Customers are the best coaches for your company

Survey Monkey's CEO Zander Lurie tells us how to use data to launch the best products and conquer the market.

Zander Lurie, CEO of Survey Monkey, believes there is an ongoing shift in the corporate environment and if you are not using data to understand your business will suffer.

“If you don’t have your finger on the pulse of which products to launch, which marketing campaigns to work, which benefits to offer your employees, how to price your products you are going to lose,” Lurie tells me while at this year’s Web Summit in Lisbon.

“A competitive edge today is very different to what it was 30 years ago,” he explains. “We don’t talk as much about exclusive contracts, intellectual property or patent-protected technology. It is really about whether you can deliver for customers consistently. That will give you superior value.

“We are all reliant on this data to let us know how we are doing, because what you did yesterday is less important than what you are going to do tomorrow. You need to be constantly iterating and learning.

“You see all the best companies – whether they are hardware, software or services – that are constantly iterating on their product and service to develop new features, new functionality to make their products faster or less expensive. They are all utilising the data that they get from customers to inform that development process and hopefully do right by the customers in the future.”

Context is everything, says Lurie. The real value in data, he explains, is not using it in isolation, but relating it to other data points in order to find out what is working and what is not within an organisation. “What organisations care about knowing from the data is how they performed relative to last quarter,” he points out. “How they performed relative to their peer set.

How the data can help them make an informed business decision. Data without context is just not as valuable.”

“If you don’t have your finger on the pulse of which products to launch, which marketing campaigns to work, which benefits to offer your employees, how to price your products you are going to lose” – Zander Lurie, Survey Monkey 

But not all organisations are in a position to be able to use their data to give them that competitive edge, and many are struggling with having systems in place to analyse the information they have. Survey Monkey – founded in 1999 by Ryan Finley – has been plugging that gap in the market.

Finley came up with the idea after he was asked by his then-boss to get some feedback from customers. Not being able to find a good online tool to do the job, he wrote some code himself to develop a survey.

The respondents of the survey liked it so much that they asked if they could use his surveys themselves – and today, three million people use Survey Monkey surveys around the world every day.

The need for companies to gain feedback from their customers or employees, Lurie points out, has increased as the importance of having a digital presence has grown. “Everything now is being disrupted by digital platforms,” he says. “That line of demarcation between online companies and offline companies is now gone. You have companies that might be purely online and then others that are trying to harness the power of data products to make their companies better, whether in hospitality or travel or food.

“Every company that was an offline company is using the web and data products to transform their business to go to market, otherwise they are being disrupted.”

Lurie explains that new technologies such as machine-learning (which uses algorithms to calculate predictions about data) and blockchain (where all information on the chain is recorded on a shared distributed ledger) are helping companies create better products at lower prices. “If you are not capitalising on these data products you are going to be disrupted,” he reiterates.