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Thought Leaders in Mobile and Social: Interview with Borge Hald, CEO of Medallia (Part 5)

Posted on Sunday, Oct 27th 2013

Sramana Mitra: Do you have any other thoughts on open problems?

Borge Hald: I think a lot of companies are used to a model where PR comes out of the marketing department or maybe specialists in their contact centers. But the more social and mobile people get, the more people are going to expect companies to behave more like people. There is an informality and an engagement you expect from the people who work with you. Zappos is encouraging employees to [use] Twitter, for example. But there are a lot of companies – ones that our customers as well as others – that have a great deal of fear of having their employees talk to their customers in any kind of form.

SM: You have to be a bit careful, because if everybody starts to talk to customers, you need to worry about consistent messaging or duplication. There must be some kind of process for that.

BH: Absolutely. That is the thing. We would never suggest to our customers that they just let it fly. But I do think there is an expectation. If you take your local coffee shop, for example, they will probably just respond to you. As a big company, when you are trying to compete with smaller startups, how do you keep being responsive and genuine, making you seem local even though you are a big company? That is an organizational challenge and a systems challenge, too. It may be that when you are in the moment of being responsive, maybe some Tweets or reviews are easy to take care of, but how do you enable people to do what they can and make sure they don’t get themselves into trouble?

Being a broadly responsive company is not something people are used to. They are used to being serviced when they are in a store or in a hotel, but when it comes to public writing, they are less used to it. I think the trend is going in that direction. We see that companies are becoming less conservative and more willing to let their employees engage online with their customers.

SM: I think consistent messaging and keeping track of which customers have been touched by whom are two essential pieces of making something like that [happen] at scale. As you mentioned earlier, tactically, yes. Anybody can say a bunch of things, but if you want a scalable system that doesn’t step on toes all the time, I think you need processes. That is still up in the air.

BH: We have customers who have chosen to go both ways in the hospitality space. They are in the lead in terms of facing social and mobile. The reviews that are posted are highly impactful in terms of driving revenue for the different hotels. They care a lot about it. Good companies – we work with almost all of them so we know they are good – have made the decision to say, “We are not going to prevent our managers from responding. We are going to train them. Ultimately, when something bad happens, we are going to help out and use that as a training opportunity.” Others have chosen to say, “No. We need a central team who can do it, because we haven’t really hired people to do that job.” It splits more toward the conservative side, but there are certainly companies that are opening up a lot more.

I think this is very interesting. We did research on being engaged with the Medallia system – whether it is logging in with your cell phone and looking at your reviews or doing it on the desktop. We have looked at different stores and hotels, and we compared performance by level of engagement. We categorized these into locations where there was a lot of activity; that is, people looking at reviews and surveys and responding to them. One of the things we found is that, surprisingly, the highly engaged ones were significantly stronger in terms of how good their reviews were online and also in their internal survey scores and financials.

We made a commitment. We think that over time, more than half of the work that is going to happen will happen on mobile devices. We want to be there early because the more we can put this information into people’s hands, the more engaged they will become. We know that information drives behavior because it reminds people what is in their customers’ heads, and it allows them to coach their people and get good ideas.

There is a statistic that says people will pick up their phones 150 times a day. Our purposeful strategy is that when you do that you go in, instead of just checking your email, we want you to check your Medallia app and listen to what your customers are saying. Then you actually do something useful. You can respond or not. You can use your addiction to your mobile device to look at feedback from your customers.

SM: I wish you continued success, and I hope we will talk again soon.

BH: Thank you so much.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Thought Leaders in Mobile and Social: Interview with Borge Hald, CEO of Medallia
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