Business Week has an article about how companies are using "sentiment analysis" to examine how customers are feeling about their brands and products. This new form of business intelligence mines social media platforms, blogs, and other sites on the web to gauge how consumers are feeling in real time about a firm.
What actually struck me about the article, though, was an example regarding Gaylord Hotels. Gaylord operates upscale hotels particularly designed to host meetings and retreats. Through this type of research, Gaylord learned about 5 critical factors during the first 20 minutes of a guest's stay that a substantial impact on their satisfaction. Interestingly, in the past Gaylord had operated with a list of 80 items that it felt were crucial to a guest's visit. Think about that - 80 factors! Imagine a hotel staff member trying to optimize 80 attributes of a customer's experience. Surely, no manager could remember 80 factors.
To me, the best part of this story is that Gaylord was able to hone in on 5 items. By creating more clarity and focus, they were able to really drive performance improvement. Every company should go through that type of exercise to streamline their metrics and get everyone focused on a few high priority items with regard to customer satisfaction. It's just like asking a student to read for class. If I ask them to read 300 pages, they are likely to throw up their hands and read none. If I ask them to read 10 very important pages, I might actually get them to do the work!