I recently spoke with Larry Freed, pres­i­dent and CEO of Fore­See Results, for the sec­ond in a series of inter­views with some of our 140+ Gen­e­sis part­ners. Fore­See Results uses a patented cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion method­ol­ogy to cap­ture and ana­lyze the online “voice of the cus­tomer,” offer­ing clients data that helps them increase sales, loy­alty, rec­om­men­da­tions and web­site value.

Larry shared his thoughts on the need for cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion and ways for Web sites to ensure they are meet­ing that need.

CP: With the com­pe­ti­tion only a click away and the bar­ri­ers to switch­ing brand loy­alty lower than ever, I’m a big believer in what you have called “accel­er­ated Dar­win­ism.” How do you see tech­nolo­gies like Fore­See and Omni­ture work­ing together to help cus­tomers not only sur­vive, but thrive in this new era, espe­cially dur­ing a time of eco­nomic uncertainty?

LF: “Accel­er­ated Dar­win­ism” is how I describe the fact that, on the Web, the costs of switch­ing brands goes to zero. The the­ory at first was that every­thing would become a com­mod­ity and be price-driven — but that hasn’t hap­pened. What has hap­pened instead is that the user expe­ri­ence is all-important: the nav­i­ga­tion, the look and feel, the prod­uct, the mer­chan­dis­ing, the whole site expe­ri­ence is vital in keep­ing the cus­tomer from click­ing away to another brand or site. That increases the com­pe­ti­tion, which puts even more empha­sis on meet­ing the cus­tomers’ needs and increas­ing expec­ta­tions. So, the best will sur­vive, but it will hap­pen quicker than ever before because switch­ing costs are so low.

There’s more trans­parency than ever before, as well. When you walk into a store, you know a whole lot more than you ever did about pric­ing and prod­uct, because of the Web.

Tech­nol­ogy brings huge value. When you bring atti­tu­di­nal data from Fore­See Results and ana­lyt­ics data from Omni­ture, you improve those expe­ri­ences and can ensure that you meet your cus­tomers’ needs.

CP: Par­tic­u­larly for retail­ers, a multi-channel per­spec­tive into cus­tomer behav­ior is a pri­or­ity. In what ways are you see­ing your tech­nol­ogy influ­ence cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion in chan­nels beyond online?

LF: I heard a phrase from Evan Schu­man, who writes for eWeek: he talks about the merged chan­nel. It means that no longer are peo­ple choos­ing from one chan­nel to another. They’re choos­ing mul­ti­ple chan­nels, and all chan­nels together are mak­ing up the expe­ri­ence. It’s impor­tant for lead­er­ship to under­stand that. Smart com­pa­nies know that what they learn from tech­nol­ogy such as Fore­See and Omni­ture about cus­tomer behav­ior can pro­vide value beyond only the sales they’re pro­duc­ing online. The more you can under­stand the online process, the more it will impact the offline process.

Still, it can be very dif­fi­cult, in that you have the anony­mous vis­i­tor who browses online at work, goes into store and buys tomor­row, who next week browses from their iPhone and then buys online. There’s still a fair amount of anonymity in the shop­ping expe­ri­ence. But when you can cap­ture and ana­lyze the online voice of cus­tomer data, you can go a long way toward increas­ing sales, loy­alty, rec­om­men­da­tions and value, both on the Web site and off.

CP: Out­side of retail, what indus­try seg­ments are doing a good job of inno­vat­ing using your technology?

LF: The need for Fore­See stretches across a lot of dif­fer­ent indus­tries, but our two biggest are retail and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. Most peo­ple don’t see a sim­i­lar­ity between the CIA career Web site and the likes of Sephora. But even non-transactional Web sites have a need to under­stand the expe­ri­ence behav­iorally as a per­for­mance met­ric. If you have a gov­ern­ment infor­ma­tion Web site, how do you gauge if your site is suc­cess­ful? Under­stand­ing where peo­ple are com­ing from helps you under­stand if your mar­ket­ing or PR efforts are suc­cess­ful. Once they reach your site, you want to answer some ques­tions: Have you met their needs? Are they going to come back?

The answer is, we’ve yet to see the indus­try where under­stand­ing the per­for­mance of the Web site from a customer’s per­spec­tive is not critical.

CP: What is the impor­tance of being able to com­bine click-stream behav­ioral data with the sen­ti­ment and voice of online customers?

LF: Imag­ine your ana­lyt­ics data is telling you that a vis­i­tor views 20 pages in 10 min­utes. Is that good or bad from a customer’s per­spec­tive? The vis­i­tor may be view­ing so many pages because he is inter­ested in the con­tent — on the other hand, he may be click­ing around because he’s frus­trated, unable to find what he is look­ing for.

Finan­cial ser­vices is one area that has a great oppor­tu­nity to lever­age data from Omni­ture with a Fore­See sur­vey. Ana­lyt­ics can tell you the com­ple­tion rate for a self-services form and where cus­tomers are drop­ping out. As they’re com­plet­ing the form, a trig­gered Fore­See sur­vey can tell you how a cus­tomer feels about the process, and why they’re drop­ping out.

For exam­ple, I recently got an iPhone, and it blew up on me. I went online for sup­port, and ended up hav­ing to spend 20 min­utes on a phone call. There’s no live chat. So even­tu­ally, the prob­lem was solved, but I’m a lit­tle sour on Apple. It took a lot of time. My point is that you need to under­stand not only the behav­ior, but the per­cep­tion of the con­sumer about the experience.

CP: Fore­See has been a long-time Accred­ited Gen­e­sis Part­ner, and we’ve had sev­eral joint cus­tomer suc­cesses. What sort of influ­ence has being an Accred­ited Gen­e­sis part­ner had on your business?

LF: Being part­ners makes it eas­ier for our orga­ni­za­tions to work together because the frame­work is defined. That makes it eas­ier for our cus­tomers to work together with both Fore­See and Omniture.

The part­ner­ship also helps edu­cate peo­ple out there that one plus one equals three: the value of the com­bined data is far greater than the indi­vid­ual pieces.

I also believe that there is an ecosys­tem of met­rics avail­able out there. To be suc­cess­ful, you have to have many of them, and you have to bring them together.

CP: As pres­i­dent and CEO of Fore­See Results, you inter­act with real mar­ket inno­va­tors at events, on pan­els, via your blog. What is some of the com­pelling advice you offer them that you believe every­one should be aware of, whether they are ready to embark or not?

LF: There are a cou­ple of impor­tant mes­sages I like to get across: the first is, you can’t man­age what you can’t mea­sure. We also say, what you mea­sure will deter­mine what you do, so it’s crit­i­cal that you mea­sure the right things.

All too often, mar­keters mea­sure what they can count, rather than what mat­ters most. They miss the things that are most influ­en­tial to their suc­cess. If you focus on the things that don’t mat­ter, it will change your pri­or­i­ties in a bad way. But dis­cover and mea­sure the things that mat­ter the most, and you’ll find your path is clearly marked.

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