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OpinionLab Rockstars: Dave

This installment of OpinionLab Rockstars shines a spotlight on David Nelson, our indefatigable IT guy in the Wilmington, NC office. He exemplifies the beach vibe with his laid-back surfer charm, but don’t let his cool demeanor fool you: he’s serious about fun, as an author and a community activist.

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here it’s called the Voice of Customer Action Pledge

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I’ve had Forrester on my mind for the last few days. Over that time period, the venerable research agency has had several extremely interesting things to say about the Voice of Customer industry. In a series of presentations at the Forrester Customer Experience Forum in New York and in a published report on the “State of Voice of the Customer Programs,” Forrester made some statements about our industry that certainly made me sit up and take notice.

According to Forrester, Voice of the Customer programs are at an inflection point. Though vital to improving the customer experience, most Voice of the Customer programs fail to reach their full potential. In particular, they struggle to drive actions from the insights they generate, struggle to be fully embedded in the broader companies they serve, and (as a natural result of the previous two statements) they struggle to show financial impact.

Forrester ended its latest published report with two bold statements:

1) VoC programs must expand beyond their narrow reputation as passive listening and measurement stations, to become active parts of broader Customer Experience Management efforts;

2) even in businesses that can put a precise value on customer experience improvement (not always a guarantee), VoC programs that cannot demonstrate tangible return on investment will wither and die–victims of a business climate where every manager is looking to wipe out inefficient spend.

Forrester is right: Voice of the Customer programs cannot be passive. Listening, measuring, collecting, surveying–those activities, though important, aren’t enough anymore. It’s time for a new paradigm to take hold: an action paradigm.  A Voice of the Customer program should be wed to the following process:

1) VoC program identifies actionable items emerging from real-time, contextual feedback from engaged customers.

2) These actionable items pave the way for concrete fixes aimed at improving the customer experience.

3) These concrete fixes yield tangible business results (such as increased sales, lower churn, or lower support costs).

4) The VoC program proves its worth to the organization and becomes relied upon by multiple teams as a critical decision support tool.

Step 1 requires three critical elements: 1) the data has to be real-time; 2) the feedback has to emerge from engaged customers, opting-in to the process rather than being intercepted; 3) the data has to be married to rich contextual information–on which set of pages did the experience occur? What device was the user on? Which manager was on shift at the time of the experience?

But it’s at the end of Step 1 that the rubber meets the road. That’s where the Action Pledge comes in. Will the company take action and make the concrete fixes necessary to improve the experience and generate tangible results? Do they trust the data, do they believe in the findings enough to drive change? Are they confident enough to go from saying “Oh my, that feedback is interesting; let me file it away” to “Holy crap, I better do something about this now, otherwise we might be in serious trouble?”

The Action Pledge is a firm commitment to acting on the Voice of the Customer and not letting it fall on deaf ears. The Action Pledge is something OpinionLab clients commit to right upfront: it’s a sacred promise aimed at driving constant improvement to the customer experience. Sometimes these improvements are about closing the loop with customers: fixing support issues, website errors, poor customer service. Sometimes these improvements are much more fundamental: they might affect pricing strategy, brand positioning, even HR policies. Either way, the Action Pledge turn a VoC program from a passive feedback station into an active platform for transforming the company and re-orienting it around the customer.

When a company takes the Action Pledge, it’s impossible to turn around and say that the VoC program had no impact. From Day One, actionable insights are catalyzing meaningful improvements to the customer experience. That’s when Step 3 kicks in: our clients are keen to measure the impact of their fixes, capitalizing on those that produce recurring results and fine-tuning those that don’t always work the first time around. That’s how programs build momentum, changing the way stakeholders engage with customers and putting the Voice of the Customer firmly at the heart of the company’s decision-making procedures.

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Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals East

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Welcome to a new, more competitive era for CX.

From now on, it’s not enough to think you know your customers–you have to really know what they care about most. After all, it’s that what customer experience is all about? We at Opinionlab certainly think so and it’s been our personal mission to carry the Voice of Customer (VoC) gospel to trade shows all over the country, helping businesses strategically make sense of a quickly changing customer landscape.

Today, we’ve landed at Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals East (follow on Twitter with #ForrForum) in New York City and it’s a power-packed event that keeps us coming back year after year. Not only do we enjoy sitting down with Forrester Analysts to report on the year’s biggest a-ha’s and trending topics across the customer experience landscape through the lens of customer feedback, but we’re thrilled to be in the solutions showcase at Booth #114. At our booth you’ll find OpinionLab strategists and sales executives (and even our CEO Sean Fallon) showing businesses how our listening platform can increase conversions and improve customer engagement. We’ll show you how our clients, many of whom are being talked about in sessions and attending the show, launched a VoC program effectively and drove results to the bottom line. All by listening to their customers.

