Interview with Larry Freed, President and CEO of ForeSee Results
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.