Five Questions for David Solana, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of OPINATOR

I recently caught up with David Solana, co-founder and co-CEO of OPINATOR, to get David’s insights into the challenges companies face that spur the implementation of insights and feedback systems, the state of omnichannel feedback, and the growing interest in human-centric feedback. (Responses have been edited for clarity.)

Can you give me some background on the genesis of OPINATOR, and your elevator pitch on the company’s offerings and differentiators?

The OPINATOR executive team has some great career experiences in telco and consulting, as well as launching startups. I, myself, have lived and worked in both the US and Europe, and I have held various management positions at Microsoft in both hardware and software services. When Antonio Rodriguez, Carlos Martínez (both co-founders and CEOs) and I founded the company, our starting point was realizing that companies were struggling to generate meaningful, relevant interactions with customers. Enabling this would be a key differentiator for a company and we approached it in a different way than how it had been approached before. We didn’t start out just as a survey company, we took a broader approach. We wanted to help create engagement that was personalized, two-way, smart, and fun. We wanted to interact with a customer how they would actually talk to someone and be able to nimbly generate different types of interactions. Traditional surveys are hard to personalize, and we believed, when forming the company, that it should be a goal to make the engagement more like a face-to-face interaction. OPINATOR was founded with digital as its basis, which is the raw material of the new CX and it’s our belief that the feedback interaction should be fun, engaging, and mimic the way someone would actually talk to someone in person.

One of our true differentiators is the use of OPIs, which is a way to build a personal, digital interaction. It can be embedded in any digital channel. They are heavily branded and multimedia—it is not at all like a traditional form with a long list of radio buttons. As an example, if it’s an interaction with a credit card user, there is a branded credit card that is used to slide across the scale as people rate things. The feedback session is an experience itself. OPIs are dynamic and can be self-managed. Some can be built on the fly, allowing for micro customer journeys to be personalized in real time. OPINATOR’s ability to help customers monetize their feedback system is also something that is unique. Our model gives customers the ability to identify and enable promoters. If someone loves you, what do you do with that information? Months could go by until there is another interaction. The whole universe is competing for eyeballs and attention span—companies need to use each interaction as an opportunity. We have a system that turns theoretical recommendations into real ones with a “member get a member engine”, where private feedback can be certified and made public through channels like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp. It’s fun, gamified, and offers incentives the more people participate. It also helps our customers with segmentation as well.

(Source: OPINATOR)

What problems are your customers or potential customers facing and how does OPINATOR take these pain points away?

One of the things we hear time and time again from potential clients is low response rate for their current systems. They like OPINATOR, as our clients have been getting 3x to 5x the response rate of other solutions. Some OPIs being used by banks are getting over 80% response rates.

The need for personalization is another area companies struggle with. They can’t approach people in the same way and each segment needs a different strategy, and sometimes things need to be revised in real time. As an example, OPIs for VIPs are different than OPIs for the rest of customers. Maybe a rating of 9 is great for most, but not the VIP segment. Context is important and a good solution will help customers act and react in different ways as needed. Making feedback actionable is another pain point, and clients and potential clients are definitely looking for solutions that include ways to close the loop internally and externally.

The need to process unstructured data is a major challenge right now. It’s giving rise to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to process comments and verbatims. There is so much incoming data from all the different channels.

I would say the number one challenge is for CX practitioners to generate ROI from their CX initiatives. There has been a lot of hype around CX for years and CEOs were told and sold that it was the solution to everything. This has put a ton of pressure on CX practitioners to actually generate revenue. So, the technologies not only have to perform well as a CX solution that is solving a problem, but they also have to be sold internally in a way that will demonstrate revenue generation. The ability to monetize feedback, like what OPINATOR offers, is an important selling point for those experiencing this challenge.

There is a lot of talk about omnichannel CX. In the insights and feedback category, how successful have providers such as yourself been in actually supporting this?

