Company executives are no longer content merely to look into their crystal balls and guess what current and prospective customers think about their businesses. Rather, more organizations are turning to surveys and other feedback products to capture the authentic voice of the customer -- so much so that West Orange, N.J.–based industry research firm DMG Consulting finds this past year to have produced the highest rate of growth in the history of the contact center surveying/feedback market.
According to DMG's "2008 Contact Center Surveying/Feedback and Analytics Market Report," the industry grew by 21.3 percent between 2007 and 2008, which leads Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, to believe the space is hitting its stride. "It's finally an indication that enterprises [are] opening their pocketbooks and actually investing in these types of solutions," she says. "The market is really growing."
As the market expands, it's also evolving, according to the study. One major trend involves moving away from standalone survey applications and delving more into enterprise feedback management (EFM) solutions. "We're not looking at [a vendor] that just has a Web- or IVR-based tool," Fluss stresses. "We're looking at solutions that bring all the pieces together into a centralized environment so we can look at the results from a multichannel perspective."
This approach is built upon the notion that companies now realize customer data should no longer live and die in the contact center -- or any other individual department -- but rather permeate throughout the enterprise. "You need to have a cross-functional group of constituents impacted by this shared information," Fluss says. "They need to be empowered to make changes -- if not in real time, [then] very rapidly. Ideally, there needs to be a way of communicating the benefits of the shared [data]."
This is especially important with today's economy, according to Fluss. She says that while she doesn't expect the 2009 growth rate for the survey-and-feedback space to exceed this year's record pace -- many companies will be cutting back on technology spending -- she still expects the market to remain strong. "In a recession, it's actually harder to acquire than to retain customers," she says. "So it's essential to [keep] the ones you have. And in periods like this, what do most people want? They want to know you're listening and responding to them."
Ten vendors the study specifically notes as having a comprehensive package for surveying and feedback are, in alphabetical order:
- Autonomy etalk;
- Customer Relationship Metrics;
- Mindshare Technologies;
- RightNow Technologies;
- United Carrier Networks; and
- Verint Systems.
Five more providers that Fluss says are enhancing their applications to extend their reach into this growing space include:
- CFI Group;
- Interactive Intelligence; and
Vendors, Fluss says, are increasingly moving toward enterprise-minded offerings, and DMG intends to reflect that evolution: Next year's study, she says, will simply be called EFM -- de-emphasizing the word "survey" -- because of the more-comprehensive approach providers and organizations are taking toward creating actionable strategies from consumer feedback through many channels.
By whatever name, however, the voice of the consumer often takes the form of a squeaky wheel -- and companies need to be responsive to the concerns that customers raise.
"Keep in mind," Fluss says, "most customers don't call to say, ‘I love you.' "
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