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The Importance of Customer Community

An interesting phenomenon enjoyed by many leading brands is that as you deliver value to more and more customers, a customer community of interest forms around your brand.

Some are obvious.

Have your ever walked by an Apple Store the week before a new product launch and noticed the people sleeping on the sidewalk waiting to get first shot at the latest? That’s a very demonstrative example, albeit it at the lunatic fringe, of an exceptionally powerful customer community.

Subtler, but no less passionate, communities exist.

Did you know Microsoft channel 9  has over 37,000 members that interact every day to share and learn?

These communities go by many names and take many forms, but they all share a common passion for sharing the value of a brand and learning from each other.

As the leader in helping the world’s biggest brands deliver a high quality and consistent customer experience (CX), OpinionLab has our own customer community.

Customers aren’t camping outside the OpinionLab offices waiting for our next release (yet), but they are still very passionate about what we do to help them deliver value to their customers.

This passion was recently on display in Chicago where a group of OpinionLab customers got together over dinner at the world famous Girl & the Goat restaurant to share best practices with each other.

Introducing the Goat

Award winning chef Stephanie Izard kicked off the evening by articulating the importance of CX in her business, but she soon conceded the floor to OpinionLab customers.

OpinionLab customers shared story after story with each other about how they use OpinionLab’s unique CX diagnostics  as best practice to drive immediate and measurable business results.


Even more exciting were the examples from the world’s top brands of how new capabilities like our Comment Mosaic are already being used all the way to the C-suite to catalyze a culture of greater customer centricity within their organizations.

OpinionLab’s customer community is an important market validation that we’re on the right track in terms of the value we deliver.

But, it’s also an important and constant reminder of our obligation to continue to innovate.

If you’re part of our OpinionLab community of customers, we encourage you to continue to share best practices and benefit from each other’s collective knowledge.

We’re honored to be playing a role in your success.


Free Your Mind: Voice of Customer

A guest blog post by Bill Bruno, CEO of Stratigent, a market leader in multi-channel analytics.

When people hear the phrase “Voice of Customer” (VOC) they instantly think of surveys and comment cards deployed on their website. The problem is: if you think VOC as merely a provider of customer opinions, you are missing the real value of the technology. There is no better metric for improving your customer experience than actual customer feedback.

For years, organizations have tried to use attitudinal data to enhance the analysis of the behavioral data within their analytics solution. But if your approach is to merely review what people are saying on your site, you’ll most likely fall into one of the following mindsets:

  • We don’t get enough feedback on the site to be representative of our customer base.
  • It would be a full-time job to sift through all the feedback to find the valuable insights.
  • I don’t know what a satisfaction score means or how I can affect that positively.
  • We build alerts based off of keywords or specific pages to try and catch critical path issues and comments.

Based upon the work we do for our clients on a daily basis, my goal is to get you to think differently about the power of VOC. Since roughly 2006, Stratigent has worked with VOC vendors, such as OpinionLab, to help clients transcend the mindsets outlined above. Gone are the days where having a fancy, scientific “satisfaction score” matters; the reality is that your customers leave feedback for one of two reasons:

  1. They are brand loyal and are thrilled about something you’ve done, a product you have, or just generally want to gush and let you know they love you (less likely).
  2. They are upset, can’t figure out how to do something, have run into an error/issue, or just generally think you deserve to be yelled at for some reason(more likely).

The true power of VOC is action.

Since option #2 is more likely, you have the ability in that moment to take action on the feedback and turn those frowns upside down. For the remainder of this newsletter, I’m going to outline some of the more innovative and impactful applications of VOC data:

  • Personas
  • Immediate Action
  • Personalization
  • A/B or Multi-Variate testing (MVT) segmentation
  • Customer Experience Management
  • On-Premises Feedback (Geolocation)


Many people seem to forget that comment cards provide a unique opportunity to try and gain real value from the feedback (instead of just getting yelled at). You need to capitalize off the opportunity that has presented itself: a customer has decided to take time out of his/her day to tell you something. So when you set up those comment cards on your site, how do you decide what questions to ask? In that moment, you should make sure you’re asking a few (but not too many) questions that will help give you more information about that person. Furthermore, you should make sure you’re asking guided questions tailored to the different areas of your digital presence instead of simply using a generic comment card across your site.

As an example, one of our clients knew that they could place their customers into one of 3 personas the marketing department had identified based upon that person’s answers to a few key questions. So, we built those questions right into the comment cards and stored the persona for later use based upon the answers. I’ll take this a step further in a few of the upcoming sections, but keep in mind that this persona could be persisted for the duration of that visit and all subsequent visits with the right level of implementation finesse.

Immediate Action

As I mentioned earlier, you have a unique opportunity to respond right away to the feedback someone is leaving you on your digital channel. For example, if a customer says that they can’t find a manual for a specific product, wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly provide them the link for the manual before they leave your site?

