Just Published: Forrester Wave™ Of Enterprise Feedback Management Satisfaction And Loyalty Solutions

Enterprise feedback management (EFM) solutions help voice of the customer (VoC) programs scale up. They enable customer experience professionals to gather customer feedback from a range of sources, make that feedback relevant and usable for a range of employees, and distribute the insight out to drive customer-centric decisions — without relying on excessive manual analysis and reporting.

Despite EFM’s value, the space has been difficult to navigate because of its dozens of small vendors, evolving market segments, and frequent mergers-and-acquisitions (M&A) activity. This has left customer experience pros with a lot of detective work to do. Even educated buyers have had a hard time coming up with logical shortlists, and vendors have regularly avoided going head to head with competitors.

To shed some light on the EFM space and help customer experience leaders find the right partners, we conducted an in-depth evaluation over the past several months and (finally!) published the results here: The Forrester Wave™: EFM Satisfaction And Loyalty Solutions, Q3 2011.

As the report title suggests, we limited this Wave evaluation to EFM vendors that focus on satisfaction and loyalty work. Packaged solutions from vendors in this market segment are generally most appropriate for customer experience pros because they support VoC processes ranging from data collection to action management with the goal of continuously improving the customer experience, as reflected in satisfaction and loyalty scores. (We also conducted a separate Wave of EFM vendors for market insights professionals, which my colleague Roxana Strohmenger describes on her blog.)

We included six satisfaction and loyalty solution vendors in our evaluation: Allegiance, Empathica, MarketTools, Medallia, Mindshare Technologies, and Satmetrix Systems. Each of these vendors offers a solution that aligns with Forrester’s definition of EFM, generates at least $11 million in annual revenue from EFM, and comes up regularly in inquiries from our customer experience clients.

You’ll have to read the report to find out the results, but here are a few observations about the category in some key areas:

  • Social integration and unstructured data analysis. Not surprisingly, every vendor in our evaluation has made efforts to extend beyond survey feedback by integrating social media data. Most current activity happens through partnerships with social listening platforms like Radian6, but a few vendors have started building their own offerings as well. Along with these developments, the vendors are also doing more with unstructured content — particularly text from social sites and survey comments. Again, partnerships dominate current activity, but some vendors are building here as well. We expect these trends to stay strong, with M&A activity likely to take vendors from partnerships to integrated solutions. Potential buyers should make sure that social and unstructured data capabilities are actually well integrated into vendors’ core offerings, not just floating in the realm of possibility.
  • Mobile data collection and reporting. The satisfaction and loyalty players help companies quickly and continuously manage customer experience performance, and mobile capabilities support that goal. Mobile data collection brings the feedback process closer to the actual experience, especially for store or branch organizations. Mobile reporting allows employees to use customer insight even when they’re not tethered to a PC, such as when visiting customers. Potential buyers should pay particular attention to how users can access vendors’ solutions via mobile and what they can actually do with that access (e.g., just view reports, manage action alerts). That’s where most of the variance lies today.
  • Use of unsolicited feedback from nonsocial channels. Despite their focus on unsolicited data from social sites and unstructured data analysis, today’s satisfaction and loyalty solutions still don’t effectively unlock the value within unsolicited data sources like inbound customer communications (e.g., calls and emails not associated with surveys) and employee notes about customer interactions. That’s as much a result of client readiness as it is a result of vendor capabilities — as previously mentioned, many of these vendors offer text analytics already, and that could be applied to more than social or survey comments. EFM users should push their partners to develop further in this area, even though it’s less sexy than social and mobile.  
  • Self-service options. EFM vendors in the satisfaction and loyalty segment also vary on their approach to self-service program management. For example, some vendors consciously prevent clients from designing and managing their own surveys in order to ensure that clients benefit from vendor expertise. Other vendors give clients the flexibility to manage their own programs fully. Both approaches work, just not for every client. Potential buyers should seriously consider whether they plan to fully manage their own VoC programs at some point in time. As VoC programs continue to expand in scope and scale, we expect self-service capabilities to become more important to clients.

For our thoughts on the individual vendors, check out the full Wave report. Keep in mind that this evaluation is intended as a starting point. If you’re in the process of evaluating potential partners for your company, you can use our scoring spreadsheet to customize criteria weightings and come up with your own ranking.