Ada Interact roundup: How customer service can lead the AI transformation for your organization

We’re fresh on the heels of our second in-person Ada Interact and suffice to say we are thrilled. The event took place November 15th at The Pearl in San Francisco’s historic Dogpatch neighborhood, kicking off with a welcome party at LUMA Hotel’s Cavaña the night before. 

The turnout was incredible. The feedback, fantastic. The insights? Off the charts. And the timing couldn’t have been better.

Last year, we made the bold prediction that every company would soon be an AI company. Little did we know just how quickly that would come true. With the advent of generative AI, customer service is undergoing a transformation so big it’s being compared to the invention of electricity or the advent of the internet.

The question is, how do we navigate this new, AI-first customer experience?

This was the core focus of Ada Interact 2023, which we explored through interactive keynotes, roundtable discussions led by the top minds in the industry, hands-on CX technology workshops, and fun networking events.  

For those that couldn’t join us in the City by the Bay, here’s a taste of what attendees experienced. 

Customer service experts: The ambassadors of AI transformation

Many customer-centric companies have already made AI an important part of their customer service strategy. But with everything that’s happened in the past year, even the early adopters of AI-first customer service are on the verge of a massive transformation.

Ada Co-Founder and CEO Mike Murchison began the conference with an insightful opening keynote focused on the magnitude of this moment, and the opportunity it brings. 

While previous technical revolutions reduced the cost of more quantitative things like light (electricity) and communication (the internet), he argues that this one is reducing the cost of cognition: AI. "For the first time, it's no longer just human intelligence that exists," Mike said.

He laid out his vision for the future, in which an AI Agent can do much more than follow scripted workflows. Powered by Ada’s Reasoning Engine™, it can “think” for itself, problem solve, and take appropriate action — all without human direction. 

Here’s what Mike had to say.

 

This new AI Agent can decide what to do rather than relying on a prescribed workflow. 

It’s hard to overstate the significance of this in terms of the cost to resolve an issue and the overall customer experience. With the Reasoning Engine powering your AI Agent, it can maximize resolution, be coached for ongoing improvement, and future-proof your business.        

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The way forward: Adapt and excel

The shift away from scripted bots to reasoning AI has wider implications for businesses, too. Support is often the first department that’s implementing AI within an organization. That makes the folks who attended Interact, and all of you reading this, the AI ambassadors inside your own companies. 
 
Yes, there’s a lot at stake. But there’s also a lot to be gained — and we’re making those  gains together as we navigate this new normal. 

According to Ada’s Chief Operating Officer, Bronwyn Smith, $100B of customer service spend is expected to be transferred from human agents to AI Agents over the next seven years. That’s a pretty staggering number. 

However, it doesn’t mean AI is replacing humans. Rather, businesses need to think about how to best restructure and retrain their customer service experts to take advantage of this new technology. Mike argues that to get the best results, companies should treat the AI Agent like an employee. Onboard it as you would a new hire. Measure its performance with clear goals. And coach it so it keeps getting better.

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Real world success

Following Mike’s speech, Justin Gonzales took to the mainstage to share practical tips for guiding this transformation. After helping build the customer empowerment function at Square, Justin left to help more people become “the firestarters” within their own organizations. He walked attendees through his playbook for delivering next-generation AI-powered customer service.

According to Justin, “AI is encouraging us, begging us, to reconsider our end-to-end support experiences. It’s giving us an opportunity to sharpen our skills and think of support as more than a moment-in-time interaction, but rather a product and a service that we deliver to our customers.”

The focus right now shouldn’t be solely on technology. It’s also about building relationships across departments and functions to amplify your impact. Think of this moment as an opportunity to re-imagine your entire approach to customer success.

On being customer-obsessed 

The morning ended with a panel discussion about delivering on an AI-first customer obsessed strategy. Led by Ada’s Chief Customer Officer, Jim Monroe, attendees learned real-world strategies for implementing generative AI-powered customer service from Allie Hurley, Head of Global Support at Click-Up, and Ishmail Ostrilsk, Head of Operations at Epos Now.
 
As just one example of how generative AI has changed the game, Ishmail spoke about the transformative effect it has on the front end of launching a bot compared with the input required to build out questions and answers for a scripted bot.

