Community generated Q&A website Answers.comwants to do more than provide a community forum for consumers. The 15-year-old company is betting that it can also help companies improve their customer experiences. Last year, it acquired customer analytics firm ForeSee and Easy2 Technologies, a marketing software provider, and scooped up ResellerRatings in 2012.
Here, Answers CEO David Karandish and General Manager Don Morrison speak with 1to1 Media about the company's road map and customer experience trends.
What is your business model?
DK: We have a free, consumer-facing website that's supported by ads. The website is powered by a community and we've got an enterprise subscription model for our platform that helps power the content and experience analytics of consumers as they go through a brand's site. We're doing that for more than 1,300 enterprise brands.
What problems does Answers try to solve and how does your acquisition of the analytics firm ForeSee impact the services you offer?
DK: We have the largest question and answer website in the world and we're combining it with a customer analytics platform for measuring and improving your customer experiences. Our mission is to answer the world's questions and we do it that by helping consumers make informed decisions as well as helping brands inform and delight their customers.
How do you personalize the user experience?
DK: You can register on Answers through Facebook, Google+, or Twitter, and once you've signed in, we ask you to tell us what areas you're an expert in and which areas you want to know more about. We use that info to customize the Answers homepage and we have newsfeeds of the questions, answers, and articles that are pertinent to what you're interested in. By qualifying yourself as an expert, we'll also route questions to you that you'll probably know the answers to for other users.
How many registered users do you have?
DM: We have over 170 million users and that includes about 1,300 enterprise customers. Half of those enterprise customers were already within the Answers family and roughly 650 came with the ForeSee acquisition.
How are you integrating ForeSee's analytics into your product?
DK: Our customers tell us that they love being able to measure customer experiences, but they would also like to know if their employees are satisfied. If you think about the connection between a satisfied employee and how it impacts the customer experience, that's a powerful thing.
DM: So, using ForeSee's technology, we created a product that asks employees about their job satisfaction and what drives it and measures their satisfaction on a zero to 100 scale [100 is most satisfied]. Companies can use this tool to identify the key drivers for improving their employees' satisfaction. We did a soft launch a few weeks ago and will be rolling it out in Q3. And this is just one example of how we've integrated Foresee's technology into our platform. We're working on other things as well.
In what ways can brands target their ads at users?
DM: We let you target on geography, demographics, areas of interest, age groups, and gender. In addition to ad targeting, we also let brands jump into the conversation by giving them their own sections of the website, which we call Answers Brand Pages. Users can see all the questions and answers about that brand and ask them direct questions. For example, Answers.com/Microsoft has all of our Microsoft questions and you can ask the company questions about their products.
Who are your competitors?
DK: We don't see any direct competitors in our space. We'll compete with Ask or Quora on the Q&A side of the business, but there isn't one company that we compete with on both the customer-facing side and our enterprise SaaS platform.
What are some best practice tips for companies that are trying to do omnichannel measurements?
DM: Companies are realizing the benefits of omnichannel services, but they need a consistent measurement structure that works across channels. One approach is to ask consumers on one channel about their use of another channel to better understand their relationship with the customer.
DK: We see retailers who are trying to capture customer sentiments, but aren't doing it in a scientific, validated method or a way that yields actionable results. If you're not looking at what's impacting a consumer measurement, it'll be tough to know how to improve it. If you can look at what makes a satisfactory or unsatisfactory experience, that lets you turn it into something that's actionable.