When it comes to gathering data to help you better serve your customers, prospects, and community members, there are two alternate approaches: qualitative research and quantitative research.

Quantitative research is the numerical data gathered by most analytics solutions. It is the “how many” of the research world, helping to explain the number of visitors you’ve had, whether they interacted with you, and how many times you responded to their questions.

Today Lithium Technologies, the website community and social media management platform, has unveiled an expanded analytics offering — via its Value Analytics and Lithium Cohort Benchmarking features — that adds additional qualitative research and industry benchmarking to the mix.

In essence, these new features are designed to answer questions such as “how am I doing?,” “what should I do now?,” and “how much impact is that having for my business?” They are an attempt to ascertain real value and return from social media and community management.

Here’s how it works.

Value Analytics gives Lithium customers insight into their communities by showing marketing and support data, including features such as a net promoter score (NPS) and customer satisfaction data. Pulling data from a survey hosted within the community, the new system adds details of the “why,” not just the “how many.”

How useful is this kind of qualitative feedback when compared to the raw numbers we already get from visitor statistics, social measurement, and community data?

“It’s a combination,” Katy Keim, CMO at Lithium Technologies, told me. “We need numbers to assess where we are, but we bring with it the experience to share why different customers do what they do. Community strategies aren’t the same across the board. Rather, our customers are trying to find the right match for the vision they have.”

In other words, it is about checking whether the customer got the value they were expecting, because that value is a relative notion, not an absolute one.

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Along with asking web visitors for ratings and feedback, Lithium has also announced its Cohort Benchmarking feature.

This allows brands to benchmark their community performance against similar brands by geography, industry, and maturity. What data is being used to provide these comparisons?

More than fourteen separate metrics are being calculated, such as unique visitors, replies, and solutions. Benchmarks are being pulled from 14 years of interactions, via more than 400 communities that see over 100 million unique users per month combined. A service element is included in the offering, since Lithium’s customer success operatives will take those results and provide strategic advice to customers based upon it.

The data can be shown on a shared dashboard and Lithium’s Monitor Wall, a feature that was launched earlier this year along with Klout score integration, following the acquisition of the influence measurement platform in 2014.

I wondered how easy it is to implement both Value Analytics and Cohort Benchmarking for both new and existing customers.

“Value Analytics gets implemented with a flip of a switch in our administrative console,” Keim said. “Customers do have to make some business decisions about how frequently to intercept visitors to ask the survey (something we offer guidance on), but it is painless and an embedded feature of their existing purchase. Benchmarking is delivered via a customer success manager (CSM), who has full access to the customer’s console. In conjunction with delivering the benchmarking figures, the CSM can provide input on what measurements are most relevant and actionable.”

As of today, the new features offer a wide range of both quantitative and qualitative data sources, but some of the benchmarking features won’t be available until early next year — notably the net promoter score, customer satisfaction, and call deflection benchmark metrics.

“Since we just launched Value Analytics and customers are just now adopting this feature, it will take time to build a meaningful critical mass of data across our customer base to benchmark against,” Keim said. “This likely will occur in early 2016. All other benchmarking features are now available.”

Value Analytics is available immediately, and all Lithium Community customers have access to it in version 15.10 or later. There are no additional fees for Value Analytics. Lithium Cohort Benchmarking is also available immediately through the Lithium Customer Success organization, with additional benchmarking metrics available from Q1 2016.

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