Hi Colm, tell us about yourself, your background?
I’m a native Dubliner and moved to London a few years ago to work at Forrester. I’ve always had an extremely global mindset (I speak 5 languages on a good day!). In my career, before Forrester worked primarily in marketing, digital and retail roles with companies including Dell, Ryanair, and IBM. My educational background is in international politics, economics, and languages.
When Forrester contacted me, I was primarily attracted by the fact that I would get to draw on experience from the several industries I had worked in previously and would get to strategize with top-notch clients from some of the world best-known brands plus collaborate with some of the smartest analysts in the business.
CX has been an element of many of the roles I had before, although my work in the last few years gas taking it to a new level as Forrester has been a thought-leader in customer-centricity for quite some time. I am also interested in the start-up world and all trends to do with innovation. As well as customer-centricity, my clients typically have ownership for roles like CMO, Digital Director, Head of Insights, and Media Director.
Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews. – How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience?
There’s little doubt that some brands do not make it easy for their customers to provide feedback or reviews. Issues can result from areas such as not having a feedback or review button appearing ‘above the fold’ or in an eye-catching position on a site’s page. Splitting out the feedback, categorizing it, and making the necessary impactful tweaks is key. ‘Data’ is a current buzzword that many clients want to get a full grip of to better understand their customers, but understanding customers’ emotions is also one of the best ways to measure behavior during the purchase path. Look to provide those ‘emotional’ opportunities for the customer to provide feedback.
The ideal then is to link the feedback with the continuously incoming data, which should result in an ever-improving customer experience across all touchpoints, both digital and otherwise.
Colm’s tips for personalization
What tips do you have for companies that want to improve their personalization strategies?
Be clear in what your main aims are as regards personalization and why you are embarking on a personalization program. Reacting to personalization as a buzzword that should be added to your overall CX strategy is not the approach to take. A good way to start personalization is to focus on customer journeys and to match personas against these journeys with three or so variations for each case. Monitor the tweaks you make as part of the personalization process rather than trying to implement them all at once. The personalization testing and fine-tuning should be measured over a given period of time, be it weeks or a few months.
Do you think personalization and customer-centricity are going to become increasingly more relevant in the coming year? How so?
Customer-centricity should be a given for all companies nowadays, but it is now key to take it up an extra notch. Personalization was a bigger theme that my clients and I discussed widely around 2 years ago. We have now moved further, and those personalization elements should ideally be in place. Now it is really about understanding what makes customers tick and, as such predicting their steps before they actually occur. It has been interesting to see how clients, both big and small, established and relatively new, are at different points in this process. The term ‘customer obsession is a potential terminology for the next step beyond customer-centricity.
Social media pages have become crucial for companies in most industries, especially in eCommerce. What’s the most common mistake you see in a company’s social media strategy?
The most common mistake is expecting to achieve results when targeting all customers simultaneously. Have key targets for your social media messaging, whether it be regions, age ranges, interest areas, etc. Constantly spewing out a non-targeted message may get more views may also result in poorer conversion and leads, and may, in fact, damage your brand. Another point to note is that it may not be completely relevant for your brand to be on all main platforms.
Be careful which platforms you select and, if necessary, adapt your content for each based on the audience that typically uses them. In an international context, I have seen many instances where there has been a lack of understanding from a centralized social team at headquarters in terms of what platforms to use in different markets. Having the ability (and knowledge) to tweak your messaging based on the market and preferred platforms is key.
What’s the most insightful book you read in 2020?
I’m not a major book reader outside of historical biographies but tend to read a variety of business that are of interest to me. In fact, I mostly listen to podcasts these days. I enjoy reading many of the trend articles that the Forrester analysts produce. One of the most insightful ones was around Moving To Recovery in Asia, and I ran this as a theme for one of my client sessions. Asia is sometimes overlooked for inspirational customer-centric ideas in Europe and North America. Companies operating in Asia, be they local or global brands there, have been ahead of the curve in many aspects of customer interaction during the pandemic.
It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future. How should Executives gear up to the changing times?
I have worked in industries where it was often the norm to work partially from home well before this became a necessity as a result of the pandemic. Executives need to indicate that they trust their teams, and in a way, this ongoing situation may enable a reset and hopefully a reduction of any micromanagement.
Executives need to also have solid and flexible digital capabilities at their disposal should plans go awry as per the last year. Leaders need to be aware that younger team members may especially miss out on some of the core interactions with experienced colleagues and should look to set up opportunities for virtual mentorship.
I would question any organization that does not allow a flexible approach to working from home/office unless it is an absolute necessity to be physically present. This is particularly true in digitally-oriented roles.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
This is very much dependent on circumstances in an industry or on the size of company and target market. Having a suite of solid metrics which gives the best overall picture possible is key. 10 years ago at Dell, we used NPS and analytics tools such as Omniture. Some companies are still focused on NPS whilst others focus on elements such as Customer Lifetime Value.
I suggest focusing on the CX metric that gives the most detailed and widest data to understand the customer in a given context. Above all, have metrics in place that will demonstrate clear value and ROI or enable you to make the necessary changes as you go along. Be sure that wider parts of the business also have an understanding of what CX and the interconnected teams are trying to achieve.
I would also encourage clients to have more than one person responsible for collating and interpreting CX data. One of the big opportunities I see among some larger companies is to better align CX and Insights departments. This will lead to providing extremely strong customer data and understanding that can be used throughout the business.