Event Recap: How AI Powers More Rewarding Careers

Madison Hoffman, Director of Self-Service, Automation and Chatbot at Zendesk and Hans van Dam, CEO of the Conversation Design Institute.

You’ve heard all about how important customer retention is, but what about employee retention? Here’s how to upskill your agents, how to keep churn down, and how AI is actually creating new, better jobs for your employees (rather than replacing them). 

If you didn’t tune into our latest event, “How AI Powers More Rewarding Careers”, don’t fret: You can catch up on the full recording here. Or we’ve recapped the most noteworthy moments and interesting facts for you below, so read on.

This was our second event in a series of customer service trend spotlights. The first one covered the importance of customer retention in a recession, and how AI and automation can help with that. This time around, we talked about employee retention — why it’s just as important for businesses, and how AI can help power more rewarding careers for support agents and automation-related roles. 

And who better to lead a talk on AI careers than our very own Head of Talent, Izzy Burman? First, she took us through the top 7 customer support trends we know will be big this year (you can download the full guide here).Then, she kicked off our discussion on how AI is changing customer support as we know it — for the better. 

Will AI replace humans? And what’s ChatGPT got to do with it?

“A lot of what we’re seeing right now with ChatGPT is a déja vu experience for us at Ultimate,” began Izzy, “When we started out 6 years ago, people were worried about our technology replacing customer support agents entirely. And what we saw was: absolutely not. AI eliminates tasks, not roles.”

Essentially, AI is great at taking over the repetitive, boring, “robotic” tasks that machines will always be better at doing than humans: In customer support, that can mean creating a support ticket or copy and pasting an order number into that ticket, for example. AI is also great at analyzing vast amounts of data, so it can accomplish tasks a human never could — like analyzing your past support conversations to determine your FAQs and to help you build out an initial AI model. 

AI-powered productivity

By harnessing the power of AI, the brands we work with are easily able to scale up their support operations without scaling their team. This is because their AI-powered virtual agents are able to resolve any simple or repetitive tasks, while their human support agents remain on-hand to tackle the tasks that require a human touch. The reality is that AI didn’t replace their support team, it simply took over the simplest tasks that no one wanted to do anyways. 

For example, Superbet Poland’s incoming requests quadrupled when Poland played at the World Cup, but because their team used Ultimate’s virtual agent platform to automate the most common requests, their team was able to handle the increase with ease.

A graph showing quadruple the volume during the 2022 World Cup.

Job titles we’ll see (more of) in the future

So we know that AI won’t be replacing support agents anytime soon, but as it will be eliminating some agent tasks, that naturally means there will be evolution in the types of roles that are possible within CS.

There are 5 main roles we can see emerging over the next few years:

  • Job 1: AI Specialists: At Ultimate, we have an in-house team of researchers. And they knew exactly what was great about ChatGPT and what its limitations were the moment it hit the internet. That’s why we’re now able to integrate it into our product so quickly.
  • Job 2: Integration Builders: Because LLMs — large language models — make it easier and faster to create natural conversations, you can focus on automating more complex tasks with API integrations.
  • Job 3: Bot Architects: Instead of bot builders, we’ll see bot architects. Instead of building dialogues from scratch,  you’ll need humans to work more strategically, by integrating the bots into your broader brand identity, for example.
  • Job 4: Conversation Editors: AI software will probably be able to create personas, test out dialogue flows, and train expressions soon, so conversation designers won’t need to do this anymore. Instead, Conversation Editors could be prompting and quality checking more conversations at the same time. 
  • Job 5: Conversation Analysts: And with software like ChatGPT able to collate data so easily, we’ll be spending more time on analyzing that data and personalizing conversations even further. 

How AI is transforming CX careers

Next, we took a deep dive into the way AI and automation have shaped careers, and will continue to do so in the near future, with Hans Van Dam, CEO and Co-Founder of the Conversation Design Institute and Joyce Yang, Product Manager at Ultimate. 

First, Joyce asked what skills are most important for people who want to get into conversation design.

“To be a conversation designer, we need people who are very high in creativity and empathy, and they’re problem solvers. And that’s why support agents are perfect. They talk to customers all day, they understand the product, they often work in fairly complicated systems already, so they’re not intimidated by the technology.”

- Hans van Dam, CEO and Co-Founder of the Conversation Design Institute

Then they discussed how AI like ChatGPT is opening up more rewarding careers in the customer service space. One thing that Hans has noticed is that customer support agents, who weren’t 100% sure what their career path would be, are suddenly finding themselves at the forefront of technology. They’ve gone from a customer service job to one of the coolest new fields, thanks to recent advancements in AI like ChatGPT.

And while Hans doesn’t think companies will be using ChatGPT to talk to customers right now, companies need to see the potential of this technology and start investing in it ASAP so they’re ready when new advancements do arrive. 

“We’re seeing customer appetites for [generative AI technology], so that’s increasing our trust in committing to it. It’s about trusting that if I invest the money, that I’m going to get a return on my investment.”

- Hans van Dam, CEO and Co-Founder of the Conversation Design Institute

From the front lines of support to Zendesk’s Director of Self-Service

Lastly, Ultimate CSM Ethan Scott spoke to Madison Hoffman, Director of Self-Service, Automation & Chatbot at Zendesk about her career trajectory in CS automation. 

Madison started her career answering phones on the frontlines of customer service. From the outset, she's had a passion for figuring out how best to take the collective knowledge of an organization and democratize it. So when she branched into Knowledge Management at Zendesk, she was excited to evolve their support into something bigger and more sophisticated. 

She has since helped Zendesk undergo a complete digital transformation in 2020 wherein they implemented a virtual agent to augment the self-service experience, provide answers, and triage and route questions to the right person. 

Today, Zendesk’s approach to using their virtual agent is, “How can we prevent a ticket from happening altogether?” They are constantly training their bot to do more and more things that used to require a human, and Madison has been instrumental in that change in mindset. 

When asked about how ChatGPT and similar generative AI technology, Madison said, 

“One thing that excites me about generative AI is the collation of knowledge. But there will always have to be an element of human curation. Behind all of our automation is a real human, who is a Zendesk expert, who knows our customer base and our products, and is choosing what information is going to be most relevant for a customer and is intentionally and strategically putting it in front of a customer at the right time.”

- Madison Hoffman, Director of Self-Service, Automation & Chatbot at Zendesk

Top takeaways for retaining talent

  1. Number one, retaining and upskilling your existing employees  in-house will save your business money. It’ll allow you to collect, capture, and democratize that valuable collective knowledge, as Madison calls it, that your agents or CRM experts already have. And, as Hans mentioned, the SAME soft skills that make a good support agent make a good Conversation Designer: empathy, creativity, and problem solving. Pair that with the increased productivity that AI and Large Language Models like ChatGPT will bring, and you’re in for a win-win situation. 
  2. Second, note that many roles will shift from creation to curation — For example, your conversation designers might become conversation editors, but they’ll be able to edit many more conversations than they would have previously been able to build from scratch. 
  3. Third, with chat conversations becoming even more natural, your team will be freed up from building simple dialogues, and you can put more resources into developing a technical infrastructure that lets you automate more complex tasks, and lets your human support agents lend their empathy to those requests that need them. 

Above all, you should do what Hans does – and what our in-house AI research and product team do every day: Keep educating yourself on the newest AI trends out there, like ChatGPT, and get everything in place that you need to hit the ground running with that new tech once it’s ready to be put in front of customers. 

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