Analytic tool seeks hidden meaning of words
- By Colleen Frye
Every interaction you have with a customer, from phone calls to e-mails and
faxes to Web surveys, may contain information that could alert you to new
business opportunities or the potential loss of a customer. Harnessing such
unstructured data -- not only what the customer said, but their intent -- and
taking immediate action, can boost efficiency revenues, says Norman Williams,
president and CEO of Island Data, Carlsbad, Calif. Island Data's software seeks
to understand the hidden meaning of words within the context of specific
''Analyzing under-used customer feedback for real-time or future analysis,''
provides many benefits to an organization, said Williams. ''This data contains
words and concepts that indicate sales opportunities and attrition risks. You
can also monitor product trends and help marketing campaigns by interpreting the
customers' own words.'' Island Data offers this real-time analysis of
unstructured customer feedback through its new Insight RT offering.
Insight RT falls into the increasingly blurred area of business intelligence
and customer relationship management (CRM). ''Somebody like Island Data can be
part of the fabric that makes the connection between those two spaces easier to
achieve,'' noted Alex Veytsel, senior research associate for data knowledge and
analytics at the Aberdeen Group, Boston. ''There's a lot of talk in the industry
about customer voice management as a CRM pursuit,'' said Veytsel. ''Instead of
just looking at the information from a data perspective, like what did [the
customer] buy, we can look at what the [customers] tell us when we afforded them
For example, said Guy Jones, founder and vice president of product marketing
at Island Data, a customer e-mailing to cancel a service subscription may
indicate one or two problems driving their cancellation. Insight RT could
analyze that communication and immediately alert someone from the retention team
as well as from product management to address the issues and possibly retain the
Conversely, in the case of Island Data's customer RealNetworks, Insight RT is
helping to identify sales opportunities. An example is a user who downloads a
free version of the software, and who then may e-mail RealNetworks with the
message: ''How come I can only see two channels and all my friends can see 15?''
Here's a potential customer for the full-featured version.
''Those are subtle [messages] that don't even contain words like 'buying,'''
said Island Data's Williams.
''We're trying to divine multiple categories and look for multiple
opportunities in the message,'' explained Jones. ''The concept of analyzing a
message for intent is different from analyzing it to retrieve information.''
Aberdeen's Veytsel calls Insight RT a hybrid of real-time analytics and
taxonomy or categorization solutions. The statistical methodology behind Insight
RT is chi square technology, which Island Data's Jones said makes the concept
recognition engine less complex to ''train'' than categorization solutions that
use neural network technology. ''In the past, these types of solutions required
linguists and statisticians; Insight RT is friendly enough to be used by a
marketing person,'' said the firm's Williams.
Insight RT is offered as a hosted solution. Pricing ranges from $120,000 to
$170,000 for the first year, which includes setup and service fees. A licensed
version will be available by year's end for $150,000.
Colleen Frye is a freelance writer based in Bridgewater, Mass.