Forget big data – online survey software developer SurveyMonkey wants to be known as the number-one provider of “people-powered data,” and on Monday unveiled four new and redesigned services using the concept as a guiding principle.
Each of the services – which, president Tom Hale tells ITBusiness.ca, collectively signal a relaunch for the 20-year-old company – is aimed at a different key demographic, using machine learning to access the specific user data each is looking for: SurveyMonkey Audience for marketers; SurveyMonkey CX (customer experience) for retailers; SurveyMonkey Engage for enterprises and human resources staff; and SurveyMonkey Apply for postsecondary institutions and grant program administrators.
“Today’s businesses and organizations are awash in data, but too often they’re missing the signal among the noise, and I think we’re uniquely positioned to help them identify it,” Hale says. “By sitting on top of 90 billion survey responses, we have an unprecedented platform from which to use machine learning, natural language processing, and statistical analysis to bring meaning from the data they collect to the surface.”
The notion of “people-powered” data, he says, emphasizes both the source of a company’s most valuable insights, and SurveyMonkey’s skill at identifying the right audiences, at the right time, on the right platform.
In other words, a great deal of effort was expended making the company’s signature surveys more mobile-friendly, with a new touch-oriented, mobile-optimized screen that automatically advances as users answer questions.
“As the world has moved onto mobile devices, it’s important to have a survey experience that reflects that,” Hale says.
The company is also taking steps to improve user engagement by giving clients the option to integrate surveys into other platforms such as Facebook Messenger or Slack, and by adding features such as SurveyMonkey Genius, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered assistant that suggests improvements by analyzing the company’s library of surveys and responses.
“Imagine having an AI buddy riding shotgun as you create a survey,” Hale says. “It can offer feedback like, ‘you began your survey with an open-ended question, which reduces completion rates by X per cent. You might want to move that question a little bit deeper into your survey.'”
Built directly into the core SurveyMonkey platform, SurveyMonkey Audience is designed to help marketers of any size and budget prepare surveys in minutes, target the demographic or demographics of their choosing, and receive answers in hours or days rather than weeks.
Instead of utilizing a traditional panel, SurveyMonkey Audience tracks users who visit the site through its ubiquitious free surveys – the company receives approximately three million responses per day – and adds the occasional sponsored questionnaire at the end if the user is identified as being part of the target demographic.
For example, Hale says, a company seeking Toronto residents of Indian descent between the ages of 18 and 35 might upload a survey that asks the user if they would like to take a survey, for which SurveyMonkey will donate 50 cents to the charity of their choice through its SurveyMonkey Contribute program, if they match the target demographic.
“Not everyone takes us up on the offer, but many people do,” Hale says. “What’s amazing is that we can literally get you 100 or 200 responses within the space of a few hours. After all, the pace of business has become so rapid that if you’re trying to make a decision on a 24-hour cycle, you need access to data as quickly as possible.”
In fact, SurveyMonkey Contribute recently passed $10 million USD in donations.
Aimed at retailers, SurveyMonkey CX is an update of the company’s Net Promoter System, aimed at helping businesses track, manage, and optimize their customer experience using the feedback gathered from customers.
Hale is quick to emphasize that it’s a complete solution.
“It’s not just deploy a survey and get some feedback,” he says. “It’s a workflow, a process where you’re asking your customers questions after multiple touchpoints – maybe a sale, maybe a year after they joined your loyalty program, maybe after a customer support event – before gathering that feedback and analyzing it.”
Doing so, he notes, requires not only a sizable storage system, but a powerful analysis tool. Consequently, SurveyMonkey CX is designed to help businesses recognize patterns, identify trends, and even apply natural language processing to reviews so they can deploy appropriate solutions.
“Say the customer rated you a two and the issue was a technical problem,” Hale says. “You can say, ‘please reach out and contact them,’ closing the loop.”
CX’s enterprise counterpart – which, Hale notes, is scheduled to be released later this year – SurveyMonkey Engage is designed to help businesses and their human resources staff identify areas of improvement by measuring employee engagement, then dividing the data collected based on demographics such as location, department, function, and team.
Hale is quick to mention SurveyMonkey Apply’s Canadian connection: this end-to-end solution aimed at helping organizations collect, review, and select the best candidates for grant, scholarship, fellowship, and enrollment programs was built at the company’s northern headquarters in Ottawa, which recently hired its 100th employee.
An updated version of the company’s FluidReview platform, Apply has already been used by hundreds of customers to distribute more than $78 million USD in funds, Hale says.
“It’s a great win for our Ottawa team,” he says. “Many of our customers in Canada had been fans of the product before the relaunch, but now they’re just over the moon.”
Like the company’s other updated services, SurveyMonkey Apply crosses platforms, allowing applicants to easily submit information on both a desktop and mobile browser, and giving administrators and reviewers equally easy access during the evaluation process.
“If you think about the grant process, it’s effectively a long survey,” Hale says. “People on all sides are filling out a form, whether it’s students talking about their brand, reviewers being asked if they want to provide feedback, or administrators saying they want to approve an applicant or begin another round.”