Dana Vaille

Recent Posts

Do you Uber? Taking a Ride with the Future of Customer Experience

Posted by Dana Vaille

Wed, Jul 16, 2014

CMB, Uber, Customer ExperienceIf you live in a city, you probably know about the current battle between Uber car services (and others) vs. taxi companies. Maybe you’ve seen stories in the news or actually found yourself in the middle of a taxi driver protest yourself—like the one that happened just outside our offices in Boston, where cab drivers protested by honking their horns for a solid two hours. The gist of the story is this: taxis are highly regulated forms of public transportation. Depending on local laws, they may have permits to pay for, extra insurance to carry, etc. Then along comes a private, unregulated, service like Uber that is (mostly) offering cheaper fares and taking business away from the taxi drivers.  The taxi drivers are understandably frustrated that companies like Uber don’t (for now) have to follow the same guidelines, pay the same fees, etc. I can certainly empathize with the taxis on that front, and I don’t want to under-emphasize the importance of their perspective here. That said, for the purposes of this blog I will focus only on the customer’s perspective…and the potential differences in the customer experience. 

I have taken taxis for years and also recently tried a ride with Uber. Thinking about the taxi vs. Uber experience, excluding the fares, here’s my take:


  • Uber: The company makes it easy to request pickup, regardless of where you are

  • Traditional Taxi: I either need to see a taxi and flag it down, or have a taxi company phone number on hand and be able to identify my exact location—not always easy in an unfamiliar city 


  • Uber: The app tells me the driver’s name and what he/she looks like, so I know who is picking me up (I can also share that information with my family/friends for safety reasons)

  • Traditional Taxi: I wouldn’t be able to identify the taxi driver until I’m already in the car


  • Uber: Payment is charged to the credit card on file—it doesn’t get more convenient

  • Traditional Taxi: Taxis require that I either have cash on hand, or pull out my credit card and wait for it to be processed

As a customer, I can easily understand the appeal of a service like Uber.  Even if the fares were the same, or I had to pay a little extra, I might still choose Uber just for the convenience.  As a researcher, I see an opportunity for taxi companies to evaluate the customer experience to find out what they can do better. It’s time for taxi companies to start asking customers…why do you Uber?

Dana is a Research Director at CMB. She loves traveling and exploring new areas, but is admittedly bad with directions. She is uber-excited about the availability of car services like Uber, where she no longer needs to be responsible for providing directions.

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Topics: Travel & Hospitality Research, Customer Experience & Loyalty

The Main Ingredient: The Market Research in your Pantry

Posted by Dana Vaille

Wed, Apr 17, 2013

market research foodThe New York Times article, The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, caught my attention by linking the hot topic of “junk food” and the obesity epidemic to the market research that supports it.  This is where my inner geek gets really excited—it’s not often that two things I’m passionate about (nutrition and market research) are so perfectly linked. 

Ever wonder why it’s virtually impossible to eat just one Dorito? Or how they got the recipe for Dr. Pepper just right?  How do you think they engineered Cheetos into the perfect cheesy, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth treat?  As any market researcher knows, it goes far beyond basic trial and error—this isn’t like asking a few people if they like your new brownie mix. But even for someone who lives and breathes market research, the article was incredibly illuminating. Companies put a lot of time and effort into developing foods that will both taste good and be profitable; they consider the basic principles of supply and demand, and couple that with food science and a lot of market research to fill our needs and desires.

Because I know very little about food science, I won’t talk about the “bliss point” (the levels of sugar, fat and salt in processed food that keep us craving more) though I find it fascinating.  Instead, here are some fascinating examples of how market research plays a role in determining what foods end up on the shelves of your local grocery store and in millions of pantries around the world.

Qualitative research identifies a need
In the article, we learn how Oscar Meyer conducted focus groups comprised of working moms to learn not what they were feeding their kids for lunch, but how they felt about the challenges and expectations they had in providing meals for their children. Oscar Meyer learned that these moms were strapped for time and felt pressured to provide a full lunch, while also getting themselves out the door, and to the office. The qualitative research revealed some of the tremendous sociological, psychological, and economic pressures faced by moms.  The company’s solution was Lunchables—a hugely successful product, with sales of $218 million in the first year.

