Your Online Reputation Affects Your Success
The Prime View got the opportunity to interview Pranav Desai, VP of Product Management at Reputation.com, a leading company that delivers a unique Online Reputation Management platform for large, multi-location enterprises.
Pranav, can you tell us a bit about the steps in your career and how your career has led you to this point?
The pivotal moment in my career was joining, straight out of school, a telecom startup where they had a strange yet compelling pitch – “We cannot define the job for you on paper, but if you are good with ambiguity, join our company.” Within six months after joining, I was doing everything from installing switches in telecom networks and data centers to hosting marketing events. I realized I wanted to build my career in product management because that domain ultimately combines all business elements.
The second pivotal moment was when I realized a big part of my role is to observe market trends and figure out what new technology is emerging. At that time, SaaS was emerging on the tech scene – a trend we all know now dominates a significant corner of the tech market. Luckily for me, my career followed a battle track, and I have grown because of that.
VP of Product Management
You have a successful career in a variety of technology companies in the leadership position. I assume you have to hire a lot of people in different roles. What is your secret to building high-performance teams?
I believe in the Strengths Finder framework, where we hire solid complements to each other, not just in terms of skills but also in their personalities. The sum of parts is much higher than individuals themselves. That has been a critical ingredient in building high-performance teams.
The second ingredient has been getting a team to understand that they are equally responsible for the new hire’s success, just as I am. Why does that matter? Because when teams feel they are responsible for bringing in new team members, they will either vouch for the person saying they will be a great fit or say, no, this person is not the right fit and may bring the collective average down.
This ability to voice their opinions and think of themselves as equal participants in creating a team is where the magic happens. When you deal with unknowns, as we so often do in product management, you need to rely on people you trust.
I would also be keen to hear your point on what types of individuals you look to bring to your company to establish the innovation culture?
I would credit our CEO, Joe Fuca, with saying, “We look for a great reputation before we look at any other skill set.” We look to hire individuals who have the inherent ability to deal with setbacks and failures and continue to persevere. The great benefit you get from having these people around is a morale boost to everyone around them.
Ultimately, when hiring, we look for people who are smart and curious about their domain. We look for people who have done something unusual like they have jumped into a product management position from sales or customer success. These people have a genuine curiosity – and that goes a long way.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses closed their stores or changed their business models. Did the crisis have any impact on how your users use the Reputation.com platform?
At first, the Covid-19 crisis looked dire on a variety of fronts because there was so much uncertainty for businesses.
One of our unique advantages at Reputation.com, aside from our technology platform, is that we are extremely customer-oriented.
Immediately after lockdowns were declared, we realized there was a lot of confusion for our customers – many did not know what they needed to do to effectively communicate with their customers or how to do it. So, we opened our expertise to those customers in the form of webinars and advisory sessions.
We made our social listening tools available to all of our customers, so they could better understand the underlying sentiment in their unstructured feedback. That was quite a game-changer. We also quickly built unique product features in partnership with companies like Google, where we opened up our platform to health care businesses and restaurants to better communicate in a dynamic situation. That would not have been possible without a robust ecosystem and collaborative mindset in the reputation management industry.
Did you have to prioritize some product features because of the crisis?
There’s the famous saying, “everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.” And Covid-19 was undoubtedly a punch in the face.
We re-prioritized our roadmap because of it and moved up the release of our new reputation score known as the Reputation Score X. Initially, we intended to release it in 2021 but decided to release it a year earlier and offer a beta version to customers due to the importance of listening to and acting on customer insights and metrics during the pandemic.
With Reputation Score X, businesses can gain insight into what they need to do to improve customer satisfaction – whether it is ensuring that store hours are accurate on sites like Google or responding to customer feedback.
We have spent plenty of time perfecting those applications to deliver our customers with prescriptive analytics, which tells our customers how to improve something for their customers.
How was the newly launched product adopted?
