In any business, customer satisfaction isn’t something one simply strives to attain, it is intrinsically coupled with the well-being and growth of the company. To stay on top of purchase trends or address dissatisfactions, marketing teams often administer surveys and comb through hundreds of thousands of responses to find needles of profundity in the customer service haystack. In reality, if today’s consumer has a gripe or suggestion, he or she no longer fills out a comment card or a survey. Instead, the customer takes it to the keyboard and posts comments online for the whole world to read. Given the influence of word of mouth (or more appropriately, word of “blog”), your business will feel the direct effects of online reviews - positively or negatively. According to a 2007 Deloitte & Touche study, more than eight in 10 (82 percent) of consumers said their purchasing decisions have been directly influenced by online reviews.1 With the advent of the blogosphere and social-media tools such as Twitter and Facebook, there are more opportunities for customers to voice their opinions, and the circle of influence has grown much wider. Monitoring for these comments must be a core part of your business.

 

Organizations have a unique opportunity to connect with their customers just by letting them know they are being heard. JetBlue Airways created a Twitter account after learning customers were using this platform to voice their frustrations. Now, Twitter has become a key customer service portal where the airline offers discounts and responds to flyers in real time. Using Twitter, JetBlue has turned around its negative public perception, even in a struggling aviation market. Blogger and JetBlue passenger Jonathan Fields tweeted about seeing William Shatner in his terminal and received an immediate direct message from Morgan Johnston of JetBlue’s Corporate Communications office:

 

Hi Jonathan,

Don’t worry - we didn’t follow you on Twitter because we saw you on the WiFi (that thought scares even me!) - but because I saw your tweet about William Shatner - my intention was to see if I could DM to say something mildly silly about the idea that “well JetBlue IS on Priceline” or that he cold be flying because he likes the SciFi channel.

 

Sorry to startle (and Happy Jetting)!

 

Morgan Johnston

Corporate Communications

JetBlue Airways 2

 

Now, that’s customer service! It’s a small gesture, and Morgan Johnston likely had no idea who Jonathan Fields was. But at the end of the day, the hundreds of people who read Jonathan’s blog learned about JetBlue’s personal interaction with its customers. His positive blog post may have created hundreds of new JetBlue flyers.

 

Creating a corporate Twitter account and closely monitoring the blogosphere are smart marketing practices. But the remaining challenge is how to identify and prioritize all of those relevant, Web-based comments. The Web’s reach is boundless and social-media text is quite unstructured making it impossible for a typical search to uncover everything of relevance. So, how can marketers and executives sift through all of the social-media noise - the ruminations, misfindings and the insignificant rants - to find the true opinions and reviews about their brands?

 

The answer is semantic search and analysis. Semantic search provides early identification of consumer concerns, suggestions, likes and dislikes and purchasing trends. It uncovers this information from the most unstructured corners of the Web. The retrieval of such information is not limited to recognizing key words as typical Web searches do. Instead, it uncovers the meaning the words express in their proper context and accepted meaning no matter the number (singular or plural), gender (masculine or feminine), verb tense (past, present or future) or mode (indicative or imperative).

 

In the English language, the same word can take on various meanings. For example, JetBlue’s Johnston can search the term “plane” to identify comments about its airline service. However, results will also contain text about flat surfaces, sailing, tools and trees. Go ahead, Google the word “plane” and see how many different meanings appear in the results.

 

Semantic technology is the only way to solve cases of ambiguities, because it is based on the true comprehension of the text, thus determining the correct meaning of the words. It doesn’t end there. Not only can semantic analysis find the true meaning of the terms used in the search, it associates the correct connotation to the appropriate words in the sentence.

 

For example, an automaker is researching buyer sentiments and trends before releasing a new car model. He wants to know what consumers have said about competitive models to identify negative remarks, so he can make the necessary adjustments to his company’s new version. Because the English language is complex, and the content that lives online is often hard to find, he might uncover the wrong information. Consider the following sentence: “The breaks on my awful Chevy are actually pretty good

 

This sentence contains both a positive and a negative remark. The overall feeling about the car is negative, but the sentiment in relation to the breaks is positive. This is where it gets tricky. Some searches will identify one positive and one negative and call the overall sentence “neutral.” But, that’s not accurate, is it?

 

While this is the kind of remark than can impact how the new car model is brought to market, the automaker would think it was neutral and not give it a second look. In fact, this is a negative statement and the automaker would benefit from reading it. If the automaker used true semantic intelligence, he would see the words correctly associated with the nouns they describe and be able to make effective business decisions before releasing the new car model.

 

In a nutshell, semantic search and analysis uncovers information from various unstructured sources and indentifies the meaning and relationship between words and how they are used in a sentence. Traditional search is about collaborating and sharing information online - giving average consumers a powerful voice – but semantic search is about bringing understanding and accuracy to the vast amount of information found on the Web.

 

The value of the voice of the customer to corporations is nearly infinite. Twitter, blogs, YouTube and other social-media outlets have given customers a stage and a megaphone, and they cannot be ignored. Successful competitive positioning, feature planning, messaging, advertising, pricing and much more are all dependent on understanding the customer. With semantic search and analysis, the ideas and needs customers have been trying to communicate to companies for years can finally be heard.

 

References:

1. New Deloitte Study Shows Inflection Point for Consumer Products Industry; Companies Must Learn to Compete in a More Transparent Age. Deloitte. October 1, 2007.

 

2. Jonathan Fields.“Is JetBlue using Twitter to Spy on its Customers … or Blow their Minds?” Awake at the Wheel, May 5, 2008.

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