Feedback Is the Future

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Contact center surveying/feedback and analytics applications, while still evolving, show great promise for companies of all sizes. Vendors are developing and enhancing solutions to create products that capture and report the voice of the customer from a growing number of channels. Though many surveying solutions have been in the market for years, they have gained much greater prominence since 2007. Surveying/feedback solutions are increasing in popularity, as evidenced by the substantial expansion of the contact center segment of the surveying market in 2008. The number of contact center surveying/feedback and analytics implementations grew by a very strong 21.3 percent between 2007 and 2008, and DMG Consulting expects this momentum to remain strong for the next three years, despite the economic slowdown.

Surveying is the best method for an enterprise to determine if customers are satisfied with the quality of its products and services. Surveying is an indication of customer loyalty and also measures market perception, brand strength, customer satisfaction, and the overall customer experience. Surveying is both an art and a science. There’s an art to designing questionnaires and writing effective questions; it is science to determine the number of surveys required to provide a statistically valid sample set. Analyzing and interpreting the rich feedback from customer surveys requires a methodical blending of art and science.

The Competitors
DMG Consulting’s 2008 Contact Center Surveying/Feedback and Analytics Report (issued in September 2008) analyzed the 10 leading vendors that serve the contact center market. These 10 vendors are, in alphabetical order:

  • Allegiance,
  • Autonomy etalk,
  • Customer Relationship Metrics,
  • CustomerSat,
  • Mindshare Technologies,
  • Ransys,
  • RightNow Technologies,
  • Satmetrix,
  • United Carrier Networks, and
  • Verint Systems.

We also reviewed five other vendors with contact center surveying/feedback and analytics solutions that are either currently available or scheduled for release before the end of 2008. These vendors are:

  • CallCopy,
  • CFI Group,
  • Confirmit,
  • Interactive Intelligence, and
  • KnoahSoft.

We expect additional vendors to enter this market over the next 24 months.

Market Evolution
Contact center surveying/feedback and analytics solutions are designed to create, issue, collect, and analyze feedback in an increasing number of channels. The offerings are beginning to support both solicited and unsolicited customer feedback, as new forms of communication and social networking applications are changing the business landscape. Today’s visionary vendors are not only collecting feedback; they are developing the capability to routinely take the pulse of customers, as well as mechanisms to gather feedback from community forums where customers openly speak their minds. These vendors are transforming their offerings to incorporate both traditional, solicited surveying approaches and real-time, unsolicited community platforms.

A growing number of vendors have already incorporated the concept of enterprise feedback management (EFM) into their offerings. Several vendors are extending their surveying capabilities beyond the contact center to various departments throughout the enterprise, including marketing, sales, product development, and investor relations. Along with offering these new capabilities, vendors need to update their marketing and advertising campaigns and become skilled at selling outside of the contact center. This means they must develop relationships with key executives in these other departments.

Real-Time Surveying
In a business world that is compelled to make decisions at ever-increasing speeds, the ability to perform real-time surveying is a key strategic advantage. Real-time surveying/feedback solutions change the enterprise-customer dynamic. The benefits of real-time information are numerous, including improvements in service quality and customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. Real-time surveying in the contact center provides an opportunity for enterprises to respond to issues raised by customers as they happen. It enables an organization to take immediate actions to prevent problems or fix problems before they can have a negative impact.

Many of the surveying/feedback vendors process and make customer data available in real time, though their definitions of real time may differ. Feedback may be posted to the database as customers complete surveys, but it is not always available for immediate viewing, reporting, and analysis. True real-time surveying solutions supply results immediately (or within 15 seconds); near-real-time applications deliver feedback for viewing and reporting within a somewhat longer time frame (but still within five to 15 minutes).

Response Rates
One of the biggest challenges in the contact center surveying/feedback and analytics market today is the increasing rate at which companies are reaching out to customers with survey requests. The Internet makes communication with customers cheap and easy, and low-cost solutions enable almost anyone (or any department in a company) to create and issue a survey. As a result, customers are finding themselves bombarded with requests for feedback, creating frustration and “survey fatigue.”

Most solutions in the market today offer some method for enterprises to define sampling rules and deployment criteria. One way to increase response rates is to utilize these capabilities to limit the number of surveys each individual customer is asked to complete. Other tips include personalizing invitations, limiting the number of questions, sending reminder emails, and sharing survey results with survey participants. The most important aspect, however, is an enterprise surveying/feedback strategy that manages all customer survey requests.

Taking Action Based on Feedback
The biggest mistake enterprises make with surveying is not taking action based on the feedback customers provide. Most of the offerings today capture feedback in real time and perform analysis in near-real time, reporting on events within minutes or hours after a customer interaction. The benefit of real-time surveying is that it allows managers to take action while a call is still in progress. Real-time solutions offer alarms and alerts to supervisors and agents during actual calls, and one vendor offers coaching to agents on customer service issues or sales opportunities as an interaction is being conducted. Real-time surveying facilitates a closed-loop process, as can be seen in Figure 1, below.

Dec08-ScoutingReport Quality Management/Liability Recording Suites

Figure 1: Quality Management/Liability Recording Suites
Source: DMG Consulting LLC, August 2008

Unfortunately, few enterprises use these real-time capabilities, and few let their customers know what they are planning to do in response to the collected feedback.

An exciting new role is emerging at some organizations—the customer advocate (or champion). The responsibility of the advocate is to ensure that customer feedback is used to drive change throughout the enterprise. Customer advocates are charged with developing processes, assigning tasks, and following up with customers to let them know how valuable their feedback has been and what the company is doing in response.

The Future
Enterprise and contact center surveying/feedback and analytics has a bright future. The market is seeing an upswing in interest and implementations due to the strategic and tactical benefits of these applications. Exciting new feedback opportunities are also on the horizon. Most promising are some of the Web 2.0 and social software applications. These include wikis, blogs, customer-review sites, community forums, social networks, content feeds, content rating, and reputation management.

Enterprise feedback management is the future of contact center surveying, as it enables survey results to be shared with all relevant departments throughout the company. EFM extends surveying to address customers, employees, partners, and investors. It is a means of incorporating feedback, whether solicited or unsolicited, from all sources and channels, into business operations. EFM also provides a centralized method for collecting, managing, and using feedback, and allows organizations to engage customers and other constituents on multiple fronts. Now that enterprises are finally showing interest, we expect to see most of the contact center surveying vendors extend their solutions to address the greater enterprise.

For more information about contact center surveying/feedback and analytics solutions, see DMG Consulting’s 2008 Contact Center Surveying/Feedback and Analytics Report at www.dmgconsult.com.

Donna Fluss (donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com) is founder and president of DMG Consulting LLC, a leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis, and consulting. Beth Eisenfeld (beth.eisenfeld@dmgconsult.com) is a senior consultant at the firm.

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