Tovah Paglaro on text analytics that transform market research

Recently on our podcast we spoke about transformative text analytics for market research with our guest Tovah Paglaro co-founder and chief operations officer at Fathom, an organization that seeks to be the most trusted text analytics software and become the new standard for employee, customer and public opinion research. During the episode, she focused on something that has stayed with her throughout her career and is at the center of what Fathom is doing: seeking to understand what's at the heart of people’s stories and how those stories all connect. She says “the most challenging thing is, just like language is hard, understanding other people is hard. But when it happens, that's where the magic happens.”

She shares a bit about the background behind Fathom and her own entrepreneurial journey, which has focused on understanding people in order to take action. She spent time in communications and marketing and was frustrated with the research tools that existed that didn't really give the depth of understanding that she wanted in order to be able to do her work. This led her to found a couple of different companies, including Fathom, to approach research differently so that “our clients could have transformative outcomes based breakthrough insight” and quickly - at the pace the world is moving. “Making decisions based on large data sets from the last 10 years is not going to help you to do a great job of what you should do in the next 10 years. We need really, really adaptive tools that allow us to listen quickly at scale as things are moving and make responsive decisions as quickly as possible.” 

Tovah also focuses on the importance of empathy, treating humans as more than data points. “We need to not say ‘please fit yourself into one of these check boxes’. But instead tell us about how you're thinking about this thing, how you're feeling about this thing, why this thing matters to you, what kind of experiences you've had with it, what you wish could happen, what you're afraid might happen. We need to be able to answer all of those questions. That means we need text analytics.”

We talk with her a bit about the process and methodology behind what Fathom does, and how it helps the researcher save time and gain better insight. She shares a few examples of the work they are doing and how it functions in real life, including uncovering breakthrough insights that people may not even have been looking for. 

Our conversation continues with a discussion on the importance of understanding and delivering insights to the right people - Tovah emphasizes the need to put the ability to understand data into the hands of decision-makers. She mentions the challenge of enabling people to get closer to their data - using and interpreting their own data themselves. Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with providing a delightful experience, which is crucial in data analytics. She believes there is positive momentum in the industry toward those who want more access to data.

Furthermore, we touch on the skepticism and cynicism in the market research industry, particularly regarding text analytics. Tovah highlights the demand for a tool that can effectively analyze open-ended survey responses and customer feedback. She says “the pattern I find is generally curiosity but with a fair amount of skepticism and doubt. Then, they jump into either a demo or a free trial and are then delighted - like a release of pent up energy. ‘Oh my gosh, could we do this? Could we do this? How could we pull this back in?’ And, and that's really, really fun to see folks being able to have a language to be able to understand people and then to move forward with confidence based on that much, much deeper understanding with much better decisions being made.”

We talk more in-depth about the need to balance advanced analytics with user-friendly interfaces and transparent processes. The conversation concludes by addressing the current trends and challenges in the text analytics space, including the impact of generative AI and the need for transparency and human involvement in AI processes.

And there’s so much more in this episode! We hope you’ll tune in. 

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