Many VOC solutions give you the ability to customize the “Thank You” page that a user will be prompted with upon clicking submit. So, as you start to analyze the common feedback you receive from customers, you may detect patterns or common asks. With some simple coding logic embedded within the “Thank You” page you can tailor the content within the “Thank You” page as it renders to solve for the specific issue to which the customer is calling your attention. Boom. Problem solved and that customer leaves happy and fulfilled.


It is important to remember that your VOC comment card is merely an extension of your digital channel. For those of you collecting feedback on your website, as an example, the comment cards are simply pages on your site provided you implement it correctly. Going back to the persona example, think of the power at your fingertips if you are able to learn about your customers based upon the feedback they have provided and take action based off that knowledge.

Perhaps you’ve asked them to provide their income level or the purpose of their visit; maybe you are interested in identifying their persona or status level in your loyalty program. With the help of a strategic data layer you can persist that information and make use of it during that visit or all subsequent visits (within reason depending upon how you implement).  From there, you can start to personalize content and re-market these individuals based upon what you already know about them and the behaviors they exhibit from that point forward.

As an example, perhaps you prioritize the order of articles or brochures on a page automatically based upon the identified purpose of someone’s visit as a result of their feedback. The best part? All of this can be done in an automated way without manual intervention.

A/B or MVT Segmentation

This is merely an extension of personalization, as these two concepts go hand-in-hand. At Stratigent, we look at optimization from two perspectives:

  • Proactive Testing
  • Passive Personalization

Passive personalization would be the content targeting and personalization I’ve outlined previously. Proactive testing would be the A/B and MVT approach. With testing, you can run a test for all of your website traffic or a segmented sample of your traffic. The real value is in segmenting your tests for specific scenarios as that will slowly graduate to passive personalization and building a learning engine.

By storing an individual’s answers to the questions within your comment cards, you now have the ability to use all of those answers as “segments” for future A/B or MVT you may run on your site.

Customer Experience Management

At Stratigent, we have an entire practice dedicated to Customer Experience. A common technology we help customers use in this realm is IBM Tealeaf – a platform that helps companies overcome the online visibility gap by capturing the qualitative details of each visitor interaction to provide the insight and answers required to ensure websites are consistently delivering a positive, successful experience. A main complaint about Tealeaf, however, is the abundance of data within the system and the amount of effort required to uncover insights within a dataset of that size.

One of the coolest integrations we’ve built for customers is the integration of OpinionLab with Tealeaf. With the OpinionLab integration, you can:

  • Use VOC data to identify segments within Tealeaf based upon common feedback topics or complaints
  • “Replay” sessions for users based upon specific feedback they have left in order to diagnose the root issues your customers are facing

Being able to look at Tealeaf data via this lens has resulted in some unbelievable ROI and insights for our customers.

On-Premises Feedback (Geolocation)

We live in a multi-channel world. Your customers are potentially not just unhappy on your websites, mobile apps, etc.They are also potentially experiencing issues within your retail locations, banks, on your airplanes, in your hotels, etc. The more touch points for your business there are, the increased chance that there will be issues your customers will run into. There are a few ways we’ve worked with clients to approach a multi-channel solution:

  • Adjust your comment cards on your website to let customers leave feedback about the website or a physical location
  • A great example of this is Home Depot

screenshot-www_homedepot_com 2015-02-25 12-52-00

  •  Embed feedback into your mobile app and take one of the following approaches:
  •  Simply allow your customers to leave feedback about their experience and input their location
  • With geolocation turned on, automatically determine the location when customers leave feedback for the store they are in or near
  • Empower your store managers, hotel managers, etc. with the ability to monitor feedback about their specific locations in real-time to give them a chance to take action right away

When it comes to solving issues in real-time by location, OpinionLab offers the ability to create a “comment mosaic” for businesses to filter feedback based upon location, specific terms, store numbers, etc. The mosaic can provide a filtered view to the appropriate people for each location in a timely manner so they can make decisions and rectify problems before their impact reaches detrimental levels.


Final Thoughts

If you’re not currently deploying a VOC technology, you should consider putting that on your roadmap for 2015. There is an incredible opportunity for you to enhance your brand experience and increase conversions by simply giving your customers the ability to provide you with feedback. That’s not to say that all feedback will be valuable or worth taking action on, but you’re missing out on the low-hanging fruit by not listening to your customers.

Originally published in the Stratigent WebSight Newsletter. Subscribe to the Stratigent WebSight newsletter here.


Why are CX diagnostics important?

As a client-side marketer, before joining OpinionLab, I was already very attuned to the importance of customer experience, or CX, as a key market differentiator for brands. According to a recent Gartner study, 89% of marketing leaders said they expected to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience by 2016.

That’s an intimidating timetable. Even more intimidating is the concept of competing on an amorphous concept, an amalgamation of customer perceptions accumulated across long and diverse customer journeys.

