Confirmit Horizons Enables Multi-Channel EFM…But What’s Next Could Get Interesting

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Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) technology is a proven way to “listen” to the voice of customers with surveys, and manage the distribution so that feedback generates action. While the vast majority of companies conduct surveys, most don’t do enough with the data collected.

Properly implemented, EFM systems can help create a closed loop process that starts with customer feedback through their channel of preference, and ends with changes communicated back to the customers.

With the “Horizons” release announced Feb. 3, Confirmit enables multi-channel (sometimes called multi-mode) listening posts including the web, IVR, email…and even paper.

That’s right, paper. According to marketing head Gary Schwartz, it’s not unusual for only a minority of customers to have email addresses in a system, so paper remains one channel that still essential…and it does work.

What’s most interesting to me about Confirmit’s latest Horizons release is not just the support for multiple channels (other vendors provide this, too), but that the EFM system can support multiple feedback channels in one user session. For example, a user could start a survey via an IVR then finish it later on the web. I don’t know how common this scenario might be, but it makes sense to give customers as much flexibility as possible in giving feedback.

Schwartz says Confirmit has been growing fast, around 25 percent annually (probably approaching $50M in 2008) as the product functionality continues to expand. In 2007, Confirmit acquired Pulse Train which added more telephony capabilities to its survey engine and authoring tools. This new Horizons release completes the integration process.

All this is good stuff, and should keep Confirmit is a leadership position with large enterprises and market research firms. However, along with key EFM competitors like CustomerSat, Satmetrix and Vovici, Schwartz says that Confirmit also has to stay ahead of SaaS vendors like RightNow and Salesforce.com that have integrated survey capabilities, albeit more lightweight.

What’s Next?

I think the feature/function wars may be coming to turning point in the EFM industry. My view is that the big opportunities in the future are in these areas:

1. Integration with CRM systems. Not just to personalize surveys but to enable real-time handling of hot customer issues. CRM vendors have more lightweight EFM capabilities but tighter integration. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a CRM vendor acquire an EFM player in the next year, and offer the best of both.

2. Analyzing unstructured feedback. Clarabridge and Island Data are two that focus on this emerging area. Why depend only on structured input via surveys? I think EFM vendors should (and probably will) build out text mining capabilities and/or integrate with current vendors, and move to the world of social media to source customer feedback.

3. Automated driver analysis. Allegiance, for example, enables a company to figure out what really impacts loyalty. (Sorry, NPS is not enough.) Confirmit has some analysis capability built in and may do more in the future, Schwarz says. However, I suspect that major EFM vendors may be reluctant to jeopardize relationships with the research firms that typically do this work.

The EFM industry is maturing, and with that usually comes consolidation. Confirmit certainly looks like one to watch as the next chapter is written.

Further Reading: Confirmit Launches First Fully On-Demand, Multi-Mode Research Platform

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