Verint To Buy Vovici: Expect More Customer Insight Consolidation In Two Flavors

News recently broke that analytics firm Verint will acquire enterprise feedback management (EFM) vendor Vovici. I think the acquisition makes a lot of sense (we predicted that this type of consolidation would happen) and will benefit both firms. I also think it demonstrates a few major trends that customer experience folks should note:

Vendors are hungry to serve chief customer officers (CCOs). We all know that companies are taking customer experience more seriously these days, and many have established CCO positions accordingly. That has created a new target for the broad set of vendors playing in the customer experience space. Verint and Vovici are trying to meet this new buyer’s need for insight into customers’ end-to-end experiences by pulling together information from across channels, data sources, and data types. The press release even cites the rise of the CCO as a reason for the acquisition. Expect to see more companies go directly after CCOs this year.

There are many more EFM vendors on the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) menu. Like Vovici, most EFM vendors are relatively small tech companies with their eyes set on rapid growth. They’ve seen sales spike recently from companies embracing customer experience as a discipline and recognizing the need to use customer feedback more effectively. Now the vendors are pushing to enter the mainstream. To succeed, many will find suitors like Verint that have cash (not that much is needed here) and holes in their existing solutions to put EFM into a more complete package.  

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How To Use Social Data - And How Not To!

We work with a lot of different types of marketers at Forrester, and we always customize the recommendations we deliver to different clients based upon their unique situations and needs. But over the past few years there's one piece of advice I've found myself giving nearly every company I work with: "Hire a listening vendor."

I love listening platforms and the social data they create; it's a powerful source of information that, used correctly, can make marketers and their programs more effective. But not enough marketers are taking advantage of these benefits.

No matter what type of company you work for -- indeed, whether you work directly with social media or not -- you should be using social data right now to:

  1. Develop your messaging. If you want to create messages that resonate with your audience, you need to know what they care about. Many of our past Forrester Groundswell Award winners have used private listening communities to craft their marketing messages; increasingly, we're seeing companies use data from public social media to guide their messaging as well.
  2. Source your creative. We know that consumers trust what they hear from other consumers more than any other source of information -- why not use listening platforms to identify positive social content that can be included in campaign creative? I've even seen a UK bank, First Direct, use social sentiment data in an outdoor advertising campaign.
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Meeting The eBusiness Challenge Of Online Customer Service Measurement

In a perfect world, there would be a single metric that would measure the success of online customer service. Instead, eBusiness leaders must sift through huge amounts of data to get the right information to the right people at the right time.

There are metrics that will provide insight into customer satisfaction, efficiency, effectiveness, and — in some industries — compliance. At the same time, managing cost is an important goal to eBusiness leaders: In Forrester’s November 2010 Global eBusiness And Channel Strategy Professional Online Survey, 54% say that a reduction in the cost to serve customers is an important or extremely important goal to the success of their web channel.

Kate Leggett recently published a document called “How To Implement Effective Customer Service Metrics” that defines nearly 30 operational metrics for tracking contact center and self-service customer service activities and describes how to link these metrics to business KPIs to focus on the ones that will move the needle.

Getting to the right customer service metric means identifying why it is needed and by whom, understanding the differences between efficiency and effectiveness metrics, and recognizing where metrics are connected. If this is a challenge in your eBusiness organization, I encourage you to read “Meeting The eBusiness Challenge Of Online Customer Service Measurement.”

Want To Raise Your Net Promoter Score? Try Improving Your Customer Experience

Many of our clients work at companies that use Net Promoter. I recently had dinner with two of them at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, 2011. Both are senior people at companies that have been recognized as customer experience leaders in their respective industries.

When a third guest (Forrester’s CEO) asked them why and how they use Net Promoter Score (NPS), they gave remarkably consistent answers. In brief, they use it as a simple, easy-to-understand metric — one number — for aligning the business. Its main appeal is that busy executives don’t need to spend hours studying tables and spreadsheets to get a sense of how their firms are doing. Similarly, frontline employees down to the lowest levels of the organization find that NPS makes intuitive sense.

But there’s a next big (and obvious) question for people like our dinner guests who work to improve the customer experience at their companies: Does improving customer experience raise NPS? Because let’s face it, if your firm ties its overall health back to NPS, then you better be able to connect the dots for what you do, or you won’t seem to matter.

We’ve been wondering about this issue ourselves. So much so that late last year when we ran the big consumer survey that drives our Customer Experience Index, we included the Net Promoter question for two of the 13 industries in our study: banks and retailers. We were looking for a correlation between how people rate the customer experience at a company they do business with and how likely they are to recommend that company to a friend or colleague.

