The Value Of A Sentiment

Like many CIOs, I’m in the midst of building my 2011 plan. Every year, I challenge my team to come up with the next big idea for our organization. As we improve our thinking year-over-year, I enjoy reading the analyst research to get their opinions on where the trends are and what we should consider doing. I was recently at a CIO event where we asked one of the large consulting firms to present their 2011 predictions. What resonated with me was a quote about information automation – “from what I want to do to what I need to know”.
I ask myself, what does this mean for our organization. Although I liked the quote, I modified it to be what I consider to be a more progressive statement, “from what I need to know to tell me what’s actionable”.

Telling someone what they need to know is interesting, but it seems to get lost in the morass of information that roils through an organization. We have limited time in our day, and what I really want to know is what’s actionable based on the information that exists beyond my organization.

Within our organization, we’ve been able to produce customer 360’s since 2004 from the major systems that hold customer information. This has been a huge benefit for our field organization. Since then, we’ve augmented this information with our ability to “household” an IT department and know all of their online interactions with us. This is an even bigger benefit as we know what customers want based on their web activity. We are looking for ways to improve our lead scoring based on this information. (There are several other data sets and activities we will be “actioning”, but I consider this to be proprietary.)

In 2011, we also want to harvest the sentiment of our customers. This is all the information available to us from the social web. I consider this to be a newer area of discussion by industry analysts, and increasing in importance. The value of sentiment is in knowing what your customers are saying about you. Unto itself, sentiment analysis is valuable as you can assess the value of marketing campaigns, new product launches, etc. For example, with sentiment analysis, a car company could quickly assess the public sentiment of vehicle issues. They could assess how different marketing campaigns would impact sentiment as well as sentiment over time. This information can help companies navigate through challenging situations.

The downside of the sentiment is that it’s still at an abstraction level. What I really want to know that makes this information actionable is what customers and prospects are saying/thinking about our company and products.

Here comes our stretch goal for 2011 – predict who is likely to be a higher probability prospect and proactively let the field know. Here’s what we are thinking, marry the following information sources together: customer 360, our knowledge of what an IT group is doing on our website, the sentiment of these customers from the social web, and augment it with some third-party data. From there, we can build algorithms that will let the field know a higher probability prospect – actionable information.

Again, this is a stretch goal, and I have faith in our team!

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