AMY ARDEN: Senior UX Designer at Dick’s Sporting Goods


At Customer Contact Week 2019 (CCX19) I had a chance to catch up with Amy from Dick’s Sporting Goods.

We met at a table outside the exhibition hall at Customer Contact Week 2019 to chitchat about her recent work to improve the agent experience within customer contact centers. In part, this includes a service design mindset that bridges the space between customers, agents at the call center, and sales associates within brick and mortar locations. The “experience” (no pun intended) talking with her was nothing short of transformational. Transformational concerning the work she’s doing, yes.

However, also inspirational because after we spoke, I walked away scratching my head thinking,
“What am I going to make better today?”

She acts with purpose, aligning actions with desired outcomes

As a Senior UX Designer, Amy aligns an aspirational quest to create seamless customer experiences with a mission of business achievements, piercing silos, building bridges and bringing people together to make things better for both customers and colleagues.

Her story starts with a basic premise. Are we asking people to do things that, in the end, have competing priorities, or are we empowering our people to work together?

“We already know the customer is at the center; we have the opportunity to use technology to create more meaningful relationships, but what can we make better today?”

In Amy’s case, her work centers on the agent experience and the technologies they use to serve customers. However, technology is only part of that story. Within the service design model that Amy advocates for, agents must be able to take ownership of resolving issues, so the customer experience is consistent across the business boundaries of brick and mortar and contact center teams.

The first step? Get everybody into a room.

The Dick’s Sporting Goods CX transformation started by getting stakeholders together to talk about what customer service looks like in brick & mortar locations. Amy and members of her team joined conversations to craft what those service delivery standards looked like within the call centers. The goal? Everything should feel seamless for the consumer.

Here’s the rub. Roles teams play on either side of the situation are very different. There may be difficulties connecting the conversations at the store to the conversations happening at the call center. At this point, my mind conjured images of sales associates lifting big boxes, stocking shelves and catching up on the newest product features and benefits so they can help people just like me when I walk in an say “Hey there!, I want to buy a treadmill…. you know, a good one, not too expensive, I don’t need anything to fancy, just something that help me peel off these 10 pounds I need to lose.”

Flash forward in time when I didn’t lose 10 pounds. I would blame the treadmill and want to return it. Would I call the store or speak to someone at the call center? Can I get my money back? Will they remember me? Who will I turn to? Why am I so fat?”

More than that, as a CX professional myself, what would I do, what could I do if tasked with this situation? Is it genuinely possible to connect the dots between the time someone purchased an item and when they want to return it? Can we connect our people at the store with our customer service teams on the phone? Seriously. Is it possible?

Amy says “yes,” and they rolled out a first generation of the solution in May

As humans, we all have an incredible ability to influence what happens around us

One of the intriguing things Amy described was working side by side with agents at the call center to get a feel for the work they do genuinely. She had a kind of twinkle in her eye while describing the work she and team initially did with collaborative, human-centered, hands-on research exercises to get a real understanding of the customer journey, as well as the work agents, do to assist along the process.

She took call center learnings to the field where she and her team continued working to understand the agent experience within the customer contact center. Amy also works closely with her UX colleagues who focus on the brick and mortar perspectives to maintain an understanding of what service design looks like across the company.

All along the way, she built new collaborative frameworks, launched cross-disciplinary conversations, and enabled stakeholders to become co-creators in creating unique and better ways to craft customer service strategy.

Out of all this focus on service delivery, a cultural transformation is underway where customer care and sales associates started speaking a similar language. The new framework of collaboration has begun to shift attitudes for sales associates and customer care agents alike.

Both agents and in-store associates are empowered to take on a new kind of ownership of customer experiences. In some cases, sales associates in the store may pick up the phone while the customer is with them and sort out a simple issue in real time or, in other cases, the customer care agent might reach out to a store directly to sort things out.

There’s no reason why we can’t

That’s not the end of it. Amy’s product team is in the process of team building an in-house technology solution to accentuate Dick’s Sporting Goods’ already impressive customer experience transformation. It’s not just people calling each other on the phone.

Amy’s product team is developing technology that reduces pain points for agents, enabling them to do their job better and faster (and maybe even more fun). The ultimate goals is to make the whole process effective at scale and deliver more satisfying experiences for agents and customers alike. Of course, I pried at her to share some of the tech secrets with the hope I could make similar strides elsewhere, but she just smiled and reminded me what “proprietary” means. Fair enough.

In May, Amy and team rolled out their first generation product, a tech-powered pathway for customer sales and support. The team of product manager, software engineers, and UX designers is continuing to build upon their MVP (minimum viable product) with an iterative approach to add features that bring additional value. Together, the approach pioneered by a selfless team of brave transformationalists leverages human-centered design for themselves, for each other and the customer. Bravo!

As humans, we all have an incredible ability to influence what happens around us

So what does the future look like to Amy? She’s looking at the future of AI and the answers it may or may not provide for us. She’s thinking about the confluence of data and usability. How do UX and Data compliment each other?

Her parting words on the topic of customer experience and the future or the industry

“I hope the future unification of AI, data, and UX will result in designs that are accountable to meet all of humanity’s needs.”