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Monday, March 15, 2010

Meet Opiniator's Matt Selbie

Matt Selbie, OpiniatorMeet Matt Selbie. Matt is passionate about customer opinions, which is why he formed Oberon3 and developed Opiniator to obtain feedback from customers and convert that feedback into actionable insight to improve the customer experience and help diminish customer defection.

Matt contacted me after reading Scott Perron's post about Big Bob's Customer Comment Cards. What resulted was an intense conversation about customer opinions and their value to businesses - particularly those committed to improving the customer experience. I realized that many of Matt's experiences in the oil business echoed mine in the fibers business [i.e, think how to differentiate commodities]. Differentiation means creating a memorable experience for customers; experience truly is everything, but you must monitor it and ensure it remains memorable and differentiated.

Matt took me through a demonstration of Opiniator. It seemed simple, user-friendly and delightfully practical. Questions about a customer's experience are asked via the customer's own cell phone as that person actually experiences the service or consumes the product! As the customer responds, his or her answers are analyzed and published [via the web] in real time so any problems can be fixed immediately before the customer defects. Wow! It had me thinking through all kinds of 'what if' scenarios related to the retail experience and customer satisfaction...

Consider this chart from a Gartner 2008 study about improving the customer experience. It illustrates a critical point: although many companies [i.e., 95%] collect customer feedback, very few actually do anything with the data. Imagine if more could be done with that feedback, particularly if it were obtained at the very moment that customers experienced the service, and if it could become the basis for continuous improvement, for building customer relationships, for increasing loyalty and for generating more word-of-mouth referrals.

Gartner: make use of customer feedbackI invited Matt to talk more about the customer experience, using Opiniator to illustrate the value associated with not only obtaining customer feedback, but also in figuring out what to do with the data to improve your customer experience.

C.B.: Matt, please tell me about yourself

I spent most of my career in the energy business working in various oil companies in Europe, South America, Asia and the US. Most of the assignments were in strategy, general management or marketing roles.

C.B.: How did you become so interested in customer feedback and the customer experience?

Gasoline is seen generally as a commodity hence the customer experience can be a huge differentiator. My team did a lot of work in understanding defection rates and the impact and economics of good and bad experience. Most customers DON'T complain, they simply walk away never to return, but may well now use social media to tell many others how bad their experience was - so you are not only losing a customer and revenue source but gaining negative word of mouth.

C.B.: This is where Opiniator comes in, right? So, what is Opiniator?

Opiniator is a business improvement system that allows any business to receive user feedback in real time about a product or service via the user’s own mobile phone. Brief questions are asked at the point of experience or consumption, and the user responds with a score, opinion or suggestion.

Users love it because they always get their views seen and their opinions reviewed.

Businesses love it because they receive real time, actionable feedback on the issues that really matter – those driven by real customers. This means they know which things to fix and how urgently they need fixing. This keeps customers happy and prevents them defecting.

Opiniator is a web service which means there is no hardware to buy, or software to deploy, it simply uses mobile phones and the web which means easy to use and cost effective. It is software as a service (SaaS). The business only needs an internet connection to view the data and analytics. Opiniator is also a self service model which means the business can set their own questions and targets, however often they want.

C.B.: Who is the ideal Opiniator user?

Any business that needs to really understand the users of its product or service and act on their feedback. This means we now have Opiniator being used within the energy sector, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, retail, advertising agencies, research agencies, pest control, cleaning, home and office repair, auto dealers, conferences and training. It's valuable for businesses that depend on subcontractors - who often may be the last point of contact with a consumer.

C.B.: How does it work?

From research and experience, we know that point of experience feedback is always more plentiful and accurate on site than post experience surveys, so Opiniator asks questions on site whilst the product or service is being consumed or experienced. The customer answers via any cell phone, any carrier, and may be rewarded instantly as an incentive. If customers prefer to respond via web, they can do so easily. Same goes for using a traditional mail-in postcard, although that feedback won't be instantaneously available until the postcard is received and the data entered.

Note the survey can also be anonymous, which also encourages participation.

C.B.: What can business owners do with the information?

The data is analyzed in real time and available via the web to the business so they can see what the issues are and what needs to be fixed in prioritized order. The business can use the data to improve operational issues, to supplement or replace other survey techniques and of course to answer more strategic questions [e.g., who is my competition, what is the right price, how can I best compete].

As the data is presented graphically, Opiniator also is widely used for staff training.

C.B.: Matt, why should business owners care?

All businesses have customers who defect. This defection rate is usually much higher than business owners think and hence a much bigger problem. This robs the business of cash now and in the future, means more needs to be spent on acquiring more customers and of course means the defecting customer may bad mouth the business. Hence it is always more profitable to retain a customer base than it is to acquire a new one.

The only way to prevent defection is to be close to customers, understand what they want and how the business is performing relative to their needs and take quick action. Opiniator allows customers to provide their feedback, when it matters at the point of experience, and hence delivers a business improvement tool to prevent defection.

C.B.: How does this differ from sites like Yelp or Twitter or social search?

Social media tools are largely aimed at peers or the general public, and is delivered more as a commentary. This makes it very hard for the business to systematically understand what is being said and what business decision should be taken to improve. Structured feedback with actionable analytics from the customer aimed at the business allows resources to be applied to the right issue at the right time and takes away the subjectivity.

C.B.: What suggestions do you have for improving the retail experience for customers?

Listen to your customer, ask the right question, ask often and deliver the appropriate change.

Use customers as your quality control device, your shopper panel and your mystery shopper and ensure you take action on what they are saying.

Thank you, Matt!

I'd love to hear your take on this subject. How do you obtain feedback form customers? And, then, what do you do with the information you receive?

Imagine if you could obtain real-time feedback from customers. How would it change what you do with the feedback? How would you improve your customer experience?

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