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SAS Services Mine Customer Interactions

Twitter comments and Web site interactions yield insight into customer satisfaction, segmentation and campaign success.

SAS has bolstered its portfolio of customer analytics with two new hosted services aimed at mining online interactions. One service is focused on social media conversations while the other analyzes Web site navigation.

SAS Conversation Center is the new add-on module aimed at driving customer engagement on social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook. SAS had already announced a Social Media Analytics service last April, but feedback from the handful of customers implementing that service led to the optional Conversation Center module announced last week.

"Social Media Analytics didn't address how you engage people in the social media space once you've identified relevant comments, so we came up with the Conversation Center," explained John Bastone, SAS's customer intelligence strategist.

Set to debut in January, Conversation Center will start with comments spotted by the Social Media Analytics service, prioritizing them based on their influence. In the case of Twitter Tweets, for example, it's easy to track numbers of followers and retweets.

The module will also route comments to appropriate response queues. A hotel chain, for example, might set up queues for comments related to billing and charges, housekeeping, food and beverage services and so on.

SAS Conversation Center will initially work with Twitter, tapping into that network's "Fire Hose" API to automatically extract relevant tweets from the general comment stream. Other networks, such as Facebook, will be added soon thereafter, according to Bastone.

The Conversation Center console will be a single hub for monitoring and responding to comments across multiple social media networks, he said. And as records of comments and responses build, the module will deliver analytics and reports on that state of customer issues and the impact of various responses.

SAS is far from alone in addressing sentiment analysis. Attensity and Verint are among a handful of vendors now spotting and speeding responses to Tweets, Facebook posts, blogs and other forms of social network feedback. Both companies recently announced software that blends sentiment analysis with CRM applications. Verint's Impact 360 Text Analysis application was developed in partnership with Clarabridge, a head-on competitor to SAS in sentiment analysis.

SAS's new service for Web site interaction analysis is Customer Experience Analytics, an application that has been around for several years as an on-premises offering. The app mines the nitty, gritty detail of Web sessions and matches classic Web analytics, such as page navigation and campaign response, against known customer records and customer segments, such as loyal and high-value customers.

Banks have used the on-premise version of Customer Experience Analytics to score interest in products and services based on where customers are clicking on a site. If a known user is frequently checking mortgage rates online, for instance, that insight could trigger an outbound e-mail campaign. As a bonus, the marketer has pre-qualified insight into segment status and can better measure response rates by segment.

SAS said the service will help customers go beyond analyses of which banner ads or Web sites are driving good traffic. They can tie these insights to their in-depth understanding of most profitable customer segments to spot best leads and lead sources. In this scenario, session IDs could be used to retrieve data on past navigation when new customers open an account.

SAS works with the Speedtrap service to collect raw session data. In the on-premise version of Customer Experience Analytics, the captured data is stored and compared to behavioral data behind the customer's firewall. SAS says it came up with the hosted service announced last week because many customers don't want to have to manage yet another data warehouse. In this scenario, customer behavior and segmentation data is sent to SAS for analysis against Web navigation data.

"Many of the larger companies we work with don't have a problem sending us customer behavioral data in a secure way," Bastone said. "They would much rather gain the convenience of getting up and running within a couple of weeks."

SAS's press releases on these new services used cloud computing vernacular, but hosting is a more accurate description. Social Media Analytics, SAS Conversation Center and Customer Experience Analytics are based on conventional software deployments within SAS data centers. Each deployment is customized for a specific customer rather than being delivered multi-tenant style.

Prices for the services were not disclosed.

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