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Consumers Speak Out About Customer Experiences on Cyber Monday 2014

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With over $2 billion in ecommerce transactions, Cyber Monday 2014 marked the single heaviest day of online spending in U.S. history. But we’re not just talking the pure dollars and cents that come from clicking the “buy now” button. To OpinionLab and the customer-centric brands we support it was $2 billion in opportunities to deliver outstanding customer experiences, from the ease of purchase, search functionalities, call center interactions, and even post-sale experiences such as packaging and delivery.

At OpinionLab, comment card submissions were up 50% compared to a normal day, and we collected roughly 60,000 submissions on Cyber Monday alone. From Thanksgiving through December 1, we received 16.5% more submissions than in 2013. Notably, consumers submitted 67% more free-form comments than they did last year. Let that fact sink in for just a moment and give credit to customer-centric brands that are listening to their customers in the moment of real experiences.

The record online sales and volume of feedback are both testaments to the rising importance of customer experience, which Gartner deems the “marketing leaders’ next battlefield”. The differences between online and offline customer experience seem to have played a crucial role in consumer behavior this holiday season. While Cyber Monday saw 17% year-over-year growth, The New York Times reports that in-store Black Friday sales actually declined 11%.

Did shoppers lose some of their appetite for long lines, crowded stores and the mad rush for goods? Did advancements in online shopping technology and the convenience of shopping from home give the digital face of omnichannel a serious bump? From retailer to retailer, what specific factors were behind the successes and failures in customer experience?

It’s now common knowledge that the only way to answer such questions is to listen to consumers. As this holiday season reaffirmed, shoppers are more than willing to give their two cents – especially when retailers allow them to share open-ended feedback in the moment and on their own terms.

During peak hours of the holiday shopping weekend, OpinionLab received approximately 3,300 comments per hour. The retailers monitoring this data had a pulse on their customer experience, and compared to 2013, many more used OpinionLab Alerts to automatically distribute comments to departments that could act on the feedback. The volume of Alerts was up 13% this year, and we saw more unique users taking advantage of them. The Alert users were uniquely empowered to make improvements, address grievances and preserve a consistent customer experience in real-time.

Just as importantly, feedback from this critical shopping weekend offered insights that will drive long-term strategy and differentiation. When Gartner surveyed 200 marketing leaders for its report, “Customer Experience Emerges as the Marketers’ Next Battlefield”, 89% said they expect their companies to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience by 2017. Indeed, Gartner predicts that 50% of consumer product investments will be redirected to customer experience innovations by that year.

Marketers need a reliable way to monitor customer experience and uncover innovations, changes and new offerings that could differentiate their brand on the battlefield. If Cyber Monday is any indication, consumers can be willing partners in improving their own experience. They want to be heard, and they want an easy mechanism to voice their opinions. Brands that are willing to listen to their consumers will always find a happier customer in the long run.

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COI release: it’s an indicator of customer experience excellence

We’re very excited to announce the release of our latest Customer Opinion Index (COI) Report. This report marks the one-year anniversary of the release of the very first COI Report–an important milestone for the COI, as it continues to be embraced as the foremost indicator of customer experience excellence among the world’s most customer-centric brands.

For those of you who are new to the metric, the COI is OpinionLab’s proprietary measure of customer experience performance in a multi-channel setting. Comprising millions of pieces of context-rich customer feedback and backed by a patented Comment Card methodology that is over 15 years old, the COI is utilized by brands like Walmart, Bank of America, Ford, and Wyndham as part of programs that continuously measure, manage, and optimize the customer experience. When paired with a real-time intervention strategy, the COI framework can help organizations drive fundamental change by transforming processes and creating new best practices that foster greater customer loyalty.

The release of this report comes at an important time in the year, as brands are beginning to rollout their plans for Holiday 2014. This edition of the COI Report presents a temperature check for how brands are doing at delighting their customers as we enter the most critical shopping season of the year. It also highlights best practices that customer experience leaders were using to drive their COI scores higher over the summer months.

We invite you to download the report and read the findings by clicking here. As always, we invite you to share any and all feedback with us. We’re always listening, and we look forward to the conversation!

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We’ve made the Inc 5000 list…again!