Reputation Score X has quickly become a differentiator for us and a guiding light for businesses. Suppose you are a business that needs to interact with your customers by sending out surveys asking about covid-related symptoms or who else you have been in contact with. For those cases, we now have our conversational survey offering that is more of a text messaging service than your regular web-based service. We have prioritized this product due to Covid-19 and made it available to our customers on an hourly basis.
You know, the greatest satisfaction is that by moving up these product rollouts, it helped out a lot of businesses during a really difficult time.
Reputation.com provides API for partners. What are the most interesting or essential business cases?
As a company, we decided a couple of years ago that we would be an open platform. And from my standpoint, an open platform means anyone in the ecosystem can use your data. And conversely, customers can decide to bring in data from anywhere in the ecosystem into the platform.
It has helped our customers in the healthcare industry a lot. There’s a health system that uses our solutions as their “command center,” with all of the feedback centralized in a single platform view – ours. Their feedback comes from online reviews, feedback coming into the patient service, and input from standardized app surveys. It’s absolutely impressive – this service focuses on the frontline, where people don’t want to log into four or five different platforms to access critical information. Our product helps them look at essential data, look at what they need to do, and then they go on and take corrective action. We call it Feedback Enabler.
In the past five years, the marketplace of reputation management has become very crowded. What do you consider being your competitive advantage?
Reputation.com has several advantages on the market. One, we pioneered the reputation management experience. If you look back, online reputation management is something that we came up with. Interestingly, we have seen, especially in the last couple of years, the market is rapidly evolving from reputation management to a reputation experience management market. And again, we’re at the forefront of this trend. We are defining the reputation experience management market, and the bedrock of that is Reputation Score X that I had mentioned earlier.
It is no longer about just telling your customers how they are performing with a score. It is also about telling them – here is where you are lagging behind your competitors, and here is where your staff is shining.
The prescriptive insights that we bring is a significant strategic advantage for us. There is no competitor right now in our space that does the algorithm we do to create prescriptive insights. More importantly, there is no competitor out there with a decade of experience putting these data points together, looking at the diversity of data that we look at, and then creating simple, easy to consume insights for frontline employees. Remember, it is all about the front line. If the front line does not know how to tackle these issues, you will fail as a vendor. And that is our laser focus. We want to ensure the frontline knows how to provide a better customer experience because that, in turn, is going to give them a better reputation.
Also, we’ve done a couple of other things that have helped us a lot – we have expanded our ecosystem. I have already mentioned that we have an open platform, where you can bring data from anybody else on the market or take our data to any other vendor.
We have decided that our ecosystem strategy is something that will differentiate us from the variety of vendors in the market. And the crux of that is we want to be super easy to work with, so when you become a customer of Reputation.com, you don’t have to worry about whether you will be able to get your data out. You would not believe it, but there are still vendors in our space that own all the customers’ data and do not allow them to use it elsewhere. On the other hand, while we democratize that process entirely – you are free to use or store your data anywhere.
Finally, the last piece that we are going to do to differentiate in this crowded market is to come out with a platform that can offer functionalities that would otherwise take customers at least three platforms to accomplish – whether it is publishing to social media, collecting reviews, conducting surveys, or analyzing your data. With other vendors, you would go to three or four different platforms to accomplish this. We have consolidated all the insights in one place, a single platform for the front line to get these assets out efficiently and effectively. Building a strong platform has been our philosophy from day one. We think of ourselves as a platform company, and every decision we make is made from that standpoint.
Being a SaaS platform, what Big Data tools or data analysis do you leverage to provide reputation management services?
For our SaaS platform, we have been developing our own set of homegrown “tools.” But for your readers, they are probably more interested in tools that are available to everyone, so they can leverage them as well. So, we’re deployed in the Google cloud environment, and we’re significant users of the tools that Google cloud offers, not the least of which is Big Query for our data warehousing needs. We are also using many other tools outside of the Google ecosystem, like ElasticSearch for searching or a Python-based framework for our data science teams.
Pranav, thank you for the in-depth conversation!
Stay tuned for the next interviews!