they are also not the perfect solution. It will take time and patience to deliver their value.”

3. Nate Brown shared an innovative study on the types of personalities it takes to deliver a great customer experience and the real world truths about what personalities we have in our centers today. It was a revelatory view and a reminder that people are the lifeblood of a company. To take care of your customers, you must have happy and engaged people.

4. Kandy White led a great panel on Understanding and Preparing for the Workforce of the Future. The panelists were Julian Chu, Director, People Operations, Google; Michael Pace, Director, Member Services, Virgin Pulse; Josh Reynolds, Senior Director, Product and Partner Engagement EA (Electronic Arts); Deb Zell, Director of Customer and User Experience Dell; and myself. Some interesting insights I gathered were:

a. Humans will always trump machines in delivering the best customer experience
b. AI and Bots have a bright future handling the mundane and less valuable tasks, allowing employees to focus on the more important and interesting CX work
c. The landscape of CX resourcing is changing, and the Gig economy is ripe to hit customer service very soon
d. Wearables and other new technologies will drive new ways to engage with and support customers

Beyond the content, what really made the event rock were the people and activities! There were so many fun things to do, from dolphin watching to golf to Beach Olympics. Our razor thin defeat to New York still hurts in my heart.

Furthermore, Frost and Sullivan’s light and engaging approach to networking with vendors and peers created an atmosphere where everyone could learn, engage, and prepare to take home everything experienced in Florida, well except maybe the sun!

Whether you are a startup trying to figure out the customer experience, or a well-tenured company looking to transform, there is no better place to benchmark and learn from the best, than at the next Customer Contact East: A Frost and Sullivan Executive MindXchange.

Jerry Leisure is a Customer Success leader who believes the heart of every company is its customer. Before becoming Vice President of Customer Success at Forte Labs, Jerry was Vice President of Player Retention and Customer Services at Kabam, a mobile device game developer. At Kabam, he led by the ethos, “Happy and empowered employees = happy and engaged players.” Previous to that, Jerry served as Vice President of Customer Service at Postmates, Incorporated, where he led the company’s expansion through 4x market growth. He can be reached via LinkedIn, or