■ Lithium (social community, SaaS):
■ Dow Jones Insight
■ Clarabridge Enterprise (customer insight/
■ Wise Window (social
opinions from various sources so that managers can quickly determine customers’ key concerns and respond in a timely fashion.
“Timely” is a relative term, however, when it comes to
the social Web. “Because our product is very visual, custom-
ers would show us problems on You Tube and at the end say,
‘iRobot, what are you going to do with this?’ and the post would
have 60,000 hits,” says Abreu. “We needed to respond faster.”
The robot maker now uses RightNow’s Cloud Monitor, which
mines customer posts for words or phrases with negative con-
notations, such as all-cap words and “bad language,” Abreu says.
It then alerts customer support personnel and, if a post starts to
go viral, automatically escalates alerts to Abreu’s attention.
Most companies are still figuring out the critical components
of their VOC programs: what data to look for, what metrics to use
and, most important, what action to take, according to Temkin.
“Feedback is cheap. Actionable insights are priceless,” he says.
IT and business leaders shouldn’t become discouraged: Even
early-stage VOC programs can get good results, according to
Temkin. “Once you get into actually quantifying how custom-
ers view you, it starts changing how your people think about
the business,” he explains. “They start to spot customer issues
and put in place processes where they can highlight and start to
solve the big problems. And the big payback is customer loyalty.”
Liss definitely has some ideas. For example, monitoring blogs
will give his employees an early heads-up on buying trends. “If all
of a sudden plus-size women are talking about how comfortable a
certain fabric is, we can study it for use in our products,” he says.
Charming Shoppes’ VOC team has already developed a
dashboard, including a one-page document that each brand
group uses in its monthly business review. This enables groups
to share their insights, according Liss. “Right now it’s just the
highlights — major feedback that’s actionable — but we’ll build
from there,” he says. ◆
Horwitt , a freelance reporter and former Computer world senior
editor, is based in Waban, Mass. Contact her at ehor firstname.lastname@example.org.
But if you’re interested in investing in a VOC system, you
should do your homework. First of all, you need to know what
market the vendor started out in, because that represents the
company’s core strength. Recently added or acquired features
and functions may not be fully integrated with the vendor’s
earlier platforms, warns James Kobielus, an analyst at Forrester. Vendors are aggressively integrating VOC functions with
business intelligence, CRM and advanced analytics tools — and
“when you have a laundry list of technologies, a lot of assembly
is required,” Kobielus says. A systems integrator could be helpful in working with such a vendor, he suggests.
Social intelligence service providers mine the social Web for
customer feedback and then use sentiment analysis and natural
language processing to determine its relevance and sentiment
score. Major players include Radian6, NetBase, BuzzMetrics (now
part of Nielsen), Crimson Hexagon, Scout Labs (now Lithium
Technologies), Cymfony, NM Incite, Wise Window, MediaMiser, EmPower Research, Synthesio, Converseon and Dow Jones Insight.
Customer insight and action platform vendors have strong backgrounds in mining and analyzing large bodies of unstructured material generated by internal channels such as customer surveys and
call center notes. Major players in this field include Clarabridge,
Attensity, Kana, Autonomy, SAS Institute and RightNow. Many of
these companies have recently moved into the social media market
by partnering with or acquiring social intelligence service providers. Their suites often include social community software, as well
as BI and CRM tools — either their own or those of a partner.
Social community platform vendors such as Lithium, Jive Software, Telligent Systems, KickApps and Mzinga help businesses
set up online communities where customers can chat, exchange
tips and express opinions. They also provide tools for monitoring,
mining and analyzing customer interchanges. Some, like Telligent
and Lithium, allow businesses to set up their Facebook fan pages
so that a customer who posts a question there automatically
gains access to the social community, which often has the answer.
Enterprise feedback management vendors like Allegiance,
Mindshare, Medallia and Response Tek specialize in tracking and
analyzing customer feedback and behavior and the e;ectiveness
of media campaigns and other marketing strategies.
— ELISABETH HORWITT