Something Borrowed, Something Blogged

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Tell me about your experience at David’s Bridal managing a voice-of-the-customer (VOC) program. Eleven years ago, when I first arrived, we didn’t have any VOC program at all. With no money for customer research, we were doing “mystery shops” and tiny customer satisfaction surveys. May Company bought us [in 20TK] and showed us how much we didn’t know about our customers. We then started outsourcing research and getting deeper into the “whys”—listening to the customers. We later signed on with Vovici and started to bring everything VOC in house, which proved to be cheaper and faster. 

Back in 2007, as social networking got more popular, I started looking at what people were saying about us. A year later we signed on with Nielsen BuzzMetrics to track some of the mentions of our company online. We got quarterly reports telling us how many mentions our brand had, but as far as sentiment and topics [of conversation], the service fell short. 

In June of last year, when Radian6 said [it was] coming out with a sentiment tool on [its] platform, we signed on. Reason being, brides like to talk—a lot. The conversation goes on and on, but it’s hard to follow the sentiment—especially on blogs, [where] there’s usually multiple sentiments expressed. Even with Radian6, it was hard to match sentiment with what our customers were actually doing. In November of last year, when Vovici did a webinar with Attensity, they addressed all of the issues I was having. I thought, “This is fantastic!” and immediately wanted to learn more about it. 

Can you elaborate on what was missing in your customer insights? Stepping back a bit, we brought on SPSS Text Analytics in 2005. [Editors’ Note: IBM acquired SPSS in 2009.] It’s great and gives you interesting word clouds based on customer conversations, but when trying to make sense of strings of words, it’s a bear—you [have] to do the heavy lifting. 

Because I’m in [the online forum known as] the Social CRM Accidental Community, I went to those guys for help. It was [industry consultant] Esteban Kolsky who said, “Attensity is by far the best thing that’s out there.” The difference is that Radian6 and BuzzMetrics use a keyword-proximity technology. So if a post is long, you can’t follow it. The sentiment must be close to [the content] you’re looking for. 

With Attensity, you can follow sentiment wherever it may be. Take, for example, customer satisfaction surveys. David’s Bridal sends it out to everyone—we received 200,000 comments a year ago. The comments are the most important part because scores don’t necessarily tell you what you need to do. When we wanted to get into detail, we used to go through the comments randomly and read them and code them according to the content. With Attensity, the advantages are threefold:

Scale: You can go through a million of these in seconds. You don’t have to have a personal filter. 

Consistency: When we used Radian6 for sentiment, our PR agency was also doing reports. The problem was we would come out with two different viewpoints. I was trying to code only customers talking, but Radian6 would give us posts from everyone—industry insiders (photographers, cake people, and wedding planners) as opposed to just customers. Through Attensity, we only run the posts of customers talking.

Filtering: I can code the URLs that I don’t want to see and cut out 25 percent to 30 percent of nonrelevant content. 

So what have you learned about David’s Bridal customers? We were trying to not only better understand our customer, but answer what we need to do to change service and support. One of the end goals—a social network site of our own that would support our customers and build a peer-to-peer forum—is still in the works, [but] the findings have been fascinating. Depending on the channel, the sentiment changes: If it’s a blog, they’re telling friends what’s been happening. If it’s a forum, they’re looking for advice. On Twitter, it’s usually, “I’m going to David’s.” Facebook is all about keeping up with your friends. When you break down the topics, it gets down to the old product-and-service component. It doesn’t necessarily have a lot to do with process and systems and stuff like that. The ultimate goal is to respond, so that it’s pervasive, and to restructure customer service so it can handle that. Brides like to talk, after all, and in my opinion, everyone is an influencer. Everybody matters.


  1. When did you implement Attensity Analyze and Survey Advantage? November 2009
  2. Who helped with the decision? The #SCRM pioneers, mainly Esteban Kolsky.
  3. Best finding? Realizing that we need to be measuring topics of conversation rather than the number of people talking about us.
  4. Biggest challenge? Allocating the resources. 
  5. What’s next for David’s Bridal? Building our own peer-to-peer social network.

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