 

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In the SaaS world, momentum is king. And there’s no better indicator of momentum than placing on the Inc. 5000 list, which celebrates and ranks the 5,000 fastest growing private companies in the United States.

We’re incredibly excited to have placed on that list for the second year running. Clocking in with an impressive 3-year growth rate of 66%, OpinionLab is constantly expanding our pool of human capital to better service those awesome, customer-centric brands we continue to sign.

2014 is on pace to become another record year for growth here at OpinionLab. Our patented, real-time listening solution is rapidly gaining recognition as the global standard for effectively measuring, managing, and optimizing the multi-channel customer experience. As one of the founding members of OpinionLab, I continue to be blown away by the growth and evolution that this company has undergone in such a short period of time.

The back half of 2014 promises to be just as exciting as the first half. Next week, we’ll be releasing our latest Customer Experience Index Report, which gathers together more than 60 customer experience benchmarks across 8 key consumer sectors. There’s also some really exciting news upcoming on the product front, which will begin gradually trickling out in the weeks to come.

Bottom line: extremely exciting time to be onboard at OpinionLab, and we’re happy to see our momentum getting recognized (yet again) by Inc. Magazine.

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So long surveys [infographic]

Survey says: there’s a paradigm shift underway when it comes to capturing the voice of the customer.

Since Richard Dawson revealed his first set of survey results on Family Feud, a major shift in public receptiveness to surveys has occurred. Once thought of as a slightly annoying but indispensable part of market research, surveys have now fallen very much out of favor in the mainstream press and in the minds of shoppers. In the pages of the New York Times and USA Today, surveys have been decried for their length, their intrusive nature, and the general poor customer experiences they create.

With the survey falling from grace, does that spell trouble for the future of the customer voice? Far from it! In fact, the voice of the customer is louder and more relevant than ever. What’s changed in the manner in which it is collected and processed. While you’ll still see surveys being used by political pollsters, or by undergrads looking for quick-and-dirty data collection, the old school survey approach has lost credibility at the enterprise level, and is rapidly being displaced by the science of continuous, opt-in listening.

That’s why we’re very excited to announce the release of our latest white paper, entitled “So Long, Surveys!” In this white paper, you’ll learn how to avoid alienating your customers with lengthy surveys. You’ll also learn how to leverage continuous, opt-in listening to drive meaningful and profitable improvements to the customer experience.

We invite you to download the white paper and let us know what you think. Unlike the old school survey vendors, we’re always listening!

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OpinionLab Rockstars: Meet Kippy

Another Friday, another installment of OpinionLab Rockstars–today we’ve got the young and entertaining Kippy! She’s a crackerjack CX rep, an excellent cook, and an accomplished food writer; if she’d only bring me lunch once a week, I’d say she was perfect!

Check out her endeavors at http://www.youngandentertaining.com and receive inspiration galore for your next soiree!

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it’s more than just patent 8,775,237

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OpinionLab has always been a company heavily invested in innovation. It’s been in our DNA since the moment of inception (officially our story began around a dining room table), and that deep commitment to innovation has applied to more than just product development, technology or our unique methodology. Our intellectual property portfolio protects many industry breakthroughs (page specific feedback is a shining example) and recently we’ve been awarded another patent to add to our growing list.

Conceived and filed back in August of 2007 and issued this month, this patent revolves around our AdMonitor product, giving our clients the ability to collect and analyze comments and ratings related to on-page advertisements. The powers that be refer to this patent as US 8,775,237 but we just think of it as another way to help our amazing client roster do what they do best: deliver dynamite customer experiences to their customer base across any device, country or brand touch point.

There weren’t any special celebrations, ice cream cakes or press releases touting our 18th US patent, just simple applause around our Chicago headquartered conference room and a few handshakes for a job well done. It is an amazing feat to be sure, 18 US patents, and they protect the work we do everyday. But innovation isn’t just about a patent number filed away in an office or a plaque on the wall. Innovation is what we live, breathe and sleep at OpinionLab. From our product development team hard at work crafting the next generation of back end reporting tools and dashboards to our Insights team relentlessly pouring over client data points to find insights that drive loyalty, retention and customer satisfaction; innovation is at the core of everything we do.

It’s who we are.

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OpinionLab Rockstars: Meet 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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