Nick Holmes à Court
Holmes à Court, who shares one of the most famous surnames in Australian business, is coming off a big year. While he won't give revenue figures, our spies in the tech sector say that with a client list featuring over 100 ASX and multinational firms, this is rising star of the local industry.
Today Holmes à Court talks about the latest trends in social media, how Australian corporates compare to the rest of the world and how he's dealt with that famous name.
Nick, a good place to start is by explaining exactly what it is BuzzNumbers does.
So looking at the overview of where we sit in terms of the ecosystem of corporations and communications, in the past there's been very much a silo of corporations sitting in a world of corporate communications and then there's a silo of customers over there. And messages have moved between corporations and customers or their users via corporate communications departments, through marketing and through PR. So messages went out from an organisation about what they did and how they worked and their product and services, and messages came back into the organisation about how customers used their products from things like market research and customer feedback and surveys and all those things.
With the advent of the internet consumers have been empowered with a new set of voices where they have been able to collaborate with each other around products and services and this has meant that companies have had the opportunity to engage with customers in new ways.
For example, we see things where back office employees might support customers on a forum in a way in which in they are not empowered to by their organisation in the typical customer-focused role. Or consumers may have advocacy groups around a product – you know, we love this product and we're doing some cool things with it and that's fantastic. Or there are maybe hate groups that have been seen saying this product really stinks and we feel really wrong.
Now in the past people have been having these conversations in pubs and around the water cooler. And due to the nature of the medium of the internet, all these things are searchable and archiveable.
When we look at the changing customer purchasing decisions between five or 10 years ago when it was perceived that only geeks used the web and today where no one in their right mind would buy a television without Googling the prices, it's changed dramatically. Or some of the recent research we've seen is that 86% of people research a financial service product online before entering into that product. There're all sorts of reasons why companies very much need to care about what's happening on the internet.
So this was identified by the BuzzNumbers team some time ago. It's very difficult for companies to get any real visibility into what's going on.
Googling yourself every couple of days isn't really good enough. And when we've looked at what corporations have had in the past with regards to visibility into their enterprise, they've had sophisticated business intelligence systems so the finance guys know if there's a 2% drop in the sales of 2mm widgets on Tuesdays that's going to impact the bottom line.
But for the web it's kind of been like: "I don't know, maybe it looks bad or is that good?" So all other functions of business have had deep business intelligence into their process and so BuzzNumbers tries to help organisations get visibility to get business intelligence into the communications online about them and their products and their services.
So what's at the heart of BuzzNumbers? Is there a particular technology or technologies or you just coming up with better ways of looking at the social media data?
BuzzNumbers is a Web 2.0 software as a service solution underpinned by deep and robust web crawling, web spidering, web content classification technologies, as well as a rich suite of business intelligence analysis systems.
So at the heart of the company is deep technology and we focus as a technology provider on providing cutting edge coverage of internet conversations. So number one, we cover all the places online like search engines, wikis, forums, blogs, news, social media and everywhere. And then we provide powerful algorithms on top of that to classify and analyse content and then deliver it to people in extremely user friendly ways.
So how might you sort of break these conversations down for people?
When corporations look at conversations about themselves or their world, typically at a higher level they care about themselves, ie. their corporate brand. They may care about their products, their services, their people and their competitors. So first thing first, who are those key section of what's being said?
Now, across those sets of groupings of information, we may want to ask when people are talking about those things, are they talking about product quality, are they talking about service, are they talking about pricing? And you know it's different in every industry. So for insurance they may care about the claims processes whereas checkout times may be an issue for concern for the retail industry. On top of that we then look at segmenting conversations by country and in future releases we will even be categorising by cities and thereby states. We may want to say: "how do people in Melbourne feel about product freshness compared to people in Sydney feel about the customer service?"
Is there a combination of that and a human analysis?
We're a technology and software solution so we automate a huge amount of things. We have at our core automated solutions for all of this so we can crunch huge amounts of information for organisations but then we use sophisticated techniques, things that would say come out of market research data sampling techniques. But when customers elect we can have teams of humans run over this information if requested.
We use a mix of automated and human processes but at the core of the product and the business is deep technology. For example, we may bring in some natural language processing to help try and analyse conversations but then also apply some machine learning which may be human assisted by the user. So if we make bad decisions or judgements in our analytics, a user may tell the system that and then the system then learns and becomes smarter for the future.
So Nick, I don't know how to put this, are you on the geek side of this business? Are you the technology developer or the commercial person or a bit of both?
I'm the CEO and founder and my background has been in emerging technology businesses. I've worked for companies such as Betfair, I'd been a Microsoft consultant for some period of time and had been in financial analytics and these kinds of things. So I sit on both the corporate and technical kind of side. Which I think is a potent combination for entrepreneurs to be able to understand technology and also the corporate environment in which that sits in.