• June 2, 2008
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Roar of the Market

You’re lucky when a customer voluntarily provides you with information about their preferences. Whether it’s through a phone call, a survey, or an email, customers are telling you something about them, and that can really help your sales. Text analytics software provider Attensity released a new solution today called Market Voice. The solution seeks to get at the conversations that are about you, but not directed at you. So eavesdrop all you want—in fact, it’s encouraged.

"With the democratization of the consumer—companies can’t afford to ignore [Web data]," says Michelle DeHaaff, vice president of marketing and products at Attensity. Since its inception in 2000, Attensity has been focused on mining for customer insight through email, CRM systems, call center notes, chat, and survey data. In February 2008, the company announced the release of its Voice of the Customer (VoC) technology. This technology will be applied to the Market Voice solution to analyze the data Market Voice "scapes" off the Internet (blogs, forums, and other public Web sites), including:

  • competitive issues: seeing what customers are saying about you and your competitors. Companies can make comparisons and see opportunities in a single dashboard;
  • product issues: what specific product or services issues customers are complaining about and why (especially around new product launches, companies can attempt to mitigate issues before they create inbound chaos);
  • customer sentiment: determine the customer’s attitude about the product and connect those sentiments directly to features and functions. Also, compare the sentiment of the dissenting few to the general to determine where the problem lies.

"It’s not just the sales voice, it’s the market voice," emphasizes Rita Knox, research vice president at Gartner, and not just the voice of the customer. "It’s really going to broader sources of information and using everything out there" to garner insight, she says, like competitive intelligence. This technology is crucial as companies are juggling information in a much less structured environment. The solution caters to three levels of users:

  • The executive: uses Attensity’s Dashboard--daily dashboards into the inbox each day;
  • The manager: uses Attensity’s Dashboards and Reports—users can dig into the data; and
  • The analyst: uses Attensity’s query and analytics tools to drill in, ask questions, run analytics.

What wasn’t available with Attensity’s previous Voice of the Customer release was what DeHaaff calls the "Web harvesting technology." Before, the company used a publically available data mining technology, but can now offer its own in-house solution. One of the main differentiators, DeHaaff claims, is that the solution "semantically breaks down sentences." In other words, instead of just searching for the word "happy" and inferring that the comment was positive, Attensity can analyze whether or not there was negation somewhere in the sentence that suggests otherwise, like 'I will never be happy with this product.'

"A lot of companies get skeptical. [They think], ‘It’s the disgruntled few online. Is this really a problem for me as a company?’" DeHaaff says. Therefore, by meshing the online and offline content, companies "can validate a lot of what’s being said online with what your customers are telling you in the call center," DeHaaff says. "You’re able to rationalize the feedback you’re getting."

According to Nick Patience, managing analyst and research director at consultancy The 451 Group, the industry is anything but short of companies doing Web mining. The main difference he sees is that Attensity combines online information with internal data (i.e., call center notes, emails, etc. ), which, he admits, is a very valuable function for creating a more "rounded" view of the customer.

Patience also notes that Attensity’s parsing of data in English is very deep, perhaps deeper than many of its competitors. DeHaaff adds that the solution is available in multiple languages through a translation capability. She claims that the software continues to see 90 to 95 percent accuracy when working with translated data. Attensity’s Voice of the Customer technology can be hosted both on-demand and on-premise, which Patience sees as a "nice option" to have given that many companies already have their business intelligence and CRM systems on-premise.

According to DeHaaff, 75 percent of clients use Attensity’s solution on-premise. As the company continues to move ahead, DeHaaff reports that the company’s future plans include call center forecasting (how much of what is happening on the Internet will affect the inbound call requirement) and new product impact (looking at a new product in its entirety and all the details around customer response).

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