Some brands, like Apple, make it look effortless. Most brands struggle to take an exceptionally complex idea that spans traditionally disconnected customer touch points and translate it into business action.

Adding additional complexity is accelerating technology evolution. Mobile is pervasive. Screens are now connected. Maybe I’m dating myself, but I still remember when you could count the number of web browsers and mobile operating systems on one hand.

Quickly following this technology evolution are rapidly changing consumer expectations. Changing expectations that are driving seismic change in CX, even in traditionally slow moving industries. Have you noticed how Buy online, Pick up in store (BOPUS) is starting to show up everywhere in Retail? Do you now deposit checks into your bank account by sending a picture from your smartphone? Who still prints out an airline ticket? Anybody?

Through all this accelerating change, the basic tenets of business generally hold true: business success is attributable to prioritizing action in a timely manner to best achieve business goals.

From a CX perspective, prioritizing business action has typically been solely based on evaluative measurement derived from trailing feedback. Customers are asked for their feedback at some point after they have a brand interaction, that input is compared to historic feedback ratings, and if a trend is identified, resources are prioritized to affect change. Evaluative measurement is good, but it misses an opportunity to engage with an individual consumer in the moment of brand experience and take immediate action. CX diagnostics deliver that capability, and in turn, can deliver a higher quality and more consistent customer experience.

Suddenly, the concept of competing on the basis of customer experience seems less intimidating.  Leading brands are already leveraging diagnostic and evaluative Voice of Customer feedback solutions to extend their CX lead.

Want to learn more about the value of CX diagnostics to your business? Check out our white paper on the subject.


we’ve landed at eTail West 2015


Created by retailers for retailers, eTail West has one goal in mind. Transform retail. Together.

It’s a one-stop shop for eCommerce and multi-channel retail innovators that covers topics like digital engagement, mobile, customer acquisition and retail’s hottest topics. Surrounding yourself with the industry’s brightest minds is a mantra we fully subscribe to and it’s one of the reasons we’ve sponsored this powerhouse event for years.

As an official sponsor of eTail West, OpinionLab will be starting conversations with retail innovators and showing off our customer listening platform to the masses. That’s right, we’ve launched a new platform (read all about it here) and we’re thrilled to show off the new features and functionality at eTail West. With this release, we’ve focused our innovation on 3 key areas: action, engagement and accessibility. These 3 crucial areas are often weak spots of customer experience programs, but we’ve turned them into core strengths of our updated platform.

You’ll see a heavy OpinionLab presence at the event, whether on the tradeshow floor at Booth #515, networking events or powering the official speaker and event feedback platform. You can also follow us on Twitter and see what we see at the event. Including the palm trees.


Our Winter Release Extends our Track Record of VoC innovation


From its inception through to the present day, OpinionLab has always put a high value on innovation. Innovation is central to our value proposition and is integral to our business culture. We hire innovative minds and we err on the side of innovation with every product decision we make. When we call ourselves the leader in capturing actionable customer experience insights that drive smarter business decisions, we can be confident in that claim, because our track record of innovation backs it up.

Being a leader doesn’t mean resting on our laurels–far from it. Instead, being a leader means constantly innovating and pushing to stay at the forefront of an increasingly crowded ecosystem of VoC vendors.

The focal point of our innovation has always been our platform. That’s why I’m so excited about the features we’re unveiling for our Winter Release. These features extend our commitment to innovation, which goes back more than a decade. With this release, we’re focusing our innovation on 3 key areas: action, engagement, and accessibility. These 3 crucial areas are often weak spots of customer experience programs, but we’ve turned them into core strengths of our updated platform.

We drive value against these three key areas with a bevy of innovative new tools, which build on our core continuous listening engine and generate real-time insights from engaged customers, layered with context to drive action at key moments of truth. Among the new tools are:

  • Theme Reporting: Sifts through vast amounts of unstructured data, identifies relevant themes, and allows the user to drill-down to actionable, context-rich nuggets of insight.
  • Comment Mosaic: Creates a dynamic and real-time matrix of segmented feedback snapshots, raising organizational awareness and visibility and aligning teams and executives.
  • Real-Time Peer Benchmarks: Provides the industry’s most comprehensive peer benchmarking. Brands can instantly compare task-specific performance real-time data from peers to identify performance gaps and leadership positions.

All of these new insight tools are built on a redesigned back-end framework, which increases the flexibility, scalability, and security of our platform, and allows for even more accelerated innovation in the future. I’ll have more about that foundational evolution in a future post.

Over the past few months, these features have been active in private beta for a select number of our customers. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and our customers have saluted our continuing innovation and our increased focus on actionability. OpinionLab customers can expect to see these features turned on in their accounts over the next several weeks.

If you’ve been considering OpinionLab and want to learn more about our latest innovations, please get in touch and we would be happy to walk you through the latest features of our platform. We’re sure you will love them!

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