Stories of Analytics – Joe Megibow, Part I [video]

“You’ve got to have a narrative. Finance is really good at narrative. They don’t just put data together, they tell a story.”

Joe Megibow, VP and General Manager, Expedia, tells the story of his career, and demonstrates six important lessons that he learned based on his experiences in the analytics business.

Watch Part II

In the early 90’s the web was just starting to blossom, and he was working to convince GM to get online. Back then, there were 23K websites. In ’99, he got to know about a company called Blackbox which eventually became Tealeaf, a Customer Experience Management solution for all online channels. Back then, Yahoo ruled the roost, Google was still in Beta. Megibow wrote the first whitepaper for Tealeaf, saying that 2 measures were needed:

  1. The semantic events
  2. The complete user experience

He jokes that even he doesn’t understand what he meant there, however, there was a webmaster using a debugging tool on the website, and suddenly, he could predict the future. The webmaster congratulated sales reps on closing a sale based on the buyer downloading white papers and signing up for paid courses.

Lesson #1: It’s not about the tools, it’s about the people using the tools and how they handle it.

How to blow an interview and still get the job

The next story he tells is about meeting the CEO of a company. He says he went to the office, which was disorganized and asked to see the system, and an engineer showed him all the details, and he asked questions, criticized the product heavily, and eventually got a good feel for it. He then asked his contact to introduce him to the CEO, only to discover that the Engineer he’d just gotten “down and dirty” with was the CEO. He felt terrible embarrassment regarding how he’d been very direct in the conversation. He was hired on the spot precisely because of his directness.

Lesson #2: You have to be honest and transparent.

What you think is bad data might be good data

While working for Tealeaf, his role was often to go into a company and install and implement the Tealeaf solution. At one point, he worked at an HR company, where one of the things the company monitored and aggregated was evaluations of workers. He found the following comment in a performance review, written by a manager at a major company: “This person is a total bitch and I don’t know how she continues to work here.” With great discomfort, Megibow spoke to the founder of the company, who was overjoyed. This, he told Megibow, is precisely the type of behavior that the system is designed to eradicate. The next step was to create a pie chart of uses of inappropriate language (curse words), and present them to the executives of the company. This, he discovered, was absolute gold.

Lesson #3: Know your customer because you are not your customer.

When is a system glitch as bad as an outage?

When working at, he noticed that around 30% of customers who reached the final phase of booking a hotel never made the purchase. He mined through the data, pulling an all-nighter, and discovered that many of these people tried to pay but their transactions didn’t go through due to glitches in the site. He went to the CEO and said “there is an outage,” explaining that 20% of customers who want to pay and have means are unable to complete the transaction due to site glitches. To demonstrate the situation more powerfully, he said “We might as well have the site offline five hours each day.” Immediately, all hands were called on deck, all other projects were set aside, and the whole team worked to find the source of the glitch and correct it.

Lesson #4: It’s not about the click conversion. It’s about attempts and intent.

Lesson #5: You have to put data into actionable terms. Saying “You might as well turn the site off for 5 hours a day” puts it into context for the CEO.

A complaint saves the day

Megibow describes his “Reeses Peanut Butter Cup” moment – the moment when you realize that chocolate and peanut butter go so well together, and realized that if you combined the functions of Opinionlab with those of Tealeaf, you could get a much deeper understanding of the customer experience. A few weeks after implementing this, they received a complaint stating: “I’m unable to log into my account. It’s not recognizing my email.” This was a travel arranger who had run so many sales through their company that they owed her 3 free nights meaning, in a few weeks, she had made at least 30 bookings. Her data had disappeared. After mining through the data, they discovered a synchronization issue. Any time the call center touched an account, it was erased from the online system. Once the glitch was discovered, the team realized that it had happened hundreds of times. It was only discovered because of a customer comment.

Lesson #6 Give your customer a voice and they’ll give you gold. Listen to their emails, their comments, everything.

Watch Part II

Joe Megibow – VP and General Manager, Expedia

Joe MegibowJoe Megibow is currently the VP and General Manager of Expedia, the world’s leading online travel provider. In his role, Joe manages all aspects of Expedia’s US operations.

Prior to this role, Joe was the VP, Mobile and E-Commerce Optimization at Expedia, with global responsibility for Expedia’s mobile initiatives, including Mobiata, the leading provider of mobile travel apps. Joe also oversaw e-commerce optimization activities including leading-edge site conversion optimization techniques, marketing, site, and customer analytics, and site experimentation. Finally, he had product management responsibility for core eCommerce flows, including product search and checkout.