We sat down with Forrester to help you build a scalable and proactive CX strategy - here are 5 key takeaways from that conversation.
The People Defining the CX Careers of the Future
Every so often I get hit up on LinkedIn by a recent graduate — someone new in their career who has the chutzpah to DM a total stranger for career advice. I’m always impressed by their assertiveness, and equally humbled to be asked for my opinion.
My advice? Don’t get too hung up on where you’re going to end up because your job 15 years from now probably doesn’t exist yet.
Think about it: 15 years ago, TikTok influencers were not a thing. Neither were blockchain analysts, virtual events managers, Peloton instructors, or Uber drivers.
Novel career paths emerge every day as new technology is developed. And as these products become mainstream, a growing need evolves for skilled experts to implement, manage, and optimize that technology.
Let’s look at marketing software, for example. Every marketing team today relies on a marketing automation platform to do their best work. They also rely on skilled professionals who are intimately familiar with that technology to drive impact.
Case in point: a quick LinkedIn search shows over 2 million people with the title Digital Marketing Manager, who have earned over 20,000 HubSpot certifications in the past three years alone.
But this wasn’t always the case. Automation platforms like HubSpot and Marketo only came to prominence in the mid-2000s. What constitutes critical knowledge and skills for the modern marketing team — social media, inbound strategy, SEO, etc. — were simply not part of the job description merely 20 years ago before these platforms existed.
It’s not just marketing teams that have gone digital. In fact, every company is now a web company. Brands who didn’t adopt a web presence when “web” became a thing are now obsolete (I’m looking at you, Blockbuster).
In 2022, we are at a similar tipping point with artificial intelligence (AI). Every company is about to become an AI company. That’s because, just like the web before it, AI is changing two important elements of our day-to-day practice:
- AI is dramatically increasing how much a business can engage with customers, and the relative value of those interactions.
- AI is transforming how businesses operate internally. Automation teams are the new digital teams. Their impact is no longer limited to siloed departmental metrics — instead, they have a clear path to influence topline company metrics.
Businesses that effectively adopt AI as part of their core operations today will be around in 20 years to tell the tale. Businesses that don’t adopt AI today are the Blockbusters of 2042.
And so, a new career path is emerging on the heels of AI — specifically in customer experience. AI-powered automation technology (read: chatbots) have increasingly become the first point of contact in customer experience interactions. As a result, the people who build, maintain, and optimize this technology — Automated Customer Experience (ACX™) Managers — are vitally important.
In this blog, we’ll be profiling some of the top ACX Managers today — their skills, experience, and success metrics — as well as CX leaders whose vision and investment in their automation strategy positioned them at the helm of the entire CX department.
The critical thinker
Annie Zheng started her career at Tempur Sealy as an associate and founding member of their Digital Customer Experience and Engagement team. She gained a deep knowledge of Tempur Sealy’s products and platforms by virtue of living in their digital tools on a daily basis. She also learned how to “wear many hats” and to quickly adapt to the changing needs of the organization.
In this role, she identified an opportunity to transition customer support emails out of Outbox and into a more organized and seamless email channel experience in Zendesk. This, along with her growth management mindset, landed her a promotion from an associate to a Digital Customer Experience Supervisor.
She garnered experience as a manager overseeing 10 agents and training new hires. Annie also started diving into the analytics of their CX to find more areas of opportunity — something that continues to be a high priority for her. And then she discovered Ada.
Annie was always interested in automation and Tempur Sealy’s chat features. So she immersed herself in Ada’s platform and, using the drag-and-drop builder, she successfully built and launched conversational AI on Tempur Sealy’s websites. This opened a brand new role for the team: Digital Tools and Platform Manager. Of course, Annie was the perfect fit.
Now she focuses her time on upgrading and evolving the customer experience using Ada and Zendesk. The success Tempur Sealy’s seen using Ada showed the brand’s leadership that she’s an exceptional critical thinker, with the ability to navigate new technologies with confidence. With Ada’s low-code platform, she can quickly prototype AI solutions and partner with innovators, vendors, and communities to bring those solutions to life.
The creative at heart
Edgar Lara started on Square’s customer success team as a Customer Support Advocate. From the conversations he had, he learned the top priorities for sellers (Square’s customers) when they reached out to Square for support by phone or email.
When Square partnered with Ada, Edgar was in a position to accelerate his career: he had the customer support expertise, and the desire to design conversational AI flows that address customer priorities and improve Square’s CX. Square recognized his potential and promoted him to Conversational AI Specialist.
In this role, Edgar gets to channel his creativity into thoughtful chat flows that anticipate customer needs — an area he has deep knowledge in — and improve the overall operations of the business.
For example, in his quest to resolve customers’ main pain points, Edgar discovered that sellers sometimes had issues logging into their account when their email or phone number changed. So he turned the issue into an opportunity. Edgar designed a conversational experience that prompts sellers to let Square know when they’ve changed account information, fast-tracking account log in. Enabling sellers to quickly access their accounts reduces friction and shortens time-to-resolution, while also allowing agents to help more people and reduce cost per contact. It’s a win-win.
In the world of AI and conversational design, things are always evolving. This is where Edgar finds the most reward in his role — being open to change, taking risks, and trying something new. The work he’s doing has a direct impact on Square, and his career has a lot of growth opportunities as a result.
