“I believe that service design can humanize business.”
Our webinar speaker Shahrzad Samadzadeh shares her journey and experiences as a Design and UX expert in this interview with ultimate.ai.
Shahrzad Samadzadeh is the Vice President of Design, Service Cloud User Experience (UX) at Salesforce. She is a writer, teacher, and speaker. With her unique combination of skills, has contributed to the field of Design and UX to create a positive impact at scale.
Did you pick your career or did the career pick you? Share an anecdote or two on how you ended up in Customer Service/ Experience.
My career definitely picked me! In the early 2,000s – before the days of Amazon and one-click checkout – I was running a small e-commerce startup. I remember digging deep into our rudimentary analytics, trying to understand the drop-off points in our web experience; developing my own library of responses to our most frequent support requests; and sending personal emails to our top customers to ask them what we could do better. I didn’t know that I was evaluating our end-to-end experience, but I knew I wanted to do right by our customers. I learned that the best way to deliver great CX was to collect data, drive efficiencies, and truly listen to customers.
As I continued in my career, I focused on the craft of Service Design and User Experience, bringing a Design lens to delivering CX. Today, my teams work on the design of a Customer Service product — a satisfying coming together of all the threads of my career.
“I learned that the best way to deliver great CX was to collect data, drive efficiencies, and truly listen to customers.”
What were the challenges you personally faced as you progressed through the ranks in your career in CS/CX?
Such a big question! I’ll answer with one simple anecdote. As part of my job, I had been corresponding with someone to coordinate a joint effort between us. In our emails back and forth he was respectful, polite, and maybe a little verbose. When we finally met in person, he looked completely startled to see me. He blurted out, very loudly, “Oh, I’m so sorry, from your name, I thought you were a man!” I didn’t respond to this, and instead started talking about the project. He interrupted me, less loudly this time, to say, “I didn’t expect you to speak such good English.” Honestly, I appreciated his frankness: he said what I’m sure many others had thought.
As a woman and as an Iranian, the assumptions and biases people bring to the table about me are a constant and mostly invisible force working against me.
What are some lessons you learned leading to where you are today?
One of my biggest lessons is this: To make a positive impact, you need clarity of role, clarity of purpose, and (ideally) an organizational champion who supports you. Spend your time first establishing these three things. If you don’t get them, go somewhere else! Your passion, effort, time, and care matter — don’t waste them.
“As a woman and as an Iranian, the assumptions and biases people bring to the table about me are a constant and mostly invisible force working against me.”
How has CS/CX changed in the last few years/decades, and what are the biggest trends in the industry today and moving forward?
My perspective today is that of a Design leader working in a Customer Service space. My talk will be about some of the things CS/CX professionals can learn from Design to respond to emerging trends and customer needs!
What advice do you have for women who want to pursue leadership roles in CS/CX or who may be considering it, but are unsure if it’s for them? What skills and experiences should they equip themselves with to give themselves their best chance at career progression?
Make sure you understand why you want to be a leader. What impact do you want to have? What makes you uniquely suited to deliver that impact? Knowing your ‘why’ – your goals, your unique value – lets you play from a place of strength.
More tactically: a common mistake women make is spending an enormous amount of time gaining experience before they think they’re qualified to pursue a higher level role. Don’t discount the value of having experience, but balance experience with boldness: listen to people if they’re all telling you that you’re ready for that next step!
Facilitating conversations is one of your passions. As more and more CS conversations are being automated, what are your top tips for optimising the UX and CX of customer service conversations in 2021?
One of the really exciting areas of work at Salesforce right now is the emerging practice of Conversation Design. It’s not easy to create conversations between a system and a customer that are both natural and effective. Greg Bennett is leading the charge on this at Salesforce and in the industry, and he’s developed some excellent talks and resources. For me, I’ll just say this: test your automated conversations with customers often, and instead of looking for validation or ‘good enough’, really look for what isn’t working.
“Don’t discount the value of having experience, but balance experience with boldness: listen to people if they’re all telling you that you’re ready for that next step!”
What would you say is the biggest accomplishment of your CS/UX career to date? Or if easier, the top 3?
You could ask me this at any point in my career and I’ll always answer that I’m most proud of what I’m doing today! Today, I run a team of talented designers who are experts in not only Design but also Customer Service. They create a tool that powers the day-to-day lives of service agents around the world, enabling companies to deliver customer support and great customer experiences. I’m incredibly lucky to get to bring together Design, CX, and CS to create positive impact at scale.
Shahrzad Samadzadeh will be speaking at our upcoming Customer Experience Webinar titled “Women Leading the Way: Customer Service Trends 2021” on 24 March 2021, 17:15 CET, alongside a panel of accomplished women leaders in the industry. Register for this FREE webinar to hear her talk on “Resilient & Sustainable CX”.
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