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Netbase Embraces the Authentic Voice of the Customer

netbase-embraces-transparency-2015-s040j1xhcwo7NetBase is a Social Media Analytics solution. They partnered with TrustRadius to invite all of their customers to review them online. In just a few months, they’ve accumulated more than 90 high quality, authentic reviews. Michael Osofsky, co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer, shares why they chose to embrace user reviews as a way to engage customers, gain feedback, and provide a rich repository of insights to prospective customers. He also shares his philosophy on responding to user feedback.

What’s the founding story of NetBase?

I was an entrepreneur on a shoe-string budget without the resources to do formal market research such as surveys and focus groups. I turned to the Internet to find the voice of the consumer. This was 11 years ago, before blogs had even become mainstream. Back then Internet forums were the social media of the day. I began to see that using the Internet for consumer insight and market understanding was faster and better than traditional forms of market research. Originally I thought I would do this to find a consumer insight for my own entrepreneurial endeavor but it then it occurred to me many companies would benefit from a fast, inexpensive, and accurate way to understand consumers in real time via social.

Is research still your core value proposition?

It’s just one of several now. All sorts of other use cases have been spawned from the underlying technology including customer care, crisis management, business performance management, research and advertising. What ties them together is that you need to understand the customer in real time.

What led NetBase to embrace user reviews?

It was an easy decision when you realize that prospects are going to research you with or without your participation, and customers are going to talk about you whether or not you engage them. As the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them. What you guys at TrustRadius are doing is so cool. You provide the platform for consumers to voice their opinions. It’s a really nice complement for what we do.

What’s the value of being proactive?

It gives you an opportunity to be intimate with your customers in a public setting. You build trust and further your understanding of them. You show that you’re a responsive company – that you’re human. It means that when something goes wrong, you have more of a connection with them and they’re more likely to advocate for you.

How does embracing reviews impact your brand?

TrustRadius gives us a way to show how much we care by engaging in the dialogue with the market.  Inviting customers to provide their feedback—that alone sets the stage.  What’s it feel like to be invited?  It lets you know you are important, that your opinion matters.

Once the review is done, the second question is how well does the company respond and react to the feedback? It’s not enough just to have reviews out there and benefit from them for sales. You have to read reviews carefully and harmonize what you read and translate the feedback for your business. You need to serve the customer.

How do you consume feedback from reviews?

We apply our own software to monitor for comments across all channels. TrustRadius reviews are now an important part of that feedback. If it’s product feedback it goes directly to our head of product. Typically the answer is going to be that the feedback is interesting and something under consideration. We have to look for themes and patterns across users. When we see those, it becomes part of our product roadmap and gets prioritized. The main thing is that you respond as you can’t serve everybody all the time.

What’s your commenting strategy?

If a customer takes the time to provide feedback, there should be a commensurate response. If you at least respond, then you are in line with the law of reciprocity. The customer has done something for you – provide feedback. We owe them a response. And this might sound odd, but we focus on the negative, meaning the comments where someone has pointed out something that’s not as good as it could be. For us, negatives are an opportunity to improve. Positive comments are great too and regardless of the sentiment we try to thank everyone somehow.

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Should you respond to every review?

It doesn’t hurt to say thank you, at the very least. If it’s product feedback, it warrants some kind of response. I think we would avoid committing ourselves in a comment. You can’t serve everyone all the time. You have to harmonize priorities.

Do your reviews have executive visibility at NetBase?

Product feedback goes to the head of product and we as an executive team see the emails where he’s responding.

How are you leveraging the reviews for sales and marketing?

TrustRadius is a publicly accessible site. Today, it’s more about just making customers know they have TrustRadius as a channel to provide the feedback. We rely on the fact that buyers will do their own research. Hopefully they are positively influenced by both our reviews and how we respond.

Vinay Bhagat

Vinay Bhagat, founder and CEO of TrustRadius, is an entrepreneur passionate about tackling big problems. Vinay conceived TrustRadius after experiencing challenges when buying enterprise solutions at his last company. In 1999, Vinay founded Convio, the leading Software as a Services platform for nonprofits. In April 2010, Convio became a public company, and was acquired in May 2012 for $325 million. Prior to Convio, Vinay was at Trilogy Software and Bain & Company. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School where he graduated as a Baker Scholar, an MS Engineering Economic Systems from Stanford University, and a MA Engineering Information Sciences from Cambridge University with First Class Honors. When he’s not working, Vinay loves spending time with his family, playing squash and racing cars.