Feedback is a powerful thing and we’re excited to show Customer Experience Professionals how hundreds of leading brands leverage that feedback across all brand touch points. As sponsors of this year’s event you’ll find us practically everywhere, including tweeting about the show’s best insights here, but we’re hoping you’ll stop by our booth and tell us what you think about customer experience. And if you’re not at the show? Drop us a line anyways, we’re always game to chat all things Voice of Customer.

 

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Latest COI Report for 8 key industries is announced

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OpinionLab is excited to announce the release of its latest Customer Opinion Index (COI) Report, which is now available for download here.

For those who are new to this blog, OpinionLab’s quarterly COI Report peers through the lens of real-time customer feedback to break down customer experience trends on websites, mobile sites/apps, stores, hotels, flights, bank branches, and contact centers. This Report contains the latest wave of COI data for 8 different industries. Derived from patented, opt-in customer feedback methodologies that have been in place for over 10 years, the COI is the leading omnichannel customer experience benchmark framework. The COI provides a snapshot of strategic and tactical customer experience performance using a unique, 1000-point scale and a proprietary computational methodology that takes into account the key drivers of cross-channel customer engagement. To date, OpinionLab has computed more than 200 million COI scores for 300+ of the world’s leading brands.

Here’s a highlights package of what you’ll find within this latest COI Report:

  • Customer sentiment dropped in Q1 2014, with the COI falling to 508, its lowest mark in more than 12 months.
  • The Finance industry led the way with a COI score of 753, while sharp drops were observed in Travel, Airlines, and Insurance.
  • Omnichannel Retailers shook off payment security issues–which had weakened customer sentiment during December–and posted a quarterly COI increase of 49 points (12%).
  • Loyalty (3.13) and Account Management (3.09) pages delivered superior customer experiences in Q1, while Service & Support pages generated the lowest level of customer engagement.

This edition of the COI Report also contains the results of an exclusive study looking at the future of the mall and the retail store. Here are some of the exciting findings emerging from this part of the report:

  • Who says the mall is dead? Not Millennials. They prefer shopping at the mall to shopping online (37% to 27%).
  • Whether downtown or in the mall, only 10% of Millennials think today’s store experience is ideal. Craving a more engaging, web-like experience, 69% think the store of the future should resemble Etsy or Amazon.
  • Millennials are inherently social shoppers: 1 in 4 call or text a friend and 1 in 10 use mobile chat apps while shopping in-store.
  • Millennials’ most desired store innovations include personalized deals and promotions (63%) and free wi-fi (48%). They favor these practical innovations over funkier things like photobooths (24%) and social media lounges (13%).

Finally, the COI Report wouldn’t be complete without saluting an OpinionLab client that is delivering great customer experiences and driving deeper customer engagement across channels. OpinionLab is thrilled to extend plaudits to Verizon Wireless for posting a COI score that was 17% higher than the telecommunications sector average.

Please enjoy the report, and send us any feedback here, on Twitter, or via OpinionLab.com.

 

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How will OpinionLab power change in your organization?

If you’re an OpinionLab client used to seeing the familiar [+] feedback symbol, you associate that rotating plus with real-time, page-specific insight and actionability. You rely on OpinionLab to collect, analyze and leverage customer feedback across all brand touch points. And if you’re one of the millions of customers who uses the familiar [+] feedback symbol to submit feedback, you associate that rotating plus with the ability to communicate what you want and need, essentially resulting in feedback anytime, anywhere.

While our clients know us to be the most actionable and analytic framework available to measure, optimize and manage the omnichannel customer experience, we try to succinctly and accurately break down the power of customer feedback for our prospects. Any marketer can tell you that’s no easy feat especially when you’re looking through the lens of online, in-store, call center, mobile app, product, Google Glass or any other form of technological marvel.

As a challenge to quickly explain the value of our unique methodology and capture the true nature of brand conversations on the go, we created what we lovingly refer to in the OpinionLab halls as the “Steve” video; a ninety second overview of OpinionLab solutions, that follows a day in the life of an average consumer, Steve. It was so well received we decided it was time to make another. This newest video takes a glimpse from the other side, through the viewpoint of a brand, or more specifically one person at that business, “Sarah”. Sarah works at a business where customer centricity is at the core of everything and lucky for her, utilizes OpinionLab for her company’s listening platform. It’s all about how brands can use OpinionLab to increase customer engagement. Want to see what that means? Watch the video above.

We hope you like the new video and as always, welcome your feedback. Anytime, anywhere.

 

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It’s called a hackathon

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Hackathons have been stimulating creative and technical minds for over a decade. It’s a time when groups of people (usually software developers, engineers or coders) put aside their day jobs and come together to build one or more software projects–from initial idea to working prototype. Some ideas are merely for fun fueled purely by curiosities and have nothing to do with a business problem. Others become synonymous with a brand. We can thank past Hackathons for developments such as the Facebook “Like” button and an extension of Twitter that prevents spoiler alerts from TV shows you’ve yet to watch. A typical hackathon can last from days to weeks but the goal is always the same–innovation.

