MM: Yes. Early in our corporate history we did a lot of surveys. There were several almost axiomatic truths that have distilled from having surveyed over 50,000 people. I personally have interviewed probably 3,500 or 4,000 people.
Surveys are highly structured, scientific collections of bullshit. They give you top-of-mind associations and more specifically speak to the expectations of the person asking the question.
Most of the survey data rarely comes back to anything meaningful or insightful in terms of buyer behaviors. This really relates to the superficial, although necessary, task of understanding what your customers are thinking about. Understanding that what customers think very rarely correlates to what they actually feel and do.
BK: So in this on-line context you not only ask the question and get the response but you correlate this Q&A to what they were doing during the session and what they did after the question was asked and answered. Perhaps this will provide valuable insight for Customer Experience Management.
MM: The thing that I’ve tracked now for going on a year and a half is that companies have begun to do extended, open-ended interviews with customers at various stages of what I’ll call the “customer journey to success.”
In some cases, they’re not yet customers. In some cases, they’ve just bought something but they haven’t really yet made an emotional commitment to buy it again or to use it. All the way through arm-waving evangelists.
These interviews then get transcribed. Often, verbatim—with all the broken grammar and syntax that it often entails. These transcripts then move into a specialized content database, using a text-mining engine. We start doing semantic tagging, so as to identify topics and trends and topics. And some more advanced text analysis. We start to understand and to quantify things like sentiment. Keywords and phrases that are positive, negative and neutral, as they relate to a particular policy, program, product, technology, market, demographic segment.
So these text-mining and special voice-of-the-customer databases have really started to document and crystallize the taxonomy of awareness, consideration, trial, purchase and advocacy.
I say the taxonomy of that meaning that there are specific keywords and phrases. Some of them are related directly. Some of them are only indirectly related. This taxonomy of satisfaction then becomes the basis for social media monitoring, by which to start tracking the conversation about your product market customer segments, relative to those keywords that you’ve identified—and then starting to really build more meaningful dynamic day-to-day dashboards.
The idea is then to identify who in your market really has emerged as an advocate for a particular type of application or for product usage.
BK: This sounds much like the interaction you would want in a BLOG or social media interview. To get the best perspective you should engage with Jerry Tarasofsky (iPerceptions), Larry Freed (ForeSee Results) and even Rand Nickerson (OpinionLab).