Kristin Muhlner is the chief executive officer of newBrandAnalytics, the global leader in social market intelligence. Kristin has worked at companies such as Rollstream, webMethods, Deloitte Consulting, and Andersen Consulting and has more than 20 years of experience in this space. In this interview she talks about how newBrandAnalytics helps companies extract intelligence from online conversations and talks about open gaps in the industry.
Sramana Mitra: Kristin, let’s start with setting some context for newBrandAnalytics. What do you do? Who is your target customer?
Kristin Muhlner: Fairly simply, what newBrandAnalytics does is take social information and turn it into operational intelligence. What I mean by that is we gather data about our customers, we analyze that using sophisticated natural language processing, we code it to industry-specific categories, grade it for sentiment, and then we present it back to them in a way that really helps those customers get a deep, rich understanding from a business perspective about the conversation about them online.
Historically we have supported companies that have a lot of online conversation: food and beverage organizations, hospitality companies, retail organizations, etc. More recently we have done interesting work in the public sector, both with local governments as well as civilian agencies, and we started seeing interesting opportunities in healthcare as well. We have a pretty wide range of vertical focus, but of course as we see incremental content and opportunity in particular verticals we are certainly looking at those and understand what those opportunities mean.
SM: I would like to do three to four interesting use cases with your real clients, where you provide the true nuggets of the kind of analytics that you provide.
KM: Let’s start with the DC government, because I think it is a very interesting example of how this data is being used in a unique way. When [Washington DC] mayor [Vincent] Gray took office, he had a platform that was sharply focused on transparency in government and customer service for the DC constituency. He was introduced to the company through a series of conversations and became very interested in what we do and what it implied in terms of an opportunity to turn feedback about the DC government inside out.
We embarked on a project with them, and are now monitoring 15 of the largest DC agencies that provide services to DC citizens today. We do that through a variety of formats, either directly online – comments that may happen about the DC government or its agencies, referencing their Twitter handles, on Facebook, on various blog posts as well as directly through web forms online at the DC website, or through SMS. As a local citizen, as I am standing in line on my local DMV, I can see a poster in the office and I can text straight to that number with my feedback. That can be, “Wow, I have been waiting in this line for two hours” or maybe it is, “What a lovely experience; Jane was so helpful.” That feedback goes straight into our system, gets coded to the specific agency and then analyzed by a series of government-specific [categories], including things like comments that may be specific to the service to the product or service that was delivered, the facility itself – the cleanliness of the facility, for example, or the price or policy associated with something that might be delivered as a service. All of this gets coded and graded for sentiment. Then that gets rolled up and each agency gets a grade.
What is interesting is what the mayor did, which is pretty revolutionary. He committed to it and was consistent in delivering the idea that he will make all the grades for all the agencies public. If you go to the DC website, and you go to grade.dc.gov, you can see these overall scores that are derived from all the social content about each of the agencies. You can also see that some of the agencies have use of this data to understand where they might have personnel training issues, scheduling issues, where they might need to change staff people as a result of service issues, understanding policy issues deeply and helping prioritize, etc. They have gotten deeply into how citizens view the city, are able to comment on it, and evolve as a result of it.
This is a really successful program. What I think what the agency heads would say is that it really holds them accountable. To a certain extent they all realize that people are always watching, but now people are also talking about it. It has been a useful tool for the agency heads and also for the mayor’s office in helping understand how to manage this massive organization and how it affects customers.