At OpinionLab, our Spring Hackathon kicked off Wednesday with an open callout for project pitches led by one of our rockstar Sr. Software Engineers. Each employee was able to briefly plead their case and then cherry picked their project of choice based on their interests. All corners of our business were reflected in these groups–from marketers to coders, IT to Account Executives.  Then at 9 a.m. CST Thursday morning, armed with a snack arsenal that would make any college student salivate, our teams sprung into action. There was lots of brainstorming, whiteboarding and strategizing (some of it done in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costumes) but no matter the approach, each team started building their respective project with the aim to present a complete prototype by 9 a.m Friday morning.

As our company watched the team presentation in conference rooms, google hangouts, Skype calls or via carrier pigeons; there were lots of cool ideas and some really neat tangents that emerged from the projects. We had a Wall of Awesome (a culture building dashboard that recognizes and fosters gratitude within our organization) and even some super secret projects that will aid and assist our clients in their mission to power change in their own organization through feedback. The great thing about our Hackathon, besides the fact that every single project presented will be further pursued or is already being used, is how our teams rallied together for a common goal. It’s called a Hackathon but for our company it was really a day to foster ideation. And that’s always a win in our book.

Think you’ve got what it takes to participate in our next Hackathon? We’re hiring. Check out our open positions here.

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in-store cell phone tracking pits consumers against retailers

There’s a big difference between choosing to share our data and being monitored without our consent. This gut desire for transparency is increasingly at odds with the reality of business today. Take retail. New technologies now allow retailers to use cell phone signal to track shoppers as they move around the store–including the aisles where they spend the most time, if they make a purchase, and how often they return to the store. Some technologies, such as iBeacon, require that a customer download a mobile app, turn on Bluetooth, accept location services and opt-in so they can be tracked and receive in-store notifications. Other approaches use sensors to pick up signals emitted from any wifi-enabled cell phone. This means that any consumer who walks into a store (or even walks by a store) with their cell phone turned on may be automatically tracked–without knowledge or explicit consent.

And just how are consumers, Edward Snowden aside, feeling about all this surveillance especially in terms of their shopping habits? Take a closer look at the data OpinionLab uncovered in my latest Ad Age feature in titled, “In-Store Cell Phone Tracking Pits Consumers Against Retailers” and let me know what you think on this controversial topic. Do you personally feel retailers have the right to track you and if so, under what circumstances?

 

 

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should rightsizing be retail’s next big step?

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When was the last time you went to a mall? For me, it was over the holiday season when I hesitantly performed pick up and drop off duties for my family. Usually packed to the gills during peak holiday times, mall traffic was noticeably lighter. As I watched the masses comb for sales in the brick-and-mortar space, I couldn’t help but wonder about the crowds that I couldn’t see. What happened to this once great meeting place: is it dying a slow, painful death or does the mall space have time yet to reinvent itself? Or is the writing on the wall with the onslaught of technical marvels like Google Glass, in-store tracking concerns and Amazon’s uncanny ability to outperform everyone leaving the remainder of retailers to battle for a smaller piece of the retail pie?

The Great American Mall was once a symbol of strength, vibrancy and a status symbol for shoppers everywhere. Many once-thriving mega-anchors like JC Penney have laid off workers by the hundreds or similar to now-shuttered Borders, closed their cash registers for the last time. Empty store-fronts sit vacant and eerily dark within the malls of today and it’s easy to lose count of the once mighty shopping meccas going bust. There’s even a website that chronicles dying malls and closed stores within shopping centers. In fact, Green Street Advisors forecast that 15% of the nation’s enclosed malls will fail or be converted into non-retail space in the next decade, up from its prediction of 10% just two years ago.

While the cool factor of yesterday’s mall has certainly ebbed in the wake of the digital revolution, there’s no question that brick-and-mortars have some catching up to do with their leaner digital counterparts. Pricey real estate and personnel costs are just some of the factors that can eat away at profits. Throw in the customer experience conundrum in an omnichannel world and it’s enough to pack up and turn the store-front into a museum exhibit of what once was.

But many companies are viewing today’s non-line customer and their desire for a universal experience across all channels as a rallying cry for action. Brands like Staples are rebalancing their resources to support strong online strategies and a chance to realign investments to better support fast-growth ecommerce sales. For them, and major retailers everywhere, the challenge is to bridge the gap between the physical and digital while still delivering excellent customer experiences. This doesn’t mean the all-important store or even the once mighty mall will disappear but we will begin to experience an era where retailers begin to right size their brick-and-mortar locations based off customer needs and wants.

Our latest contributed article “Should rightsizing be retail’s next big step“, featured in Multichannel Merchant, examines what size is the right size–be it pop-up, smaller concepts or even out of the box options like mini distribution centers. Read the article and then tell us in the comments section what you think is retail’s next big step.

 

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