Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Text Analytics / Customer Experience Intelligence 2009 - Predictions

I was recently asked what I "see as the 3 most important text-analytics technology, solution, or market challenges in 2009?"

Good question. 2008 has been an expansionary year for the text analytics space along many dimensions - expanding appreciation of the business value of text analytics, expanding deployments across corporate enterprises, and a general expansion and evolution of the market segment away from a 'tech' sell to more of a solution sell.

2008 also seemed to validate that text analytics, and specifically text analytics applied to voice of the customer analytics, (tapping into and transforming customer feedback and experience content into rich actionable analytics) are largely "recession-proof" if sold and deployed effectively.

My company, Clarabridge, is having a great year - we continue to grow, achieve a fantastic level of deployment success, and continue to add value to customers in many ways:

- we help customers do more analysis, with less cost
- we let our customers spot problems more quickly than before (within a day or two, vs within a week or month), so
- our customers can take action on customer feedback and opinion quickly and decisively (i.e. if they spot a service or product issue they can address it and fix it quickly and decisively)

As a result of the time and cost efficiencies inherent in text analytics-based customer experience solutions, we enable decisions and customer experience improvements far more cost effectively than manual reading, coding, analysis and decision making would allow.

Partly due to the successes of our customers, and willingness of our customers to share their success stories of cost savings and decision making efficiencies with other customers, partners, and prospects, we've continued to grow our customer base -- even in a slowing economy this year demand for our customer experience/text analytics solutions remained strong and grew solidly.

2008 proved that customer experience-based text analytics solutions are needed in both good times and bad - in good times firms want to maintain their reputation, fix issues quickly, and outcompete their rivals, and in bad times firms want to do all they can to be responsive to their customers to maintain their loyalty and profitability.

I think 2009 will largely see a further evolution of the space as we've seen in 2008, a bit more 'mainstreaming' of the solution, and the development of interesting partnerships and technology integrations between vendors and solution providers.

Specifically, then, my 3 predictions:

1) Text Analytics solutions will expand from a functional/departmental initiative to an enterprise imperative. In 2006-2008 - text analytics was deployed to enable the analysis of marketing, call center, and survey/market research departments, and the results of the text analysis were used primarily within a single department.

In 2008 we saw at Clarabridge a few of our more progressive customers looking to evolve and expand from departmental approaches to an approach that supports multiple organizations. We see a few prospects (who will likely become customers in 2009) who actually want, on DAY ONE of deployment to have a solution that can that meets the needs of many groups and departments in an enterprise.

As a result of having a cross-functional, cross organizational goal, I expect in 2009 that for a class of "enterprise buyer" selling cycles will become more complex, the solutions will need to show more a priori business value and relevance to many stakeholders, and because the solutions are not just deployed in one area, IT requirements and architecture criteria will become more important as organizations will want to know more how the solution is going to fit with "enterprise" standards.

As a result of this trend - in 2009 selling and deploying will become more complex, more constituencies will become involved in the decision, and at the same time articulating and demonstrating business value will be even more important to more business stakeholders.

2) Text Analytics will evolve from being an isolated to an integrated solution. Towards the end of 2008 we started seeing more interest from companies and partners looking to seamlessly integrate the results of text analytics back into operational systems. -- i.e. they wanted to process customer verbatims and merge the categorized, scored results back into call center applications, or moderated web forums.

This new requirement - not just for text analytics, but for operational integration of text insights and scores into downstream applications and solutions, provides an interesting opportunity for text analytics vendors to consider - whether to be a standalone application, or to be a more tightly integrated with partner products and offerings. I think the progressive text analytics companies will be wise to look for strategic partners with whom to integrate their solutions.

3) Text Analytics solutions in the customer experience space will quickly get bigger and faster. 2008 taught Clarabridge that to succeed, we needed to support ever bigger data sets, with ever faster processing requirements, and as a result we quickly learned to create our solution for scale and growth. Companies with small volumes of text data are keeping their history for perspective and trending. Companies with large customer bases and diverse lines of business are creating huge data sets - with 10s to 100s of millions of customer interactions being processed through the Clarabridge text analytics engines. Data volumes will continue to grow in 2009 and usage requirements will also go up as more users seek to explore, analyze and act on the insights in customer experience solutions.

There's no reason to expect scalability requirements won't continue to grow in 2009 and beyond. Successful vendors will be those who can see beyond today's data and user volumes and design for an order or two more magnitude in their offerings.

As long as vendors grow with the market and deliver value and efficiency to customers, they will succeed as this market evolves. Clarabridge will be one of those successful vendors.

- Sid Banerjee
CEO, Clarabridge

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New Study: "Exploring the Link Between Customer Care and Brand Reputation in the Age of Social Media "

Just came across press releases on this study, including this one:



A few salient quotes from a Brandweek article on the study:

"Forget focus groups. Consumers are giving it straight to brands, and each other, via online social media in big numbers, according to a recent study by the Society for New Communications Research, Palo Alto, Calif."

The study found that 74% of respondents choose companies or brands based on customer service experiences shared by other Web users on the Internet. Eighty-one percent of those polled said they believe blogs, online rating systems and discussion forums give consumers “a greater voice” in customer service. However, only 33% of respondents felt that companies take customers’ opinions seriously."

...Of those industries judged to be doing the best job in using social media to respond to customer service issues, technology, retail and travel companies took top honors. Dell and Amazon were noted most often as those companies doing the best job handling customer care problems via social media.

Utilities, healthcare and insurance firms fared the worst. "

Well - it's good to see that others are seeing what we're seeing at Clarabridge. In no particular order - my thoughts:

1) desirable, savvy, computer-literate, affluent customers value the customer experience, and don't want to waste time with companies that waste their time with sub-par experiences

2) those customers are not shy about making their opinions known on, and offline.

