Case Studies

Jonathan Miller – J.D. Power

VoX adds software prowess to J.D. Power’s deep-rooted market research

In 2011, J.D. Power President Finbarr O’Neill called J.D. Power’s former parent company McGraw Hill Financial, Inc. and asked for help.

J.D. Power is best known for its consumer satisfaction research regarding new cars, and O’Neill wasn’t sure the company’s technology was competitive enough. McGraw Hill sent Jonathan Miller from New York to California to investigate.

Miller found decades of market research studies with enormously valuable data all living in files, without a central database. Despite being a household name, J.D. Power hadn’t invested enough in technology, and it was losing business to software startups that were providing consumer feedback platforms.

Jonathan Miller, J.D. Power

It needed to renovate how it managed data. A new approach was born, and Miller joined J.D. Power as chief technology officer on January 1, 2012.

While J.D. Power got its start in the automotive industry, it has expanded well beyond that into financial services, technology, media, health care and more. In addition to comparing brands across these industries, which it does independently, J.D. Power works with companies to perform market research and uses customer experience (CX) data to improve companies’ bottom lines.

Miller saw that J.D. Powers’ clients—that is, companies in its target industries—were looking for and expecting leading edge, easy-to-use software tools to collect, understand and react to the information J.D. Power collects from consumers.

To deliver this, Miller assembled a “relatively small but highly skilled and effective” software development team. Together they built VoX, a cloud-hosted data portal for J.D. Power clients.

No more paper surveys

VoX represents a new era for J.D. Power.

For starters, J.D. Power designed it using the latest “schemaless” or NoSQL data management technologies, which means it’s more flexible than the older database management systems. It is data agnostic, meaning it can function with various types of data sets, rather than being customized to only work with data in one specific format.

It’s also hosted in the cloud, and it’s designed for horizontal scaling.

All of this means J.D. Power can take on a new client—like a hotel or automaker—with thousands of data sets and quickly incorporate both the client and its data into the system.

VoX runs as one application in the cloud—or as a multi-tenant application— but all of J.D. Power’s clients can log in to customized portals that give each client a private experience. VoX adds information technology capabilities to J.D. Power’s deep rooted market research, which allows the company to stay relevant and grow in a market that is increasingly dependent on technology and data analytics.

More than customer satisfaction surveys

When J.D. Power clients log into VoX, the clients want to see the data that shows how consumers view their company or product or their service experience.

VoX displays this information in a variety of charts —business trend charts, rank charts, swoop charts, gap charts, etc.—and all of those charts are interactive.

“Most competitive, thriving businesses recognize that the voice of customers and customer experience is a key metric, just like any other key metric, for running their business.” – Jonathan Miller

Clients can adjust data parameters and timelines to suit their needs through their dashboards.

They can also sign up for various tools and mobile alerts. For instance, a hotel guest might have a negative experience, say a smoky room. If as that guest checks out, he or she receives a text from J.D. Power asking for feedback, J.D. Power can immediately alert the hotel that their customer was unhappy. Within a matter of minutes, the hotel manager can call that customer and recover the relationship.

“Most competitive, thriving businesses recognize that the voice of customers and customer experience is a key metric, just like any other key metric, for running their business,” Miller says. “If your customers aren’t happy, you’re going to have a problem or you already have a problem; you just don’t know it.”

“We could have taken the easy, quick route many years ago when we embarked, just to handle customer satisfaction survey data, but it wouldn’t have been as broad, long ranging and strategic,” Miller says.

Technology meets pedigree

This isn’t only about software. It’s also about leveraging J.D. Power’s customer experience feedback expertise.

“We’ve got the very long pedigree and trusted history of being a thought leader in this area and knowing our subject matter, knowing the space, speaking the language of each industry we’re in,” Miller says. “Not only do we have that, but we have the technology and software to go along with that, and you can’t say that about others in the market.”

While software startups have come into the market and offer their own CX management solutions , none have the data science and survey design capabilities of J.D. Power.

“If your customers aren’t happy, you’re going to have a problem or you already have a problem; you just don’t know it.” – Jonathan Miller

“At the end of the day you collect CX data so you can get better and do a better job,” Miller says. “We help our clients measure, understand and improve the metrics that drive brand loyalty, advocacy and ultimately top and bottom line performance.”

Consumers are surveyed for just about everything these days, leading to what Miller calls survey fatigue and declining response rates. Yet paradoxically, consumers are sharing more than ever via social media and other outlets.

They may not want to share in the traditional ways, but there’s no shortage of wanting to share. As a result, the feedback is becoming less structured and more widespread. The challenge now is for industry players like J.D. Power to capture consumer feedback in the many ways it’s being shared.

“I think most people are, if you’re honest, very happy to help the manufacturer or vendor—call it the hotel property, call it the car manufacturer—do a better job because you’ll benefit in the end,” Miller says. “It’s helping the whole industry, the whole world, get better, so I think people are willing to [give feedback], you just have to make it easier.”

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