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15 Nov. 2017 | Comments (0)

Three major themes ran through every conversation at the recent Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement:

  • If you are not measuring your business value, you’re not measuring what matters.
  • Communications’ value is in risk avoidance; don’t waste time trying to prove attribution to revenue.
  • Where you sit determines what you count. Traditional communications metrics may be useful to staff, but no one else cares.

Every case study we heard bore out the truth in those statements. As Mark Stouse, CEO of Proof, put it: “CEOs sees everything as a series of choices based on relative opportunity costs.”

Cisco's CMO Scorecard: The key to good metrics is getting into the mindset of your customers

While not all CMOs may align with that perspective, the CMO scorecard that Elizabeth Rector uses at Cisco clearly does. As she put it: “Everything starts with the business… Get into the mindset of the customers and understand what they are doing with their wallets.” (That’s Elizabeth speaking at the Summit in the photo above.)

The sales funnel drives what’s on her dashboard, so it includes metrics on total addressable market, Cisco’s market share, and its share of wallet, as well as customer perceptions, reputation, share of voice, sentiment, influence, and engagement. While the dashboard started domestically, Cisco has rolled it out internationally, to better understand which touch points are relevant to what countries. She also uses RepTrak from Reputation Institute to keep a close watch on the company’s reputation, especially relative to the competition.

On the media side, Cisco combines social listening with customer research to find insights into customers’ needs and pain points. She then translates that data into specific recommendations for the product teams. She uses social listening tools to find narratives that are particularly relevant to the market, as well as those that are just emerging.

She finds this system particularly useful when rumors and competitive initiatives arise. Ransomware, for instance, hadn’t been a major issue for them before this year. As the data revealed an increase in customers’ concerns about the issue, Cisco used their system to formulate a position on the topic that would resonate.

As with all technology products, word of mouth and influencers are critical to buying decisions. Not only does she track the key voices in the industry, but her metrics include Cisco’s share of voice among those influencers. Her advice:

  • Get into the mindset of the customers. Understand what they are doing with their wallets and what are they saying to you.
  • Use data to understand what drives reputation. The key question is: Will your customers give you the benefit of the doubt in a crisis?
  • Have a thorough understanding of the business.
  • Align communications metrics with the business, and integrate with other key business metrics.
  • Use a closed-loop process for metrics to ensure that action is taken on the data.
  • Use data and metrics to drive strategy.

The Consumer Side: More data to get inside the customers' minds

Key performance indicators on the consumer side are radically different, as we heard from Southwest, Hannaford, and Exeter Health.

Southwest flies through crises

Frequent fliers furious—Kim Boller explained how Southwest’s long-time commitment to measurement paid off during two recent crises. The first was a technology glitch that accidentally denied priority boarding to thousands of frequent fliers. Southwest’s robust social listening program works closely with customer service, and quickly picked up the frequent fliers’ complaints. Internal monitoring measured the extent and intensity of the backlash. Boller credits that data with their ability to respond quickly and turn the situation around.

A drag at United—It was a very different story when United received huge negative press for dragging a passenger off an overbooked flight. The story initially had nothing to do with Southwest, until a fake Southwest ad, created in response to the incident, went viral. In addition, the incident triggered a tsunami of debate on overbooking in both traditional and social media.

The Southwest crisis team went into high gear and, as usual, let the data guide their decision-making. They married communications data with booking and reservation data for a holistic view to inform larger business decisions. They evaluated their response by analyzing Southwest’s reputation relative to its competitors, to better understand long-term impacts.

Smells like team spirit—Southwest also uses data to diffuse issues internally. Internal data at one point indicated a potential morale problem. To evaluate it, they accessed years of longitudinal data on the sentiment of employee posts in their internal blog, as well as reams of employee attitude data. Thanks to the data they showed that what first appeared to be a trend was actually only a temporary hiccup.

Boller’s advice:

  • Human analysis is a critical component to data mining.
  • Big or small, communications data is always a helpful tool to understand the real-time perception of a crisis.
  • Is your data telling the story? If not, look for a new way to share that message. Make the data work for you!
  • Just because you didn’t start a crisis doesn’t mean you won’t become involved. Use your data to prepare accordingly.

Hannaford’s Cycle: Test, measure, rinse, and repeat

Similar to Southwest, Maile Buker, VP Marketing at Hannaford Supermarkets, has access to a ton of data. Like Boller, she agrees that it is how you use it that is important. Because of the speed of the sales cycle in the grocery business, Buker has an enviable ability to, as she says, “test, measure, rinse, repeat.” In other words: do research, take action, measure results, test again, etc.

