headertext headertext promolink

Archive for October, 2011

iPhone 4S knock customer satisfaction ratings out of the park

We finally got enough customer feedback to see the evidence that iPhone 4S substantially improved customer experience compared to iPhone 4 models. Apple resolved antenna issues completely and as the result significantly improved reception/signal clarity. Customers love new keyboard experience and their usability satisfaction ratings are exceedingly high. The results are based on Opinion Mining of 4,489 Apple iPhone customers published online.

Market Intelligence Analysis

The image above highlights the attributes of customer’s experience most important to them as they have articulated in their feedback. No keywords were used during the analysis to identify these attributes, and no questions were asked to influence the answers, as surveys are not our business or part of our opinion mining methodology. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Can Customer Feedback help to create innovative products??

I keep struggling with the definition of what is an innovative blockbuster product (or service), and this is yet another attempt: A truly innovative product is the one that delights its customers by anticipating their needs before they knew they have them. In other words, if you want to develop a blockbuster product, you should stop trying to better serve the existing needs of your customers and instead try to discover needs that customers may not realize they have and address them.

 

Traditionally, companies use customer feedback to assess satisfaction with existing products and to validate product developer’s ideas for the improvements. One of the most popular methods used for collecting customer feedback are survey and panels, where the questions asked or topics moderated tend to reflect interests of product development team and focus on how customers experience their product.

 

I would like to pose that truly innovative product developers use a different perspective to discover the needs customers cannot articulate in controlled or moderated environment – the perspective of holistic experience of a job the customer “hired” the product in question to do.

The journey starts with the understanding of what the “job” they want to do is and what a desirable outcome is. The next step is to imagine how this whole experience can be simplified in its entirety, which may or may not involve your product. I use the word “simplified” because it is an ultimate description of improvement in a context of “desirable outcome.” Terms we usually use to describe improvements – Better, Faster, Cheaper – are traps anchoring us to the incremental changes of status quo.

 

The complete customer experience starts with a notion that the desired outcome can be achieved, and goes through discovery of components required, acquisition of the components and/or materials and skills all the way through a process of applying them. Your product may be just one of many in that process, but if you can make it easier to find at the conception stage, simpler to understand that it is the best alternative to get the job done at the acquisition stage, and require less skill and/or effort to operate, that will make your product a lot more successful. However, truly innovative products do often have an element of disruption that does not easily fit into organizational structures. If you are a drill product manager, and survey satisfaction of a drill purchasers, the ideas of alternative wall anchoring to hung pictures will not likely come up. However, even if it does, how does it help you or your department?  I wonder if a celebrated genius of Steve Jobs could only manifest itself because he operated from above of organizational hierarchy.

 

The question is, “Can Customer Feedback help to create innovative products?” If you define Customer Feedback as the results of survey or other structured information-gathering method, the answer is NO. The best outcome of these exercises is reduced uncertainty about your assumptions (i.e., confirmation of what you already know). The probability of discovering an idea that could lead to the conceptualization of an innovative product is extremely low, but could be improved somewhat by allowing open-ended questions and a lot of unstructured comments.

 

I define Customer Feedback as any and all customer-generated content available about a product/service in any form customers chose to communicate it. That includes company and public forums, customer support notes and call transcripts, company sales notes, customer’s Facebook comments, and customer videos and reviews published online. The wider Customer Feedback “fishing” net is cast, the higher probability of innovative ideas discovery. Combine it with the right analysis methodology that does not tie you up with pre-conceived keywords and ontology, and your chances are looking even better.

Customer Experience of smart phones

This is a new analysis of customer feedback, which is available online, about their smart phones. At this time we are tracking and analyzing comments from 37,110 customers on 136 mobile smart phones. I decided to filter out the phones which were not updated with new customer comments during the last 30 days to insure that these phones are still available on the market. The resulting Product Reputation report is available at Market Intelligence.

I selected the most reviewed phones for each operating system to take a close look at what attributes are important to the smart phone customers. As customers keep posting their reviews and forum comments about their experience with the phones they chose,  Reliability remains the most important specific attribute that dominate the conversation as 15.22% of all opinions mined is focused on it.

 

Let’s face it, anybody who buys a smart phone and pays for the service expects to be able to use their phone every time they want to. Apple clearly outshines competition by exceeding customers’ expectations of Reliability by 10%. HTC-HD7 (Win7 OS “representative”) meets their customers’ expectations: however Android (HTC Thunderbolt), Symbian (NokiaN8) and RIM’s Blackberry Curve 9330 are a disappointment to customers who selected to purchase these phones.

Overall customers are satisfied with their decisions to various degrees, but Apple iPhone users are reporting that the phone exceeded their expectations by 42%. Not surprisingly they also are the most satisfied with the choice and quality of the Applications available to them, their Usability and Web Browsing Experience. Since I personally have never purchased an Apple product, nobody can accuse me in the Apple bias: however this phone has earned a remarkable reputation by managing not to disappoint its user in a single attribute of customer experience.

Nokia N8 leads customer satisfaction in Battery Life, exceeding expectations by 14%, Call Quality, Music Player experience, Sound and Video Quality. However, it also disappoints their customers where it really counts – poor Customer Support, inadequate Keyboard, Operating System experience and Web Browsing.

