Confirmit’s VoC product strategy focused on Horizons platform


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This past week I attended Confirmit‘s annual customer conference. I spent some time with CEO Henning Hansen and other executives, to get an update on their business, integration of CustomerSat (acquired in 2012) and product roadmap.

The big picture: Confirmit has a thoughtful strategy to compete as a leader in solutions for both Voice of Customer and Market Research. The firm is one of the few positioned in both segments, and is working to create synergies, not competition. CustomerSat customers are being treated respectfully, and mobile will be an increasingly big part of the company’s future VoC and MR solutions.

Growth Strategy

Although Confirmit was formerly listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange, that ended in 2008 when Confirmit was taken private by its sole investor/owner, Norwegian billionaire Alexander Vik. Hansen, who has been CEO since 2005, says this is an advantage, because Vik is taking the long view, and that frees executives to make decisions not colored by investors looking for an exit. He has a point—I’ve seen some odd deals done because investors wanted out or current investors wouldn’t put in more money.

Confirmit doesn’t release revenue numbers but charts presented at the conference along with Hansen’s comments portray a company that’s growing at a measured pace, with acquisitions sparingly made to fit a strategic agenda, not to just boost the top line. The company now serves 700 customers in 100 countries, and processes 200M+ surveys per year.


One of the most significant acquisitions was CustomerSat about 10 months ago. CustomerSat was a pioneering EFM/VoC company founded in 1997. But it reached one of those “exit” moments in 2008 and was sold to MarketTools. At the time, founder/CEO John Chisholm said that the combination of the two firms would create a “consumer insights powerhouse”. And indeed, in briefings by MarketTools execs after that, I got the sense that they wanted to be a long-term player and CustomerSat was just one step in that direction.

Somewhere along the way, my sources say, MarketTools investors also lost enthusiasm for the long term. That presented a happy opportunity in 2012 for Confirmit to fill a gap in its VoC capability. Hansen told me that CustomerSat’s reporting and dashboard solutions and US-based EFM implementation expertise were the most valuable.

Platform Rationalization and Roadmap

I’ve been curious, though, about how Confirmit would rationalize the two platforms. Confirmit’s Horizon solution is clearly their strategic direction. Selected CustomerSat functionality will be brought to Horizons, and vice versa, over the next year or so. But the goal, according to Terry Lawlor, EVP of Product Management, is to motivate customers to move to Horizons. There’s no “forced march” to migrate.

I find this a refreshing and, dare I say, customer-centric way to treat the 120 CustomerSat customers. I’ve seen other cases where vendors have been much more aggressive in shutting down development on non-strategic platforms. But, I’ll wager that after a couple of years Confirmit will need to push holdouts a bit harder to migrate. The “goodies” available in Horizons will help, but the switch will be a major IT project that some laggards will want to avoid as long as possible.

Lawlor also spent some time discussing a high-level Confirmit roadmap with me. As mentioned, one element is to enhance both Horizons and CustomerSat solutions in the near term. In 2014 a “hub” will also be introduced to make it easier to manage multiple types of feedback data, and integrate with other systems (e.g. CRM). And, like other VoC vendors, solutions will be increasingly mobilized in the form of responsive design and device-specific (smartphone, tablet) implementations.

Last year, Bruce Temkin had a positive take on the CustomerSat acquisition and sees Confirmit as one of the leading vendors in what he calls the CIA (Customer Insight and Action) industry. But you could make a case for a lot of related technology (text mining, analytics, etc.) in such a broad definition. No VoC vendor can provide every element of the solution, especially for large/complex enterprises. And, even if they could, those same enterprises have already made investments in specialized solutions for social listening, web analytics, etc.

Analytics is one area where there is already a robust set of suppliers in text, social, predictive, etc. Some types of analytics will be a core part of Confirmit, such as statistical analysis needed to find loyalty drivers. But in other cases the approach will be a partnership with other vendors. Like Clarabridge, which specializes in unstructured data.

Action, Anyone?

The big problem with VoC is not collecting data, or even analyzing what the data means. It’s that companies don’t actually do something. Analysts think 50% or more of companies don’t do a good job systemically “closing the loop” with customers providing feedback. I’d estimate only 5-10% do it really well. When was the last time you were thanked for your feedback on a survey, and told what would be done?

On this point, Confirmit is trying to help enterprise act on feedback more systemically. Making it easy to deliver feedback and action requests to the front line is part of the answer. Doing so in the correct format (e.g. on mobile devices and tablets for some employees) is also important.

From my standpoint, however, the real culprit for lack of action is the culture of the company. Leaders need to be passionate about not just listening (collecting data) but also hearing (what does it mean) and engaging (communicating the action plan).

Disclosure: Confirmit invited me to this conference and gave me a free pass. This post is part of my independent coverage of industry trends and is not meant as an endorsement of any company mentioned. In the past year, Confirmit has been a CustomerThink sponsor and has hired me to present at one of their events.


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