The Right Investments for the Social Analytics Journey: Dell’s View

It’s common to talk of the “customer journey,” of the path an individual takes from needs awareness, via research and evaluation, to purchase and, in the case of a happy customer, loyalty and a lasting relationship. The customer journey may involve multiple channels and touchpoints.

Social touchpoints are among the most important, at every stage of the customer journey. We explore them in this interview with Shree Dandekar, general manager for social analytics at Dell and a speaker at the LT-Accelerate conference, December 4-5, 2014 in Brussels.

The ability to understand, measure, and shape social influence and advocacy is hugely important. You need software to do the job right, software that automates collection, filtering, and analysis of social and online text in conjunction with network and market analytics. Techniques are rapidly evolving, making social media analytics innovation a topic of great interest for brands and agencies across industry.

The social business challenge and technical responses are central topics at LT-Accelerate. I’m very much looking forward to Shree’s presentation, about tools and techniques for social ROI. If this topic interests you as well, you’ll want to learn more. An interview I recently conducted with Shree is a start, then I hope you’ll join us in Brussels.

Shree Dandekar, Dell
Shree Dandekar, Dell

Shree has been at Dell for 14 years, in roles covering software design, product development, enterprise marketing and technology strategy. He is responsible for developing and driving the strategy for Dell’s predictive analytics and BI solutions.

Q1: The topic of this Q&A is social media analytics. What’s your personal SMA background and your current work role?

Shree Dandekar: I am the GM for our social analytics offering and have been responsible for taking Dell products in this space to market.

Q2: What are key technical and business goals of the analyses you’re involved in?

Shree Dandekar: Given that we are in the business of offering social analytics to our customers, our technical and business goals are tailored around that. Specifically, technical goals are focused on making our social analytics product robust enough to support our customers’ needs. This does include making sure we capture the right sentiment, glean the right insights, and prep the data to ensure both business and social context information can be surfaced in an efficient manner. Our business goals are to make sure our customers can realize their “social nirvana” by identifying themselves on the social analytics journey and making the right investments in moving to the next level.

Q3: And what particular analytics approaches or technologies do you favor, whether for text, network, geospatial, behavioral, or other analyses? [You don’t have to cover all these analysis types.]

Shree Dandekar: We use predictive analytics algorithms to derive insights from Social Media data. Dell has invested significant IP in building its text and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities and our social media analytics offerings is directly built on top of that foundation. Dell also recently acquired a leading predictive analytics player: Statistica. Statistica Text Miner is an extension of Statistica Data Miner, ideal for translating unstructured text data into meaningful, valuable clusters of decision-making “gold.” As most users familiar with text mining already know, real-world data comes in a variety of forms, not always organized or easily ready to analyze. Text mining digs for the underlying information not readily apparent in traditional structured data.  These data sources can be extremely large as well.  Statistica Text Miner is optimized and has recently been further enhanced for working with such data.

Q4: To what extent do you get into sentiment and subjective information?

Shree Dandekar: Dell joined forces with a leading text analytics provider to leverage sentiment and text analytics. Their patented NLP engine uses a mix of rules and dictionaries to break down and analyze customer feedback text, and to score it on an 11-point sentiment scale for added granularity and measurement. The sentiment and text analytics solution enables Dell to make sense of the vast amount of customer feedback data available. In order to make the insights relevant to Dell’s business and understand brand health through the voice of the customer, the social analytics team developed a proprietary metric, the SNA metric. This metric is an indicator of purchase intent, giving Dell a clear view into customer advocacy of the Dell brand.  Once the social media data is collected, analyzed, and scored for sentiment, it is then scored against Dell’s SNA scale.

Q5: How do you recommend dealing with high-volume, high-velocity, diverse social postings — to ensure that analyses draw on the most complete and relevant data available and deliver the most accurate results possible?

Shree Dandekar: Dell is using this patent-pending software (SNA) and integrating it into all aspects of the business from product development, marketing, Net Promoter Score (NPS) diagnosis, customer support/service, sales, and M&A. Measuring more than 1.5 million conversations annually, the system provides the ability to drill down to very granular parts of the business in real time. It serves as a source of uniform distribution and assimilation of customer feedback for multiple business functions. This enhances Dell’s avowed policy of customer centricity and direct feedback. And, since it updates in real-time, SNA accelerates customer feedback on important topics enabling shorter response cycles without negatively affecting the brand health.

Q6: Could you provide an example (or two) that illustrates really well what you’ve been able to accomplish via SMA, that demonstrate strong ROI?

Shree Dandekar: The Dell social media analytics portfolio includes the patent-pending Social Net Advocacy (SNA) metric. SNA is designed to measure the net advocacy of a brand or topic, calculated from the sentiment and context of social media conversations (see figure). Dell uses SNA internally to help the company deliver an enhanced experience to its customers. SNA is integrated within the Dell Social Media Command Center, which enables the company to monitor and react to online conversations in real time.

Dell measures SNA at the brand level and also extends this measurement to more than 150 topics representing various aspects of the business. Online conversations are analyzed for topics including products, services, marketing, customer support, packaging and even community outreach efforts. Each of these conversations influences brand perception and therefore affects the overall advocacy or health of the brand. SNA enables organizations to understand, quantify and contextualize online feedback, leading to informed business decisions that help improve the overall customer experience. Organizations can integrate customer feedback in near-real time for short response cycles — meaning that an organization can quickly connect with a customer and discuss relevant solutions.

The customer feedback derived from the SNA program is delivered across the entire organization, from departments such as customer care and quality control to marketing and product development. The real time analysis and measuring of social data has allowed Dell to proactively quell any public concerns before they grow into potentially larger issues. Moreover, Dell is able to add context to the sentiment and SNA scores such as understanding whether the customer is a brand advocate or not.

For example, within hours after the launch of a specific Dell product, the social analytics team saw a declining trend in SNA (decreased by more than 50%). When the analyst team looked further into the issue, they found a significant number of social media conversations expressing anger over the pricing for the new product. They turned to Dell’s chief blogger who quickly wrote a post explaining the situation and rectifying the price concerns. Within one day, Dell was able to return to original sentiment levels. Moreover, the general manager didn’t even need to be brought into the issue- employees are empowered to make quick and informed decisions.

Q7: Finally, do you have recommendations to share, regarding choice of data sources, metrics, analytical methods, and visualizations, in order to best align with desired business outcome?

Shree Dandekar: With the explosive growth of social media, customers are increasingly taking their conversations to online platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, community forums, wikis and blogs. Because social media has the power to influence brand reputation, daily engagement with people who are discussing an organization’s brand has become a critical step for understanding the market — and in some cases, converting detractors into brand advocates.

Through social media analytics, organizations can determine who is doing the talking: Are they customers, influencers or others? They can find out when specific events caused positive or negative conversations and also measure general brand sentiment on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. This rich data enables enterprises to obtain real-time customer insights that can help solve complex business challenges.

The development of a social media analytics strategy can be thought of as a journey that begins by listening to online conversations. The next steps are to collect, record and analyze the data, and then monitor trends. Finally, heuristics and business algorithms are applied to the data to derive actionable insights. This journey from an ad hoc approach to a highly optimized solution does not happen overnight but in increments, as an enterprise develops analytics maturity. To achieve this maturity, business leaders need to make the right investments in technology, and then invest in training people and creating a social media analytics culture within the organization.

Thanks, Shree. Readers, if you’re intrigued by Shree’s take on social media analytics, please check out the LT-Accelerate program and consider joining us in Brussels!

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