Included in her tool kit are consumer insights from marketing programs, co-marketing campaign metrics, a brand health tracker, customer satisfaction surveys, price perception data, social media, and ongoing feedback from customers.

Hannaford gets fresh While one might expect that most Hannaford marketing programs are geared toward moving product, it is corporate image that differentiates the brand and drives the programs. Their alignment with “fresh” is priority one. It’s a coordinated effort that starts with the design of the stores themselves and is combined with promotional campaigns and affiliations with local celebrity chefs.

Their key performance indicators include not only incremental increases in sales and profit dollars, but also customer engagement as measured by coupons redeemed and trials of private brand items. Individual stores are tracked over time on their NPS score, satisfaction, quality, wait time, and inclination to use again.

Another major KPI is price perception. Common wisdom perceives Hannaford as more expensive than local competitors such as Walmart and Market Basket. In fact, they are generally equal or lower priced on many items. They use a long-running Brand Health Tracker survey to determine price perception on a regular basis.

Loyalty For social media the focus is on customer engagement, and a loyalty program is now rolling out. Quantified by sharing and comments, they plan to link social profiles to loyalty data so they can directly measure trip frequency, basket size, and promotion efficiency as a result of social media campaigns. Loyalty program data will also allow better message matching to shopper interest.

Hospitals: Traditionally data rich and information poor

If you think retail grocery is complicated, imagine the challenge of a job that started with a charge to predict upcoming actions by the market, competitors, the State of New Hampshire, the insurance industry, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Now add in community relations, PR, social media, advertising, events, and sponsorships. That is all part of Mark Whitney’s wheelhouse as the Vice President of Strategy and Advancement of Exeter Health Resources (EHR) a regional health system in southern New Hampshire. He admits that he couldn’t navigate through all those challenges without copious amounts of data.

He describes his industry as one that has traditionally been “data rich and information poor.” Health data was housed in multiple silos and focused primarily on detailed clinical data. People who used the systems were seen as “patients,” not “customers,” and were counted by ailment instead of by needs or interests.

The good news is that, aided by the Affordable Care Act, data is now far more plentiful in health care systems like Exeter. Patients are now seen as customers whose satisfaction is critical to survival.

Data-driven healthcare

The data that Whitney gathers regularly includes:

  • A community needs survey to identify areas of greatest need within the region;
  • The health of the population his hospital serves;
  • All the data required by law on every admission and readmission;
  • Patient satisfaction data;
  • Employee data; and
  • Surveys of patient perceptions of the quality of care as well as the reputation of the institution itself.

All that data in isolation would likely mean nothing, but when woven together, it can recommend specific steps. In 2011 when the largest insurer in the state informed Exeter’s patients that they would be dropping Exeter from its list of covered providers, many patients panicked. Worse, the insurer used flawed data to cite Exeter’s high costs as the reason. Whitney admitted that they underestimated the implications of the crisis and suffered the consequences with a dramatic drop in loyalty scores.

The good news is that Whitney could put that bad news data to excellent use a year later, when a traveling lab tech infected 20+ Exeter surgery patients with Hepatitis C. Exeter used the earlier data to decide which tactics and messages were more likely to resonate with the local population and thus contained the reputation damage. In fact, patient loyalty quickly rebounded.

Whitney also uses data for re-admissions in combination with population surveys to redesign service lines and decide where to expand.

Perhaps most intriguing, their most recent local community survey identified teen suicide prevention as a top concern. It was a need that Exeter’s standard service lines weren’t equipped to address. They quickly redirected their charitable giving to award $1 million in grants to address the root causes of youth suicide.

Balancing healthy behaviors 

Whitney’s next big challenge is to shift the imbalance between spending on health care and what actually keeps us healthy. A recent Thomas Jefferson University study showed that 50% of what keeps a population healthy is exercise and other healthy behaviors, while access to health care contributes just 10%. In contrast society spends 88 percent of its health care budget on medical services, and just 5% on encouraging behaviors that keep us healthy. Calculate the consequences of that for a while.

Whitney believes data will only grow in importance.For him the future of measurement “means becoming much more sophisticated about understanding our relationship with the people we serve… As healthcare struggles between market-driven fragmentation and population-driven health, we need to move from an episodic, transactional relationship with our patients to a longitudinal, long-term, multidimensional relationship with our healthcare consumers. Communication measurement and data will help drive that transition.”

This article was first published by Paine Publishing.

  • About the Author: Katie Paine

    Katie Paine

    Katie Delahaye Paine is founder and CEO of Paine Publishing, LLC and Publisher of The Measurement Advisor, a newsletter devoted entirely to measurement topics. She has spent the last two decades helpi…

    Full Bio | More from Katie Paine


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