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In the 20th and 21st Century, scoring systems have evolved as one of the most-used shortcuts to understanding complex data-driven evaluations, such as credit worthiness — your FICO score lets investors know whether it’s risky or relatively safe to lend you money, for example.
In recent years, the rampant availability of data — and our ability to analyze it using deep learning and AI — has led to some creepy scoring systems. China, for instance, is in the process of implementing a mandatory “social credit system,” which goes up or down depending on an individual’s behavior (on- and offline) and can impact people’s lives in significant ways. For example, people with low social credit scores may not be able to book a flight or get their kids into a good college. Some may even have to give up their dogs! Punishable offenses include seemingly benign activities, such as playing video games or posting fake news on social channels.
With stories such as these, it’s no wonder people are increasingly wary about how all the data that’s out there is being used. As I talk about at length in my book, Reputation Economy, we live in a world in which technology enables companies and individuals alike to not only gather vast amounts of data, but aggregate it and analyze it with frightening speed, accuracy and sophistication. Clearly, the idea of assigning people scores based on social behavior is Orwellian and, well, terrifying. I certainly don’t advocate for that or trust this type of intrusive system.
However, there is a much more constructive application of the vast amounts of data created by people as they engage with brands and fellow consumers on social channels and review sites — and that’s for improving how businesses operate and the service they deliver to customers.
Keep it Simple, Please
Say you’re a lender and you’re trying to figure out whether someone who’s requesting money is likely to pay you back. Without Equifax, TransUnion and Experian doing the behind-the-scenes analysis of everything impacting an individual’s credit worthiness, you’d have to spend inordinate amounts of time digging into years of credit data and crunching numbers. There are so many variables that could affect someone’s ability to pay off a loan — payment history, debt burden, types of credit used, recent credit inquiries and more. FICO came to the rescue by applying data analytics to the problem, simplifying things for both lenders and borrowers.
Similarly, Reputation Score is now being used to evaluate the trustworthiness of brands across industries — as well as their ability to deliver a good customer experience. Reputation Score is a comprehensive way to measure a brand’s reputation, online and on site. Expressed on a scale of 1 to 1,000, it takes into consideration data collected at every single customer touchpoint and provides an integrated calculation of online performance across many channels — online reviews, business listings, search engine results, social media and more.
Some of the data used to calculate the score is structured — such as average star rating. Other information is what my colleague Jason Grier refers to as “data in the wild” — words and phrases used in customer reviews, social mentions of your brand or search impressions, for example. It’s the latter dataset — the unstructured data — that is often overlooked by brands when they try to measure customer sentiment using traditional assessments, such as NPS surveys. This candid, unfiltered and often unsolicited feedback from consumers can provide incredible insights to brands about where they stand within the competitive landscape, and how they can improve how they are found, chosen and experienced.
Recent research has shown that brands that monitor and work to improve their Reputation Scores also see an increase in sales growth and revenue. Our own Healthcare Reputation Report found that hospitals with high Reputation Scores earn up to $1.2 million more revenue per bed. Retailers with a high Reputation Score have experienced a 3.9% increase in sales growth, and auto dealerships that raise their scores 150 points have seen sales grow by up to 10%. Those are pretty impressive numbers.
There’s a reason Reputation Score is so effective in helping companies succeed: When brands are evaluated based on Reputation Score, they are held accountable to consumers using a scale that’s consistent — month-to-month, but also location-to-location and even business-to-competitor. To remain competitive, businesses must meet or exceed customer expectations for service, quality and customer care. Just like a low credit score makes you change your behavior — you cut back on lavish spending or get a debt consolidation loan to pay down some balances — your Reputation Score can trigger change at your locations that, over time, elevates how customers perceive your brand.
Say I’m the head of marketing at a large auto dealer group, and I find out my score is lower than my main competitor’s score. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure my dealerships are training employees to deliver a better experience. I’m going to dig into the various components of my score to see where I’m lagging and where I’m doing well. I’m going to standardize on what’s working, and focus on fixing problem areas. I’m going to make sure the frontline sales folks are requesting reviews from every customer, and that dealership managers are monitoring and engaging with local communities on social media. All of these activities will naturally result in better customer experience over time, which leads to better reviews, higher ratings and the ability to drive more business.
The Numbers Add Up
In a previous article, I wrote about how the key to using AI for good depends on good people building good technology for the right reasons — and how the power of AI for brands is in its ability to revolutionize the customer experience. The idea of punishing or rewarding someone based on their individual social score isn’t something anyone (at least anyone I know) would advocate for, but providing a better customer experience is a universal goal. As consumers, we expect it. As brands, it behooves us to deliver it. A numeric index like Reputation Score doesn’t just make understanding the many components of brand reputation easier — it makes the goal of getting customer experience right attainable.
April 2, 2019 at 04:07PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs