BI: 'Voice of the customer' programs combine feedback in one place

Early adopters are working out the kinks, but say customer responses sent to the right people, quickly, can have major business impact.

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Silos' growth

The problem is that such deployments tend to create information silos that are isolated from IT staff and systems, and as a result there's little sharing of insights among groups. VOC programs need to integrate all of the various feedback channels into a single infrastructure, Temkin points out. And that's where IT comes in, he adds.

At iRobot, for example, customer feedback used to reside in a variety of information silos, including outsourced call centers and a growing number of social media sources, says Maryellen Abreu, director of global technical support at the maker of self-guided vacuum cleaners and other robotic equipment.

This meant that managers had trouble correlating the data to make high-level decisions. For instance, engineering didn't have immediate visibility to data in order to make rapid decisions on changes in product design, Abreu says. "We're introducing new products all the time, so it's important to have that immediate, almost-real-time feedback," she adds.

Burlington, Mass.-based iRobot chose to use RightNow CX, a SaaS-based customer experience management system from RightNow Technologies that "gives a 360-degree view of the customer: when they called, emailed, chatted or posted on a forum, and what issues they brought up," according to Abreu. It aggregates opinions from various sources so that top managers can quickly determine customers' key concerns and then respond in a timely fashion.

Maryellen Abreu
"We're introducing new products all the time, so it's important to have that immediate, almost-real-time feedback," says iRobot's Maryellen Abreu.

"Timely" is a relative term, however, when it comes to the social Web. "Because our product is very visual, customers would show us problems on YouTube, and at the end say, 'iRobot, what are you going to do with this?' and the post would have 60,000 hits," says Abreu. "We needed to respond faster."

The robot maker now uses RightNow's Cloud Monitor, which mines customer posts for words or phrases with negative connotations, such as all-cap words and "bad language," Abreu says. It then alerts customer support personnel and, if a post starts to go viral, automatically escalates alerts to Abreu's attention.

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