3) When they get upset - the words, the emotions, and the passions are captured in all kinds of places. In the notes in a customer support interaction. In the passionate responses of a customer survey (increasingly if not exclusively on-line surveys nowadays). And of course (as this study notes) in the forums, and groups online where like minded consumers congregate.

If you're one of those companies in travel, hospitality retail, and technology, you're probably interested to learn more. Not surprisingly, when you look at the customer rosters for firms like Clarabridge - they are full of those kinds of companies who want to learn more about customer feedback, and use the feedback to improve their customers experiences. Customers like Gaylord Hotels, Marriott, Gap Stores, United Airlines, Intuit, H&R Block, etc. They're using text mining platforms like Clarabridge's CMP to crawl web content, or text mine survey and call center verbatim content, and they're tapping into customer feedback, learning how they fare, fixing problems, benchmarking against their competitors. In short - they're GETTING IT.

As a consumer of health care, utility, and insurance firms, I'm not surprised that they're not. I'm also not surprised because I mostly don't see many of those companies using customer experience analytics solutions very much.

It's not enough to recognize that customers are posting their rants, passions, and feedback on the Internet and in surveys and in their conversations with companies. Companies need to:

- Connect to, and Collect the content from wherever it is.
- Mine and Refine the content, to translate text (in all its clumsy, wordy verbosity) into ideas, concepts, experiences, and sentiments that can be quantified,
- Analyze and Discover themes, issues, problems, opportunities, and passions of customers about the products and services they consume.

It's all about Customer Experience Intelligence. It's all about what Clarabridge does. It's not a fad. It's a trend.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Text Mining and Customer Experience - the blog I intend to write...

Since this is my first entry, I'll use this first posting to organize my thoughts and think about what I want to write over the next few days and weeks.

A bit of background:

Who am I - I'm a technology executive with more than a few years working in and around the business intelligence, data warehousing, and more recently the text mining and customer experience management and analysis space. A few years ago I started a text analytics company that's really taken off in 2007. I decided to start the blog to have a place to document my thoughts on the business we're in, the creative ways people are starting to analyze the terabytes and petabytes of unstructured customer-originated data that are increasingly available to business decision makers, and to speculate on issues that are at the intersection of business, information technology, customer experience, marketing, maybe politics, and the pace of change in all of the above...

Over the next few days and weeks ideas I want to write down include:

1) Why is there a market for text analytics, and specifically the business application subset that my company's involved in, which we call Customer Experience Management and Analysis. How did it evolve to be a viable space for a company like the one I'm working for?

2) What the heck should we call the space in 2008? Should the company's space be oriented around a technology (such as text mining, text analytics)? Or should we define our business so that it's more aligned to a specific class of business problems that it solves (i.e. customer experience management and analysis)? A good label for a company should support a nice acronym - should the acronym factor into the naming of the space?

3) What are the benefits our customers get from our solutions? Specifically,
- why do they buy our stuff
- what are the initial benefits they get when they deploy our solutions?
- what's the long term benefit of using our solutions? How do you define ROI up front, and more importantly with sustained use over time? Are our solutions "transformative?" How?

4) When you are building a solution that is grounded in technology components that are packaged and developed into a business solution, (as our company's offerings are), how much do you build, vs, license, vs partner with others in the surrounding ecosystem that supports your business area? What parts of your solution are critical, and differentiating, vs what parts are best accessed via partners? Why did we make some of the technology development decisions that we made when we built our platform? How do we expect our technology to evolve over time?

5) A brief history of Text Mining applied to customer market research -- How did the space evolve? What preceded Customer Experience Management and Analysis? What was the ancient history of the space? I have a view that text mining is a logical evolution of technology and analysis that dates back to the era of mass production, leading through the eras of mass distribution, mass retailing, and now mass consumption, and that as every era has developed over the past century, the market has required "instrumentation" - and that text analytics is the latest instrumentation that is now being applied to business (more on this as I write this post).

6) as an adjunct to posting topic #1, - is the market for text analytics and customer experience management and alalysis "wide open" or are there barriers to new entrants that are making it harder to just enter into the space if you aren't already in the thick of it? What are the critical business and technology factors that any potential entrant needs to consider before diving into this space?

7) Case Studies, Case Studies, Case Studies. If customers won't go on record (if they do you can read about it on the corporate web site), what are the interesting stories that have emerged from our deployments over the past couple of years? Changing the names and perhaps industries to protect the unauthorized, what real insights have customers gleaned through mining through customer experience data? How have they reduced the time, and cost intensity of predecessor approaches to seeking out, examining, and acting on customer experience insights? What "quick wins" have they found? Why are our customers continuing to use our solutions year after year?

8) Case Studies/Lessons learned. What SHOULDN'T Text analytics be used for? What have we learned through trials, tribulations, and failed efforts, and what did we need to do to turn lemons into lemonade? How can you avoid making mistakes by learning from our experiences?

9) What is the Customer Experience Maturity Model, and where do you sit on it? Why is it important to move up the curve from customer experience "novice" to custome experience "guru?"

10) Political Experience Management and Analysis - what can we learn from the presidential campaigns about mining customer sentiment, experience, and using it to sharpen your "customer experiences" and relationships?

11) Our Partner Ecosystem - what is it now? What do I want it to be? How can you be a partner of our company if you're a prospect, consultant, marketing services company, systems integrator, data provider, or just an interested party?

If I can get all these topics written, I should have a resonable blog. If anybody has additional ideas for posts, feel free to comment.

Happy 2008. Challenge me....