Conjoint analysis configures a new product
Campbell’s Soup used a statistical method called conjoint analysis, to determine the optimal product configuration(s) for their soups.  We use conjoint analysis quite often ourselves because it lets us measure and evaluate the relative importance of individual characteristics and determine the right combinations of these characteristics. Campbell’s used conjoint the same way—to optimize the perfect combinations of ingredients, texture, taste, mouth feel, and so on, to (literally) engineer the ideal food.

Segmentation pinpoints a new target audience
Prego conducted segmentation research to find that there are three primary segments of spaghetti sauce consumers: those who like their sauce plain, those who prefer it to be spicy, and those who like it extra-chunky; the key here is that when the research was conducted, there was no extra-chunky tomato sauce on the market! Prego was able to identify a huge segment of the market whose needs (for extra-chunky tomato sauce) were not being met; the result was a new Prego “extra chunky” sauce that dominated the market.

Food is more than just fuel, especially for those of us lucky enough to have plenty to eat… it’s about things like family, comfort, convenience and love.  And whether you won’t touch a GMO or want Mayor Bloomberg to leave your giant sodas alone, it’s important to know when you grab that bag of chips—the first ingredient is most likely a ton of market research.

Dana is Research Director at CMB. Her husband’s recent conversion to a vegan diet has her thinking about food science even more than usual, though she continues to enjoy cheese.

Check out our latest webinar: The 6 Secrets of Succesful Segmentation, it's much healthier than Doritos we promise.

Topics: Advanced Analytics, Qualitative Research, Market Strategy & Segmentation

A Case for Responding: Good Customer Service Drives Loyalty

Posted by Dana Vaille

Wed, Mar 21, 2012

Customer Service CMBCustomer feedback is a popular topic these days, and it makes me think about my own experiences and how companies’ responses continue to shape my perceptions.  I might have ongoing positive experiences with a company, which, clearly, results in fairly positive perceptions.  So what about when I have a negative experience?  What then? 

Recently I had a really good customer service experience that resulted from giving some pretty negative feedback.  I purchased a laptop bag at what I felt was a reasonably high price, but I loved the bag so it was worth it to me.  Imagine my disappointment when after only 2.5 months, it broke (under very normal wear and tear).  Imagine my further disappointment when I found out that the warranty was only good for 60 days… I was so frustrated!  So I thought about it, and decided to write to the company.  I politely explained the situation, acknowledged that the warranty was expired, and told them my goal was really just to communicate the issue and my disappointment—I paid good money for a bad product, and I really hoped that they would strive to develop a better quality product in the future.  

To my (very pleasant) surprise, not only did I receive an apologetic response, but they also acknowledged some recent manufacturing issues they had recognized due to ongoing customer feedback.  The company had actually decided to change manufacturers to address the problems customers were facing.  That response alone would have been sufficient for me…they were proactively addressing the problem.  But then, in addition, they offered to replace my laptop bag once the shipments arrived from the new manufacturer.  A great bonus! 

The more I thought about it, the more I realized what this company did right and what stood out:

-          They responded

-          They used manners (thanked me for my business, apologized for the problem, etc.)

-          They offered a resolution

I realized how much of an impact those three little things had on me.  I felt really good about the service I received and, despite the problems I experienced, felt better about the company I was working with.  At the end of the day, I was ultimately less focused on the problem I had experienced and more focused on the resolution… knowing that this company was listening to their customers, and acting on the issues.  Their actions made me want to continue purchasing from them and supporting their products. 

What it comes down to is that companies are, at the core, human… product development, customer service, and all the other pieces of the companies we love (and sometimes hate) are human, and they do make mistakes.  What matters is what they do about it.  So what good is my customer feedback?  In this case, it’s what is keeping me loyal. 

Posted by Dana Vaille. Dana is a Senior Project Manager with CMB's Financial Services & Insurance practice. 

For more on our Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty offerings click here.

Topics: Customer Experience & Loyalty, Retail