IIeX North America 2019 Podcast Series

IIeX NA 2019 Conference Series – Tom Anderson – OdinAnswers

Welcome to the 2019 IIEX North America Conference Series. Recorded live in Austin, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Tom Anderson, Founder, Executive Chairman & CRO at OdinAnswers.

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Tom Anderson, OdinAnswers is the name of his company; OdinTexts was prior to the IIeX event.  Huge fan of this guy. He and I co-presented at a few different events: the CEO Summit a few years ago is probably the most recent.  Tell you what: I consider him to be the father of text analytics in this space. He has this interesting point of view about how we should be triangulating truth based on multiple data sources, including KPIs and customer voice.  Enjoy the episode.


Here with Tom Anderson, OdinAnswers is the new name of your company, sir.  We’re live at IIeX in Austin. How are you?


Great.  Thanks for having me.


Yeah, of course.  It’s an honor to have you.  You’ve been the pioneer, I think, in this space.  I can’t think of another company anyway as it relates with text analytics.  Talk to me a little bit about OdinTexts, now OdinAnswers, and that journey.


Well, from the get-go, we were very much about realizing that good text, interesting text data never lives in isolation.  There’s always important structured data accompanying it. Twitter might be a little bit of an exception, but pretty much all other interesting data has very valuable structured components.  So, that was our thinking from the get-go in the patents and so forth that I filed. But now we’re taking that to the next level. We’ve been working with a lot of cutting-edge, digital-first clients and really looking at more and more data, so connecting different data types and variables to really get to what an answer is.  And that’s what’s reflected in the company: really trying to combine and think about the topics that people talk about in their own voice, unaided, what’s most important to them (thoughts and feelings) together with who it is, all the segmentation-type variables. And then the third part is the KPI. And so, some of our clients, for that, it’s return behavior, clicks on a link, or revenue is the holy grail.  But, for others, it might be MPS or customer sat. And then, there’s always, of course, emotions and sentiment to fall back on in the events where there aren’t important KPIs.


We’ve evolved as an industry, right, because you were around before AWS, well before.




So, I mean you’ve seen a lot of new tech that’s been entering this space here, specifically in the way of text analytics.  And you guys have rebranded, which I think was a brilliant… I love OdinAnswers; I think that’s such an action-oriented framework versus OdinTexts now.  Not to say that there’s anything wrong with that. I think it’s just modernization and change of what the customer really needs right now. How are you helping customers like…  Let’s pick on NPS ‘cause it’s a super common use case, right? So, how are you interacting with that data to add that value to the customer.


So, NPS, a lot of clients can add a lot of data from other sources.  So, what they have internally first and foremost might be CRM or data on how much these customers have purchased, how frequently they purchase, what they purchase, that type of thing.  And then, of course, you can go beyond that to other data as well. But that is one of the things we’ve been working hard on and continuing to move in that direction.


Got it.          


And in terms of the industry overall, yeah, I mean there’s been…  I think there’s a new (definitely don’t want to call it a bubble because I believe it’s absolutely…  it’s sort of finally the time of text analytics, in fact.) So, there’s a lot of new companies coming in this space.  Text analytics has become a feature in products as I predicted, in fact, it would many years ago. But it’s, obviously, a nice companion to AI machine learning, and that’s partly what we’re seeing here is applying richer data.  And data can’t be thought of just as structured or unstructured; it’s really what I had been calling mixed data before. But we’re thinking about it more as intersectionality of an answer. And that’s why we rebranded.


Do you think there’s a like…  As you look forward to your future, do you feel like you’re more of an API-driven enabler like plugging in to a Qualtrics or a…  you know what I’m saying, like some of these mega-platforms and enabling that particular sentiment analysis to be done?


Yeah, absolutely.  We’ve always been impartial to data.  There’s other players out there like in social listening and so forth that really only work with the data stream from Twitter or something like that.  Whereas, we have clients now who are typing in all kinds of information, yes, some social certainly and NPS and survey data, customer experience, but also call center (we’ve got people analyzing their sales) and internal (we’re analyzing emails coming in and out between different departments and between customers).      


I mean that’s really interesting the whole email analytics side of things.  I know you probably can’t share specifics, but what are some broad findings going through that?  Do you remember?


They are using it for various types of…  understanding, first of all, what kinds of issues that are being discussed and what questions people have, not just customers but also employees to streamline things.  And then there’s, of course, looking ahead as well. So, it’s something that’s quite… We’ve been doing that for actually a couple of years now, two years, two-and-a-half years.  And now we’re starting with integrating voice as well, you know, call centers and so forth, voice-to-text.


That so interesting.  We don’t hear very much in this space about voice-to-text, but I think that’s funny.  I feel like voice-to-text should be something we’re frickin talking about all the time.  Honestly, that is such as important… The amount of information that’s being… What are they predicting?  It’s stupid; it’s like 80 billion dollars in 2023 will be spent through Alexa and GoogleHome, you know, through the smart speakers.  Siri, what was it? Samsung just announced their own automated voice platform. You’ve got all the voices playing such a big role right now in our lives.  And it’s growing, and yet we’re as a market research industry aren’t really talking that. In fact, I’m sure it exists here, but I haven’t run into one company that specializes in voice-based research here at IIeX.   


Yeah, so I mean, it used to be different disciplines before.  And we didn’t set out to solve the voice-to-text. In the application I’m think about, we’re also doing machine translation at the same time also.  Now, those two components are coming from another company, but we’ve built the harness that then brings it from them, from their call center, gets both transcribed and translated, and then into our program for them.  So, it’s pretty exciting. But we didn’t invent the other two disciplines though, obviously, they’re very complementary.   


Awesome, super awesome.  So, your team has been evolving in the last twelve months.  Talk to me a little bit about… You’ve got some board changes, I think, additions; you’ve got maybe some new hires.  How’s that been evolving?


Most notably, of course, our new CEO last year, Andy Greenawalt, who had a lot of experience from starting SAS companies in a couple of different industries and has some really outside-the-box thinking.  So it’s really helping us evolve and, of course, more recently, Steve August of Revelation formerly, joined our board. And he’s a great… You’ve worked with him, of course, yourself.


I’m one of his biggest fans.


Yeah, he’s great.  So, the team is growing; we have a really good team.  A lot of the people have been with me for a while, and they’re super.  And we’re adding more people as well.


That’s great.  Tom, if somebody wants to get in contact with you, how would they do that?


The website is now OdinAnswers.com.  So, you can fill out the form there. We have a white paper:  OdinAnswers.com/mission.


That was just released at IIeX – the white paper.


Yeah, we’ve had a tremendous amount of downloads, I noticed, just in the first day.  Interesting. We’re actually running two round table discussions about what is an answer.  I’m not talking about from the perspective of the respondent again; we’re talking about for us as market researchers.  What is a great answer that makes you a hero? What needs to be in there? We’re looking to, of course, share our thoughts on that but also looking to understand what market researchers think about that.


Perfect.  Thank you so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast, Tom.


Thank you so much.