#SFSNYC: UPS, TripAdvisor, and HappyOrNot Break Down Divergent Approaches to Customer Feedback

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Consumer feedback and brands have a complex and sometimes contentious relationship. Consumers rely on feedback and reviews to inform their decisions, while brands may love and hate the feedback they receive. But how can brands address and use feedback to the best of their advantage?

Heikki Vaananen, CEO of HappyOrNot, Mark Goloboy, TripAdvisor’s regional restaurant marketing director for the Tristate area, and Jason Robinson, director of marketing at UPS, discussed their tips and tricks for breaking down consumer feedback in a panel moderated by Damian Rollison, vice president for product at Brandify, at Street Fight Summit in New York City Wednesday.

Each of the three panelists approaches consumer feedback and sentiment from a different perspective and with different goals.

For Robinson, consumer sentiment is multifold, as UPS consumers are both commercial and individual. “We typically try to be the middle man in between the consumer and the company,” and “we try to be completely frictionless and invisible,” Robinson said. Unlike TripAdvisor and HappyOrNot, UPS has “wanted to stay hidden in the background” since the day it was founded, Robinson said.

In contrast, TripAdvisor is built on consumer sentiment. “We want people to find us—we want people to read that consumer sentiment and choose their next dining or travel destination based on it,” Goloboy said. For TripAdvisor, credibility is foundational.

TripAdvisor only began selling products to restaurants in the last 18 months, Goloboy said. After TripAdvisor developed a high volume of restaurant reviews and realized that much of the reviewed dining is local, the company began to market products to restaurants. “I am hear to tell that story, so that people know that we are used for dining reviews and marketers know to advertise on us,” he said.

TripAdvisor has been so successful with restaurant reviews because “we do a really good job at SEO. We are always in the top five when something is googled that’s on TripAdvisor,” Goloboy said.

Unlike both TripAdvisor and UPS, HappyOrNot works with customer feedback through a hardware-based service. HappyOrNot sells a system with faces on a physical kiosk to businesses. Those kiosks allow businesses to ask for feedback from consumers in real time, Vaananen said. All the consumers need to do is press one of the four faces on the kiosk to illustrate their satisfaction (or lack of it).

HappyOrNot can be leveraged for A/B testing and real-time decision making, Vaananen said.

The future priorities for each of these companies are as different as their approaches. For UPS, keeping track of consumer wishes remains the number-one marketing goal, because “our residential deliveries are off the chart in comparison to our commercial deliveries,” Robinson said.

Every year, UPS commissions a study called Pulse of the Online Shopper, which tracks feedback from consumers directly from pre-purchase to post-purchase. In addition, the launch of UPS MyChoice nows gives individual consumers the ability to see anything that will be delivered and change delivery choices ahead of time.

TripAdvisor is focusing on innovation around machine learning to keep fraudulent reviews off its site. In addition, “We want to continue to develop products” and new ways to integrate branding into the site, Goloboy said. “We’re trying to continue to be what we are but do it in new and creative ways.”

Vaananen emphasized the importance of leveraging his product’s real-time advantage. Companies can learn to see how things change on a minute-by-minute basis and alter their behavior based on that data, he said.