The 2010 CRM Service Awards: Service Leaders -- Enterprise Feedback Management

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The enterprise feedback management (EFM) sector may be young, but there’s a grown-up battle over what qualifies a vendor for inclusion. Some argue that interactive voice response (IVR) is a critical component; others say that any vendor can compete as long as it offers surveys, integration with CRM, and analytics. The latter makes for a long list of contenders from a variety of backgrounds, but some clear leaders have emerged. 

At the same time, as economic pressures intensify, several analysts note that the demand for voice-of-the-customer projects has increased. Not only are the leading vendors competent in surveying customers, but they also have integration tools that plug data into CRM processes to turn insights into action.

Surveying only via phone or the Web just doesn’t cut it anymore. The top EFM vendors are not only collecting feedback across multiple channels, they’re starting to harness social media feedback as well, with one analyst singling out Allegiance and Confirmit as the furthest along in doing so. Social media’s ultimate impact on EFM remains to be seen, but John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research for the Technology Services Industry Association, says social search has been the hottest topic of research in the EFM space. Crowdsourcing takes time, however, and standards take even longer. “A lot of best practices are yet to emerge,” he says.


Confirmit, 2009’s One to Watch, makes this year’s leaderboard thanks to what analysts call a continued commitment to analytics and strong surveying technology. To stay on the leaderboard, however, Ragsdale says Confirmit will need to prove that it’s more than just a generic tool. “It’s a good platform for marketing analysis, but it doesn’t have a lot of prepackaged capabilities around [customer] satisfaction,” he says. Esteban Kolsky, principal and founder of customer service consultancy ThinkJar, says that, in his mind, Confirmit is a top-three player, but could stand to improve its messaging. “They have an interesting presence, but they focus a little too much on market research,” he adds.

Large-suite provider RightNow Technologies’ focus on customer experience and reputation for customer satisfaction have kept the company on the EFM map. Solid 4.0 scores in both customer satisfaction and company direction are impressive, but the drop in satisfaction from last year’s 4.7 is a red flag. More disturbing: The depth-of-functionality score (3.4) once again came in lowest on the leaderboard. Still, Ragsdale says, “you can’t argue with RightNow’s momentum…. As far as feedback, [it has] good built-in customer satisfaction tools, but I don’t see them doing more of the analytical approaches to satisfaction.”

Verint Systems, at the center of the debate over whether IVR integration is a must-have component of EFM, helps its case by landing a leaderboard spot this year. Verint’s background in telephony and call-quality management puts a slightly different spin on EFM. “They ‘get’ this,” Ragsdale says, explaining the vendor’s solid rating (3.8) in each of the three segments. “They do more than just s,” he says. “They do the voice monitoring and analytics on text. They have some cool capabilities.”


For the second year in a row, Allegiance has nabbed the EFM crown. Now paying close attention to particular verticals—Kolsky acknowledges the firm’s footprint in financial services, saying “virtually every bank uses them”—analysts can’t help but mention the firm when talking about feedback management. One of those analysts says Allegiance is known for “working with customers to try to help them solve and address important issues and make the solutions actionable.” Kolsky adds that not only does Allegiance do survey management well, but it provides its users with benchmarks so they can see how they stack up to like-minded companies. Overall, Allegiance’s performance remained largely in line with 2009’s, aside from an increase—from 4.0 to 4.4—in its depth-of-functionality score, perhaps a reflection of its July 2009 acquisition of competitive EFM solution Inquisite.  


Both Satmetrix and MarketTools fell off the list this year. Analysts praised Satmetrix’s Net Promoter score, but deemed its EFM offering fairly lightweight. MarketTools, once a high scorer thanks to its acquisition of CustomerSat, lost ground due to low scores in company direction, despite its introduction of Zoomerang, an entry-level online survey tool. Vovici, meanwhile, may not offer IVR—a reason for some low depth-of-functionality scores—but analysts are bullish. In his 2009 State of EFM address at the Gartner CRM Summit, Gartner analyst Jim Davies called Vovici one of his top two EFM vendors. (Confirmit was the other.) Three companies Vovici bought in 2007 and 2008—Perseus, WebSurveyor, and Surveyo—contributed to its One to Watch status. “To me,” ThinkJar’s Kolsky says, “Vovici represents EFM.”

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