Mining The Largest 'Focus Group' Ever

Ever since its creation, marketing practitioners have leveraged the "focus group" as a standard approach in securing feedback on products, services, promotions and more. Now, technology that incubated in the central hub for customer service -- the contact center -- is adding new meaning to this conventional marketing definition. Software called speech analytics is enabling and empowering marketers and others across the business, to access what can only be called the largest focus group around.

Speech analytics provides valuable intelligence that it derives from recorded customer interactions. Taking a proactive approach that goes beyond "what" is happening in contact centers and other customer-facing departments to "why" it's happening can help businesses get ahead of issues, respond to emerging trends and take advantage of opportunities.

So, what does that have to do with focus groups? Speech analytics, much like focus groups, draws upon conversations occurring with real customers. The main difference is that speech analytics provides access to feedback at a much larger scale. The technology helps eliminate biases that can sometimes be generated by surveying a small sample of customers outside their natural environment.

It's here in the contact center that a new type of focus group lives every day -- one that is rich with customer intelligence, including what they want and need, and how well a company delivers it to them. It helps marketers, along with customer service operations and product development, listen in to real customers with real problems, seeking real solutions.

By creating an index of every word and phrase identified in thousands or millions of recorded customer interactions, speech analytics can automatically identify changes in customer behavior, categorize positive and negative feedback, help understand brand recognition, identify customers at risk and more.

In its "Speech Analytics in Contact Centers" research study, analyst firm Frost & Sullivan provides a clear snapshot into the relevant use of this technology. It surmises that "by aggregating the call center's information along with data from other sources, you get a much more nuanced picture of the root causes of customer issues. You can then take action to correct (or anticipate) problems that's quicker and more effective." The report also states that "speech analytics is necessary for its power to predict customer behavior like churn through call mining or emotion detection, and for its ability to provide near-instant feedback on marketing initiatives."

Many have had the experience of calling a company's contact center to complain about a service technician running two hours late. Other common scenarios, for example, are calling an organization about its dysfunctional cell phone, or even a promotion that was under-delivered or over-billed.

These can manifest themselves as "emotional" calls because they have impacted 1) your time/schedule, 2) how you communicate with the outside world and 3) your personal finances, not to mention failing to meet expectations. All that agitation on the phone may have accomplished more than most realize. More and more, given the proliferation of social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, consumers are becoming more involved and engaged with their favorite (and sometimes least favorite) brands.

While it's important for marketers to mine the customer complaints and conversations happening online, these typically represent the tip of the iceberg. There is a vast amount of customer feedback available in your own backyard. By using tools like speech analytics to mine similar customer insight and feedback collected in the contact center, marketers can help shape what ends up eventually in the public domain and in the world of social media. This collaborative marketing approach helps savvy professionals work in tandem with their contact center managers and broader customer service operations teams to address problems before they become major issues.

Regardless of whether the feedback is negative or positive, many customer interactions contain actionable intelligence and valuable insights. Those are the conversations that when mined and analyzed en masse can help marketers gain important insight on the positive and negative impacts of customer queries on business performance and marketing outreach -- such as cancelled orders and account closures.

Some speech analytics solutions have the ability to automatically surface trends of increased and decreased usage of any terms and phrases. This capability allows marketing leaders to identify new emerging trends and changes in customer behavior that they might not otherwise even know to ask about in a regular focus group -- such as recurring references to a new competitor's offering, complaints about flaws in a recent promotion or unknown problems with a product. The possibilities for the types of business intelligence that can be gathered are plentiful and very powerful.

Imagine, as a marketer, the ability to know the exact issues customers are having with a recent promotional offer. Identifying problems early can enable marketers to make fixes and adjustments on the front end of the campaign, rather than long after it concludes, thus impacting its success.

Next time you think about creating a focus group, look within your own organization for the largest sample ever!

3 comments about "Mining The Largest 'Focus Group' Ever ".
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  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 8, 2009 at 4:14 p.m.

    Very interesting and used properly, this could be extremely valuable to marketing. By the way, don't the various protective agencies use these type of methods to find and catch criminals?

  2. Txt Impact from txtimpact, December 9, 2009 at 9:40 a.m.

    Txtimpact Marketing provides Secure marketing and mobile solutions for the marketer of the 21st century. Txtimpact Marketing delivers best strategic mobile marketing solutions for companies pursuing state-of-the-art communication and interactive media initiatives.
    TxtImpact employs a feature-rich, Web-based administrative tool to give businesses the ability to launch, manage and track their own mobile marketing campaigns. TxtImpact for Business features include:
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  3. Tom O'brien from MotiveQuest LLC, December 9, 2009 at 10:04 a.m.

    We have been doing this work for over 6 years now - and I know of Fortune 500 companies that have been using these techniques for longer than that.

    We even used these techniques to predict the outcome of the 2008 Presidential election.

    You stole my sales pitch - the internet as the world's largest, unstructured focus group. Organic, un-moderated, real - talking to each other for their own reasons, not ours.

    MotiveQuest LLC

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