Enterprise Feedback Management Is Still A Reality, Even Though It’s Not Sexy

I don’t love the name enterprise feedback management (EFM) to describe the technologies that enable voice of the customer (VoC) programs. It’s just not sexy. Unfortunately, it still accurately represents what vendors in the space actually do. As my colleague Roxie Strohmenger and I explained in a March 1st report: “We believe EFM still accurately represents the category. Why? Because 1) the vendors are still primarily focused on feedback as their primary data source, and 2) managing that feedback extends to the various analytical, alerting, and reporting activities that they pursue beyond just supporting survey processes.”

Since then, we’ve been knee-deep in EFM solutions, preparing for a Forrester Wave due out this summer. The experience has totally validated our earlier decision. Here’s a brief explanation:

Enterprise: The vendors pull together data from across an organization, from contact center to web, store, and social. Many also incorporate data from noncustomers, such as prospects and employees. In other words, they provide enterprise solutions. Check.

Feedback: It’s widely accepted that feedback includes more than numerical survey responses. It includes unstructured and unsolicited feedback too. Many EFM vendors also go beyond what we typically regard as feedback by incorporating transactional and operational data. But their solutions are totally built around feedback. Other data is treated practically as feedback, and it’s used to put feedback into context. Check.

Management: EFM solutions do lots of things with data. They analyze it, create role-based reports, alert employees to follow up with customers, and enable employees to track cases. But the solutions themselves don’t act. They enable action through good data and case management. Check.

Of course, EFM won’t be around forever. In the same report referenced above, I described two key trends that will blow up this space over the next five years: Larger technology players will enter the market; EFM will coalesce with customer and business intelligence. We’re just not there yet.

Comments

EFM/VOC/CIA/CEM/ETC/ETC/ETC

Great article Andrew! I seem to have seen another article recently in the industry taking a stance on what to call everything ...

Whatever the right term is, the industry as a whole still seems young because it's still figuring out its own name. Young, but growing rapidly. I've even seen vendors create their own acronyms hoping that they'll catch on, but to no avail.

I believe that we'll walk across stepping stones in the path of EFM's evolution before the industry becomes a part of BI (naturally I hope pure EFM vendors never see their demise, but instead transition). For example, I see two additional elements, which are major functions of current EFM platforms included in your March 1 report - that will grow in importance and will likely be responsible for spawning EFM's transition. 1) As you mentioned in the "Feedback" definition above, EFM platforms are primarily built around feedback, but continue to gather growing types of information such as transaction and operational data. 2) Analysis and reporting functions have the ability to someday move beyond your definition of "management." Mindshare believes predictive analytics, coaching tools, etc. will become more useful, and will even start automatically fixing the problems by doing the action themselves, rather than only enabling action.

As a vendor, we at Mindshare Technologies have used various definitions and acronyms for every customer we work with. Different clients and industries use different definitions yet still want the same platform.

TFTC -- thanks for the comments

Hey Jon. Thanks for the comments, a sentiment which I'm now calling TFTC ;) I agree that this space is young and evolving. And now is a great time to be involved in it. The next couple of years are going to be exciting and probably surprising.

To be honest, I don't really care what this space is called. But I do care about clients understanding what the vendors in the space actually do vs. what they aspire to do. I think renaming the category makes that distinction less clear.