Red Cross Sees the Good in Sentiment Analysis


Voice-of-the-customer (VOC) and customer-centric marketing are basic enterprise strategies these days, but not so for nonprofits. These concepts are just taking hold in this sector, and the American Red Cross is one of the trendsetters.

"In many ways, the not-for-profit sector has not ever had to think in this way," Banafsheh Ghassemi, VP Marketing for ECRM and Customer Experience at the American Red Cross, told me in an interview earlier this week. Ghassemi, who joined the organization a year and a half ago from the mobile industry, said she finds her role unique among nonprofits. "It's rare at best."

But a changing environment will no doubt prompt more nonprofits to take on initiatives aimed at better understanding their customers, or, as Red Cross calls them, "constituents."

For example, in the last decade the number of nonprofits has grown by 70 percent, resulting in more competition for the public's "compassion and generosity." "Millennials and digital natives" have far different expectations and drivers than previous generations," she said. And, of course, social networking is changing the nonprofit worldview. "New technologies and platforms that make up the social Web are providing public and amplified outlets for constituents to talk about us."

That means that the CRM and VOC expertise Ghassemi cultivated in her many years in the tech sector are now perfectly suitable for her goal of making the Red Cross its constituents' favorite charity. "The problem statements... and the methodologies and approaches for getting insights into the customer expectations, needs and wants, delighters, and dissatisfactions aren't much different."

Ghassemi is evangelizing the Red Cross's efforts to better understand and serve its constituents -- financial donors, blood donors, and volunteers -- next Wednesday, Nov. 9, at the Sentiment Analysis Symposium in San Francisco. In a panel discussion, she's joining executives from Harris Interactive and PayPal in discussing how to exploit sentiment in social and enterprise sources.

Sentiment analysis is but one means of understanding a customer, and the Red Cross is only just beginning to establish the discipline as part of its VOC program. "Today, in many ways, it serves as a leading indicator, showing us trends or patterns."

To be sure, the Red Cross is paying attention to the "fire hose of customer opinion and sentiment" out on the social Web, Ghassemi told me. The organization has an active presence on the social Web, but more importantly than that, it's a social listener -- "We listen. We listen a lot, and then we engage."

But more traditional channels provide richer constituent sentiments for the Red Cross to mine. It's a generational thing, with the Red Cross's older constituent base favoring other touch points, she observed.

As such, the Red Cross finds valuable sentiments expressed in surveys, constituent emails, or notes from its public inquiry or donor services groups. In analyzing comments coming in through donor services and captured in Salesforce.com, for example, the Red Cross learned about 10 topics donors were calling about, the sentiments around those, and the strength of that sentiment, according to Ghassemi.

The value already has manifested itself, though this is early days for the Red Cross's VOC program: "We have been able to integrate those wants and needs into the scope of our existing strategic efforts where they previously hadn't been incorporated."

Beth Schultz, Editor in Chief

Beth Schultz has more than two decades of experience as an IT writer and editor.  Most recently, she brought her expertise to bear writing thought-provoking editorial and marketing materials on a variety of technology topics for leading IT publications and industry players.  Previously, she oversaw multimedia content development, writing and editing for special feature packages at Network World. In particular, she focused on advanced IT technology and its impact on business users and in so doing became a thought leader on the revolutionary changes remaking the corporate datacenter and enterprise IT architecture. Beth has a keen ability to identify business and technology trends, developing expertise through in-depth analysis and early adopter case studies. Over the years, she has earned more than a dozen national and regional editorial excellence awards for special issues from American Business Media, American Society of Business Press Editors, Folio.net, and others.

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Re: A new era for non-profits
  • 11/7/2011 11:23:32 PM
NO RATINGS

Beth, I think its a very good and a positive sign to see NGos like Red Cross use analytics for their work. Normally they do the old fashioned manual way to make things less complicated for them but this is really good.

Re: A new era for non-profits
  • 11/7/2011 12:13:58 PM
NO RATINGS

Absolutely -- and I think if you're an organization with the stature of Red Cross it behooves you to tap into the latest analytics trends and technologies to boost operational efficiency and effectiveness. 

Re: A new era for non-profits
  • 11/7/2011 12:08:43 PM
NO RATINGS

Yes, even if your "customers" don't pay you, you still want to serve them as well as possible to improve organizational efficiency.

Re: A new era for non-profits
  • 11/7/2011 6:32:41 AM
NO RATINGS

No doubt the Red Cross, like any other for- or not-for-profit business operation, can find multiple ways in which to benefit from effective use of analytics. However, Banafsheh, whom I interviewed, happens to lead the charge in using analytics to better understand and, therefore, improve the customer experience, so we didn't delve into how else the organization is using analytics. I think it's a great sign, though, that groups like the Red Cross are tapping into sophisticated analytics capabilities to improve the customer experience -- especially since in this case "customers" may also be the volunteers needed for operational success.

 

 

Re: A new era for non-profits
  • 11/7/2011 4:20:29 AM
NO RATINGS

I second Datacrunch's point. I liked that the growth of nonprofits is highlighted (though I am currious as to how the growth breaks down by the kinds of non-profits, how many were launched and closed, etc.).  The increased competition is leading to the analytic applications, and it's an example how engagement becomes a branding effort.  Red Cross is showing how uniquely responsible they are with donations through this kind of reinvestment.

Re: A new era for non-profits
  • 11/6/2011 10:42:58 PM
NO RATINGS

I think the  Red Cross is an excellent example of  how non-profits can gain from Sentiment Analysis, while this kind of analysis might not work for all companies, it certainly can benefit endeavors like the Red Cross.


Re: A new era for non-profits
  • 11/6/2011 7:44:19 PM
NO RATINGS

I have to say that I think that the benefit of analytics for a nonprofit isn't in the fundraising, thought that might be effective. I think that if the Red Cross were to most effectively use analytics, it would be ideal to also look at other aspects of the organization - efficiency in recruiting volunteers, cost per effective benefit provided, perceived adherence to stated goals of the organization, etc.

Re: A new era for non-profits
  • 11/4/2011 4:27:44 PM
NO RATINGS

With the economic downturn and funds becoming harder and harder to come by, these non-profit agencies have their work cut out for them in terms of fund-raising.  I can see how properly used analytics can help them with more focused and targeted fund-raising.   

A new era for non-profits
  • 11/3/2011 9:28:56 PM
NO RATINGS

"In many ways, the not-for-profit sector has not ever had to think in this way," Banafsheh Ghassemi, VP Marketing for ECRM and Customer Experience at the American Red Cross, told me in an interview earlier this week. Ghassemi, who joined the organization a year and a half ago from the mobile industry, said she finds her role unique among nonprofits. "It's rare at best."

Beth,

It seems to me that, if this sort of thing is new to non-profits, they'll get the hang of it eventually. Like businesses, non-profits are attuned to the communities they serve. They will certainly be quick to seize on any tool that gives them better insight into that group. 

 

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