Below is the list of top 19 Customer Experience Attributes by their importance to the customers as they opined in their comments and reviews. Our methodology does not utilize surveys, focus groups, panels or other forms of leading questions/bias forming market research tools. I have filtered out any Attribute with importance below 0.35% that may be very valuable for Product Marketing analysis, but not very meaningful for general consumption. The complete list is available on request:

  1. General Satisfaction (~CSI) – 16.96%
  2. Reliability – 15.22%
  3. Usability – 8.97%
  4. Battery Life – 5.42%
  5. Screen/Display experience – 4.44%
  6. Call Quality – 3.78%
  7. Customer Support – 3.39%
  8. Style/Design – 3.19%
  9. Picture Quality – 1.94%
  10. Feature Set – 1.92

The selection of phones for the comparative analysis would vary based on criteria important to a person who conducts the research – I wanted to compare a single representative phone per operating system and you may want to find the best Android phone for example. The Attributes and their importance may vary based on such choice as customers “conversations” could yield substantially different results.

Amazon Fire vs Apple iPad 2

Last week, the announcement of Amazon Fire line of products created a sizable splash in social media, Consumer Electronics, business and IT publications. While this new device does not have specs of a tablet, most observers immediately started to pin it against iPad. Is it a fair comparison? The answer to this question depends on your definition of what a product is. If you define a product by its functions and features, the answer may be – No. However, if your understanding of a product agrees with Clay Christensen’s definition as the “jobs-to-be-done,” the iPad and Fire will most definitely compete for the same share of consumer wallet, as most customers of these devices use them for web browsing/entertainment most of the time.

Since the Amazon Fire is not yet shipping to the customers, I would like to offer a comparison between Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad 2 from the perspective of their customers. Online marketing research produced this analysis of 7,706 customers feedback published in social media.

Market Intelligence analysis

 

The image above highlights the attributes of customer’s experience most important to them as they have articulated in their feedback. No keywords were used during the analysis to identify these attributes, and no questions were asked to influence the answers, as surveys are not our business or part of our opinion mining methodology.

You can click on this link to access the dynamic dashboard and verbatim (by clicking on a specific bar).

Given such a high perception of value users of relatively primitive but extremely functional Kindle give to their experience, the Fire is poised to make a sizable bite out of current iPad tablet growth prospects.

Customers want us to listen more

online marketing researchThis morning, I had an interesting experience. Among many emails, tweets and webinar offerings, I managed to expose myself blindly to two that focused on one challenge I have to overcome the most – talking too much and listening too little. Interestingly enough, neither of the messages was specifically targeting individual or style shortcomings, and the subject line of these presentations was not about listening skills. If this is not a moment of serendipity, then I don’t know what is. BTW it also synch with my favorite definition of serendipity: “…is when you come to look for a needle in a stack of hay, and you end up finding a farmer’s daughter.”

 

The first piece of content is a video from http://www.entselling.com/ that talks about challenges of entrepreneurial selling and is not focused on the selling or listening style at all. It is very good and I strongly recommend it to any startup team, but the listening piece resonated with me the most. I’ve been trained on the importance of this skill for selling many years ago, and judging by my performance at the time, I have even learned to apply it. However, as it may be obvious to people who know me, it is not one of my natural qualities :). The more I get excited about the subject of conversation, the less patient I get with listening to my conversation partners, particularly if I think I already figured out what they are trying to communicate.

 

I may be right about that, but it doesn’t create a great conversation experience, nor does it make them feel that they have been heard and that I actually do understand their concerns or problems I am proposing to address with my product or service. Apparently, it is a very common problem undermining many startup founders who are understandably excited about their creations to a detriment of their potential customers’ comfort, and subsequently a sales success. Maybe I should start looking for a startup founders “shut up and listen” support group. Please let me know if such a group exists.

 

The second piece is even more interesting and was presented by Rebel Brown at the Defy Gravity webinar sponsored by TreeHouseInteractive. Rebel is a very dynamic and passionate speaker, and she was talking about many marketers trying to use social media as traditional content broadcasting channel. The main lesson I took out of this presentation is about a challenge of institutionalized listening that needs to become a part of personalized conversation if a brand wants to be successful in social media. I suppose that no brand will be able to survive without social engagement with their customers, as the customers are creators of a brand.

 

“Advertising can help you sell good products, but only your customers can help you build a great Brand!”

 

The challenge is in learning what is important to your customers and communicating with them about this, as opposed to focusing on your product or your brand. I think the most difficult part is to not assume that we already know what it is, and not be afraid to learn from these communications.

 

Rebel also made a great point about the practice of counting followers and “likes” as a result of social media efforts. I will paraphrase it here as, “Do not confuse tactical metrics with actual meaningful results.” Let’s face it – these only exist because they are easy to count. Their relevance to business outcomes is very questionable, and the only thing they help to learn is how to manipulate or game the counting mechanisms.

 

I don’t think a “real” marketer can be helped by a mere support group or volunteer 12-step program. Perhaps there is an opportunity for a true “rehab.” All you need is a recovering marketing celebrity lending their name to this venture.