Previously a senior executive at Apple and eBay, Cathal brings more than 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, and project management to his role as President of Interactions. We sat down to catch up with him at his 3-month mark and get his thoughts on his move to Interactions.
What made Interactions your next career stop?
There are a few reasons why you come to a company. One, you not only have to love the space, but you’ve got to feel like you’re going to make an impact. At Interactions, what we do has a powerful impact on our customers, their customers, and our entire industry–by empowering companies to create exceptional, enjoyable experiences for their customers.
Two, you have to believe in the product. You have to feel like this product is the product that’s really going to make a difference. I truly believe that our solution creates great value for our customers.
And number three, you just want to work with really smart and fun people who share that vision. If you get all three in one place, it’s going to become your magnetic north. Interactions is my magnetic north.
What are you most excited about?
I’ve spent my entire career on internal teams focused on cultivating the ultimate customer experience. Now I have the opportunity to be on the other side and help people who are now in the same seat as I was–passionate about transforming the customer experience for their customers and looking for the right technology, tools, and support to do so. Knowing that I can bring this unique perspective to a conversation is exciting to me.
It’s also a great privilege to work with our current customers, who are some of the most innovative brands in the world. This really keeps us on our toes, and keeps us pushing the envelope with our own innovation.
How would you best describe customer experience?
To me, customer experience is like a shop window. I compare it to the storefronts at holiday time. They are inviting, they are engaging, they are welcoming. You need to create a customer experience that invites people in and lets customers easily interact with your company versus making them go through hurdles to engage with you.
This is not something that is hardcoded into most brands’ DNA. You have to work at it, just like you work at anything else in business. It has to be a priority, it has to be measurable, and every part of the business needs to be invested in it.
Why is investing in CX so important now?
Brands need to invest in CX in order to compete. Fast, frictionless experiences are no longer a nice-to-have; they’re essential to success. Most products (and even services) are becoming commodities. The only way to truly differentiate is with experience, and this is true across industries.
Think about the last time a product or service really changed your life. You probably can’t come up with anything. But you know why you are loyal to one brand over another–it’s the experience. People remember good experiences, but what they really remember are the bad ones. So, brands that go that extra mile, that really invest in their customers, will come out on top.
The pandemic has also really trained customers to accept experiences that are, in my opinion, unacceptable. Long waits, multiple transfers, and more. We hear stories about angry customers taking out their frustrations on those service employees trying to help them. So on the agent side, they are also having poor experiences as employees.
So, the companies who really want to be successful will really have to accelerate out of this over the next five years. Making the investment in CX automation can be a tremendous asset to companies today to get out of this and seize their spot in the market.
What piece of advice would you give to brands looking to transform their CX?
There are a couple of things I would say that are critical. First, at the strategic level, many people within an organization have this notion of customer experience, but most companies really haven’t defined what customer experience means to them or created a long-term vision.
Defining what customer experience means to your brand–and this means the entire end-to-end experience–is going to set the path on how you move forward and what you invest in to create value for your customers. So keeping in mind that the commitment to customer experience, both in terms of strategy and budget, is for the long term, not just a quarter or two, will be crucial to your success.
The second: you should never expose your internal organizational design to the customer. Most people design their journeys in a siloed approach. This exposes the difficulty of their processes, rules, and policies to their customers and that’s where they fail.
The result is a business that chooses technology that’s good for an individual function, which doesn’t create a true end-to-end customer experience. You have to think about how to bring all of these elements together, like in a recipe, instead of just having the individual ingredients.
Lastly, if you approach customer experiences in this cohesive manner, the burden will be almost minimal to your customers. Right now, customers are bounced around and misdirected and improperly routed. Instead your customers should say “that just felt right” at the end of a transaction.