Well, it really depends on the stage of the company. Of course, most companies realize they have to be able to reach their customers on any channel. And they have been told for years now about the coming digital transformation, but many thought they still had plenty of time. Some were still doing paper up to a few years ago. Some were and still are doing just a few feedback interactions a year, or still using email as their primary channel. There are segments where there is still a lot of area for evolution.

Those CX tech providers that were “born” digitally have, of course, had an easier time supporting omnichannel and being able to provide an optimized experience for every device. As we talked about, OPINATOR has the building blocks for omnichannel because we have always been digital and mobile first. For the end users, those dependent on physical connections are also doing a great job accelerating their digital transformation, because they had to. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t survive the pandemic. We have seen banks that had less than 20% to 25% of their services digitalized. No one was walking into a bank during the pandemic, so they had to be able to pivot to digital interactions quickly. And typically, that could take weeks or months and companies were needing to do it overnight.

The “human touch” or being “human centric” are terms that are gaining a lot of traction in the CX market. What does this mean to you, and how are you seeing this in practice?

In general, with all the hype and marketing, one thing to keep in mind is that we are all using similar or the same terms with different meanings sometimes. When different companies talk about something, they might not be talking about the same thing. For example, some CX professionals might use the term human centric to describe a live face-to-face or on the phone agent-to-human interaction.

I can’t dare to say what other companies mean by human-centricity, but I can say there is a lot of work to be done here. For OPINATOR, it’s the realization that it’s a privilege and an opportunity just being able to interact with your target audience. You also have to know that actually talking to a customer like companies used to do through historic, traditional approaches just isn’t going to happen with the same frequency any longer. So, we want to achieve something for feedback that is closer to the world we are actually living in. Have empathy as a company—think about how people truly like to be interacted with. Put yourself in their shoes. Make it relevant, attractive, and closer to the day-to-day experience you would have talking with a friend. Keep in mind that people are going through a human experience when they are interacting with websites, mobile apps, and platforms in the digital world. Sometimes, it’s a great experience, and sometimes, it’s a terrible one. Often times, those new to the CX field focus too much on net promoter scores (NPS). We know that’s an important part of the CX picture, but we try to look at it as this: if you had the opportunity to talk to an end user face-to-face, what would you say? What type of conversation would you want to have? Using a feedback approach that helps people feel not only engaged, but at ease and relaxed results in better feedback.

Where do you think the industry is in terms of adoption/maturity in moving away from traditional feedback approaches to a more engaging approach?

Even before the pandemic, changes were beginning to be made, but there wasn’t urgency behind it. Many were trying it on their own. Now, it’s a matter of survival to have a strong digital strategy and presence. And companies are realizing that consumers are looking for personal treatment and to have meaningful and enjoyable interactions with their brand. That means different things to different people, so there is such a strong need for solutions that can be highly personalized. But maturity levels vary widely.

We have seen great changes over the last two years as companies were realizing that if you can’t generate unique and personalized interactions, you were dead in the water. Also, we are seeing faster adoption and implementation times. Sales cycles are shortening, which is good news for OPINATOR and for the industry as a whole, because the more companies or brands that adopt this new way of interaction, the better it will be for all of us. People get to have a stronger voice and express their opinions in a way that not only improves services, but generates value to them, and companies learn more and faster about their customers and drive ROI through smart and personalized digital interactions.

Author Information

As a detail-oriented researcher, Sherril is expert at discovering, gathering and compiling industry and market data to create clear, actionable market and competitive intelligence. With deep experience in market analysis and segmentation she is a consummate collaborator with strong communication skills adept at supporting and forming relationships with cross-functional teams in all levels of organizations.

She brings more than 20 years of experience in technology research and marketing; prior to her current role, she was a Research Analyst at Omdia, authoring market and ecosystem reports on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and User Interface technologies. Sherril was previously Manager of Market Research at Intrado Life and Safety, providing competitive analysis and intelligence, business development support, and analyst relations.

Sherril holds a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from University of Colorado, Boulder and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University.


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