Since the beginning of our product journey at Ada, one principal priority has driven our strategy: empowering brands to deliver VIP experiences to their customers. Today, the importance of this is finally coming to a head.
The days of burying your live chat, hiding your phone number, and letting your customers wait on hold are dead. In an always-on, digital world, customers demand more. Today, CX is a businesses’ most powerful growth lever and brand differentiator.
In the race for brands to be best-in-class, they need AI. That’s why, like the transformation the web triggered 25 years ago, we’re on the brink of a new digital frontier: in the very near future, every company will be an AI company.
In September, at Ada Interact, we revealed that brands need three things in place to get there: the right people, the right technology, and the right strategy. We sat down with the person behind our vision for “the right technology,” Ada’s Chief Product Officer, Mike Gozzo, to get a deeper look at how a successful product is built to succeed in a crowded marketplace.
Mike is a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur that’s founded two startups, led teams of product leaders around the world, and builds products that are laser-focused on serving customers’ deep-rooted needs.
Tell us about some notable and formative job experiences you’ve had in the past. How did these prepare you for the role of CPO at Ada?
My first technical role was a trading systems developer for a hedge fund. The highly pressurized environment taught me the importance of accountability and the pursuit of ROI. As product managers, and even more so as someone trusted to lead product managers, we need to have a clear view of where we’re headed and the ability to make constant decisions and course corrections to ensure we end up there.
Before Ada, I founded and exited two startups. Appifier, a WYSIWYG mobile app builder that had a small exit in 2013 and Smooch.io — acquired by Zendesk for approximately $100M. It was in these experiences that I learned building a product is challenging, but not nearly as challenging and as rewarding as building and inspiring teams of people that come together on these journeys.
Most recently, I was SVP of Product Management at Zendesk and looked after a diverse set of products, running a global team of product professionals around the world. This helped me to really understand the complexity in building and running product operations at scale, and it’s going to be incredibly useful as we build out Ada’s product.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I’ll just leave this right here, from my elementary school yearbook in 1995. I think 12-year-old me would be pretty happy about where I ended up.
From the perspective of a product leader, what criteria does a product need to hit to stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace?
It needs to do what it says it’s going to do, reliably. I think we all feel a certain nostalgia for the way products of old used to work, and may have said something like, “Well they don’t make them like they used to.” When I think about that feeling, I believe it comes down to the fact that many product developers have become disconnected from their customers’ deep-rooted needs and compete on flashy fringe features.
A product leader’s first and most important responsibility is to make sure they truly understand what their customers need to get done, and then make sure that the product they build truly solves it. This sounds like a simple task, but it requires a tremendous amount of focus and empathy to achieve.
Why is it important for brands to safeguard (and even improve) their CX with automation now, in the face of economic instability, vs. later?
We’ve exited the longest bull market in history, and companies are starting to be assessed in a manner that balances growth with efficiency. In this climate, businesses need every advantage they can muster to deliver this efficiency. Investing today means they can reap the benefits of automation technology, delivering consistent or improved CX while reducing their overall costs and pleasing their shareholders and lenders.
How are we preparing our product to better support brands that are shifting priorities and cutting costs where they can?
We’re making sure we’re building a product that does what you want it to do: automate CX better than anyone else. We’re making it even easier to build on, and ensuring you can see real results fast and with minimal cost. We’re making Ada easier to manage, so you can see how well it’s performing in your business and easily improve it iteratively.
Who is someone you look up to? This can be someone you know, don’t know, or a fictional character.
Richard Feynman. I read “Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman” on a night bus from New York City to Montreal when I was 18 years old. He inspired me to both embrace my inner curiosity and focus on reducing the complex to the simple — in order to ensure that I and all those I communicate with understand.