The problem solver
As a customer service rep, Heather Bryant was an expert in customer needs. When Intuit Mailchimp partnered with Ada, she was in the perfect position to help manage and write content for their conversational AI.
At first, Heather only spent about one day out of the week working on their bot, “Mailchimp Assistant,” that supports various departments by capturing what the customer needs, surfacing relevant content, or connecting them with the right department to resolve the issue.
But, the natural problem solver that she is, Heather, along with the Bot Manager, Matt Conley, kept finding new ways for Ada to automate CX, like integrating Ada with scheduling tool Chili Piper to give customers the ability to book meetings with Intuit Mailchimp’s teams. With each problem they solved, Heather and Matt were enabling the brand to have more customer interactions while decreasing the manual processes of their support team. This success helped them make a case for a dedicated ACX team. And the Director of Business Solutions, Sarah Ricketts, agreed.
Heather was promoted from Customer Service Rep to Systems Admin and Matt was promoted from Bot Manager to Product Owner. Together they design ACX strategies that align with company goals.
In this new role, Heather puts her problem solving skills into practice every day, evaluating Ada’s applications and tools to figure out how Intuit Mailchimp can leverage and “Macgyver” the platform to better serve the needs of cross-functional teams across the organization. She also reviews upcoming releases to Intuit Mailchimp’s products that may require content updates in the bot and assigns projects based on this.
When Intuit Mailchimp first partnered with Ada, they had a Bot Manager and two customer service reps working within the bot. But they weren’t fully dedicated to the project — the reps only had 8 hours a week to update content, do conversation audits, and work to improve their CX by building new conversation flows. This didn’t allow them to think beyond the day-to-day.
So when Sarah Ricketts was approached by Heather Bryant, Matt Conley, and another customer service rep, she quickly recognized the potential behind a dedicated ACX team. At the time, Intuit Mailchimp was centralizing all of the third party software used by customer-facing teams into Sarah’s department. This, along with the recommendations made by the team — areas of enhancement through Ada, the importance of focusing on improving CX, and how full time support with specific roles would allow for expansion beyond basic chatbot support — helped her surface the opportunity in bringing all the technology into one space and putting the right people at helm.
Promoting Heather and Matt was critical to her vision to elevate Ada’s role in the CX strategy. They became influencers of how teams used their technology to better serve customers, and empowering them to take ownership of Ada has proved a successful strategy for Sarah and the business.
They’ve implemented conversational AI across the website and in-app, and integrated Ada with their existing tech stack, including Qualtrics, Zendesk, Chili Piper, and Salesforce. Their bot, “Mailchimp Assistant,” isn’t just surfacing content anymore — it’s meeting customers wherever they are in their journey with proactive automation. It’s allowing people to self-serve, chat with support agents, schedule meetings to speak with their sales team and our premium support staff.
Sarah’s strategic vision for Ada, and for the people managing their conversational AI, gave team members a seat at the table and completely changed the way they serve their customers. The success of this strategy led to Sarah’s promotion to Director of Business Solutions in 2021.
In 2021, Vox Mobile’s chat strategy was more aspirational than pragmatic. Only 1-1.5% of customer interactions took place in the chat, and that wasn’t working for COO, Ron Pollock. So he went on the hunt for a solution, doing all the necessary research and due diligence to find the best platform to power more intuitive, effective, and intelligent conversational AI.
In Q4 of that year, Vox Mobile partnered with Ada, with Ron overseeing the vision of their new and improved AI-powered CX. When they launched in January 2022, Ron was excited, and he wasn’t the only one.
Vox Mobile delivers managed mobility services to their clients — companies who are equally eager to resolve their employees’ inquiries as efficiently and accurately as possible. Through Ada, these end users are finally accessing omnichannel CX that offers an immediate response and higher incident resolution. This is also reflecting positively on Vox’s clients who are providing an improved experience for their employees.
And their investment proved fruitful for Ron’s employees as well. Not only has chat adoption increased 10x, driving the highest CSAT in years, they’ve also been able to pass those cost savings into salary increases for the majority of their hourly employees — resulting in increased employee morale and retention.
Ron is using the additional savings to invest even more into their automation team, and automation in general, driven completely through Ada. Now, an expert in overseeing the vision of the automated customer experience, Ron’s sharing advice for other organizations considering investing in conversational AI:
- Hire a dedicated automation manager.
- Assemble a cross-functional team of leaders across your company that represent all of the main areas in your company, so everyone is understanding the impact of automation.
- Set KPI’s initially, but understand that the metrics are going to evolve.
Today there are only a handful of people who hold the title of ACX Manager, Digital Tools Manager, Conversational AI Specialist, or something similar. They are actively defining this new role and setting a standard for the skills, experience, and success metrics for their career paths. Similar to Digital Marketing Managers, 20 years from now we’ll look back and wonder: how did we ever operate a CX team without an ACX Manager?
Perri Chaikof is the Director of Customer Marketing at Ada. She was one of the first 20 employees and has grown with Ada from pre-series A to unicorn status. Perri is passionate about connecting with real people and sharing stories of brands making every customer feel like a VIP.