Allie shared similar wins — on how this new approach has impacted the support organization as a whole. Trusting the bot to handle more of Click-Up’s customer inquiries empowered their human agents to go from being a “jack-of-all-trades,” with limited knowledge about a broad range of products and topics, to specializing in one area. This allowed the company to provide a better customer experience and a better experience for employees, who can take pride in sharpening their skills and expertise.

 

This was a common theme throughout the day and an important point to keep in mind when making the case for generative AI in your own customer service organization.

Time to get interactive

After a brief morning break, attendees chose between a strategic or technical track, which both provided a chance to rub elbows with peers and get practical tips to take back to their companies. On the strategy side, CX leaders from top brands like Yeti, Zendesk, and Calendly hosted intimate roundtable discussions on a variety of topics, from executive alignment to the future of agents. Technical workshops were facilitated by standout innovators, with Hans van Dam, CEO of the Conversation Design Institute, leading the first on conversational design in the age of generative AI.
 
After lunch, Rachel Woods, CEO and Founder of The AI Exchange, took the mainstage with a behind-the-scenes look at how AI-first businesses are operating differently at every level. Rachel, who’s also a former research data scientist for Facebook, shared lesser-known tactics and AI use cases that are pushing the envelope in everyday application.

Next was another thought-provoking panel discussion on the AI career path, featuring SmileDirectClub’s Automation Team Lead, Marlee Gibbs, and Kim L-Baril, who went from owning a restaurant to owning member happiness AI and automation at Goodfood. This was followed by Ada’s 2023 Ambitious Innovator Awards

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After another quick break, attendees split up for the afternoon breakout sessions. Stategists participated in another round of leadership-led roundtable discussions while the technical track dove into two more hands-on workshops, the first focused on building up bot managers and automation leaders and the second providing an in-depth look at top customer support bots and the bot managers who built them.

Looking to the future

Next, Mike was joined on the mainstage by Yaniv Markovski, former Head of Support Engineering at Open AI, for an illuminating chat about how that company was able to scale its customer support to literally hundreds of millions of people. With generative AI taking the spotlight for much of the day, this was a great way to wrap up an event that was chock full of learning, networking, and strategizing, and leave attendees with plenty of food for thought. 

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Finally, Ada’s Chief Product Officer Mike Gozzo took the stage to formally introduce our latest release, which is creating a new paradigm for customer service: The Ada AI Agent powered by the Ada Reasoning Engine™. 

Chatbot companies have been talking about creating “human-like chatbot experiences” for years. Our AI Agent delivers.

With the Ada Reasoning Engine™ behind it, the AI Agent can be onboarded the same way as a human agent, using a simple knowledge integration to learn all about the company. Once the business systems and that knowledge is integrated, the AI Agent can ask questions, respond to feedback, and take actions on its own. And because it’s Ada, setup, customization, and integration are all quick, easy, and intuitive. 

Mike was joined by Ada’s Senior Director of Product Management, Kristal Lam, who walked us through some of the exciting new features that are driving this new paradigm, while also debunking some common myths about AI. Mike also introduced a new metric that goes beyond containment: Automated Resolution.

Once the product release presentation was over, everyone came together to celebrate everything we learned — and everything we’re going to achieve, together. 

Key takeaway: Act now, or get left behind

There’s no way we could fit all of the information that was exchanged during Ada Interact into one post. One attendee told us, "I gained a lot of confidence in this space as a new leader of CX teams, and am excited to try the genAI product." Another said their biggest takeaway was, “Take action or get left behind...We are entering a new era of work and it's crucial that we find ways to actually leverage AI to push our teams forward." 

We think this testimonial summed it up perfectly.

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As AI practitioners, customer service experts are helping to shape the future. This was an incredible opportunity to learn practical ways to move our organizations forward. If you couldn't join us this year, be sure to check out some sessions — and we hope to see you there next year.

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Sarah Fox
Sarah Fox

Sarah Fox is a scuba-diving, animal-loving journalist turned content marketer. In her career, she’s covered stories on development, written profiles on notable philanthropists, and interviewed celebrities with a passion for giving back. When she’s not producing content for Ada, Sarah’s likely fawning over her dog somewhere in the woods.

More info about Sarah Fox: LinkedIn

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