International Business: Listening worldwide to the intercultural voice of the customer

Published: Friday, April 27 2012 7:00 a.m. MDT

“Only about 10 to 15 percent of the value Mindshare offers is in survey collection,” says Mayne. “The rest of the value we bring is in actionable reporting for the entire organization.”

This reporting is not merely a matter of charting numeric ratings awarded by customers. Because the surveys are so concise, 60 percent of all feedback comes from the unstructured comments sections placed strategically throughout the survey. Automatic extraction of important information from thousands of free-form comments is no trivial task.

Mindshare uses natural language processing of IBM’s content analytics to extract keywords and analyze patterns. In multiple languages, the technology can monitor the appearance of any important words and phrases that might have serious legal implications such as “water on the floor” or “slip.” Frequent repetition of the word “pickles” can signal that people are particular about their pickle placement on a hamburger.

Some results are particularly insightful when paired with other information. For one restaurant outside the United States, Mindshare identified a high correlation between the words “cup” and “dry cleaning.” This finding quickly revealed that a particular brand of beverage cup lids was prone to leak or come loose, thus allowing the company to remedy the situation.

International mindset

Mindshare may not yet be the world’s largest company offering customer survey and enterprise feedback management, but the company is preparing for international growth by openly accommodating their clients’ global and intercultural needs. Perhaps some of the cultural awareness that drives Mindshare’s international flare springs from its headquarter location in Utah, which has the highest percentage of foreign language speakers in the United States.

Those language skills, which NPR recently labeled “Utah’s secret economic weapon,” have come in handy. One survey client was greatly impressed Mindshare could send a Utah-based, Tagalog-speaking employee to its office in the Philippines to provide onsite training, and buzz of that success story spread quickly through dozens of the client’s offices worldwide. Clients logging on to a conference call with a Japanese interpreter have been equally impressed and surprised when greeted by Japanese-speaking Americans from Mindshare.

Sixty percent of global marketers are shifting budgets to focus on new markets for growth, and 95 percent anticipate new growth will come from outside the United States, according to a survey by the World Federation of Advertisers. Companies like Mindshare that consciously choose to adapt products and services to other markets are more likely to see the benefits of that growth.

Companies that choose to be aware of such international opportunities will benefit much like those that choose to actively become aware of the good and bad reported via customer surveys. Those that ignore such threats and opportunities are like the mythical ostrich burying its head in the sand.

Adam Wooten is director of translation services at Lingotek. He also teaches a course on translation technology at Brigham Young University. Email: awooten@lingotek.com. Follow him on Twitter at AdamWooten.

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