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What The Online Sales Tax Debate Misses

As the election year approaches, we can bet that the cries to impose tax on online retailers will get even more pronounced as politicians look for ways to close our budget deficit and make villains of small but seemingly rich segments that can afford to bear the burden (e.g., private jet owners, Amazon.com). While some journalists are framing companies like Amazon as enabling tax shirkers at the expense of impoverished local school districts, the reality is, the debate is really about big box retailers and physical stores fighting to stop the wallet share war that companies like Amazon are winning online. The NRF has been one of the biggest proponents of making web merchants collect taxes, and it's not surprising that its board is composed of many of the country's largest retailers. Some critical facts:

  • A significant portion of transactions online already collect sales tax because people purchase from online stores like BestBuy.com or Walmart.com, so the real amount that is being “lost” is less than the numbers being bandied around would have you believe, and not enough to make up anyone’s deficit, maybe a small city somewhere but probably not much more.
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Get Your Entries In For The 2011 Forrester Groundswell Awards

Every year, we look to surface the most creative and effective ways in which companies are using social media and recognize them with our Forrester Groundswell Awards. Since I have a focus on serving B2B marketing leaders, I want to make sure that you are aware that we have an award category just for B2B applications. Many B2B marketers come to me because they struggle to come up with ideas for interesting social marketing applications that target business buyers, which makes for far fewer B2B success stories, so we need your entries.

The entry deadline for the 2011 Forrester Groundswell Awards is August 3rd, so I encourage you to go here if you'd like to nominate one of your own initiatives, or if you are an agency, you can submit something you've done for a client. Josh Bernoff, one of the original authors of Groundswell, wrote a great blog post highlighting the history of the awards that you should read if you're not already familiar with the program. 

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The Data Digest: Online Shopping — Researching Versus Purchasing

Recently, my colleague Jackie Anderson published a report, Understanding Online Shopper Behaviors, US 2011, and she indicated that 2010 online retail spending in the US had reached $175.2 billion and will grow at double-digit rates at least for another few years.

But among all the items that can be purchased online, some are more popular than others. We have extracted the top three and bottom three items that consumers research online and purchase online based on data from our North American Technographics® Retail Online Survey, Q3 2010 (US). The data shows that while online consumers are generally comfortable with both researching and purchasing books, hotel reservations, and airline tickets online, they still prefer to purchase footwear, consumer electronics, and household products from traditional channels.
 

About one-third of US Internet users aren't shopping online yet. The majority of them do use the Internet to research products but don't feel comfortable making the purchases online. The biggest barrier people mention for not buying online is their need to see things in person.

Your Guide To Video Highlights Of Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, 2011

Over the past few weeks, Paul Hagen, Kerry Bodine, and I have been posting our takes on Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, 2011. We’ve included video of moments we like from 10 out of the 11 main-stage sessions (sadly, we don’t have video of the Voice Of The Customer Awards, but at least we have a list of the winners!).

To give attendees and others an easy way to find the moments that matter to them, I’ve assembled this guide to our posts about the event. If you find these posts interesting, you can jump into the discussions that started at the forum in our online Forrester Community For Customer Experience Professionals.

DAY ONE, TUESDAY, JUNE 21, 2011

“Customer Experience Is Personal”

Harley Manning, Vice President, Research Director, Forrester Research

Here’s the man-on-the-street video I used in my opening remarks. We took a camera crew to Harvard Square and asked people to describe their best and worst customer experiences. Yikes!
 

 “What Is the Right Customer Experience Strategy For Your Company?”

Paul Hagen, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research

What is a customer experience strategy? What is it good for? How can you recognize a good one? Hear Paul’s answer, which sets the theme for the rest of the event.
 

“A Relentless Focus On Members”

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We're Accepting Entries For The 2011 International Forrester Groundswell Awards!

For the past five years, we've been running the Forrester Groundswell Awards to recognize the companies that do the best job using social media -- and last year we added an international category for the first time. We were thrilled to recognize some fantastic international social media programs in 2010 -- from companies who both used social technologies in an innovative way and were able to show how their social programs helped build brand awareness, develop new products and services, or generate leads and sales -- and I'm excited to see the entries we receive for 2011.

If you think you (or your clients) have used social media exceptionally well in the past year, and the program was targeted to consumers outside the US, we'd love to see your entry. Feel free to browse the rules here and to submit your entry here -- just remember our deadline is August 3rd. So get busy with those entries -- and good luck!

Make A Digital Connection With Women Around Life Stage And Passion Points

When the FBI finally captured Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger after a 16-year hunt, it did it by talking to women. Why? Because it realized that women would be more likely to have connected with his more conversational girlfriend Catherine Greig. The FBI went the traditional daytime-TV advertising route, but modern marketers should integrate social media into their marketing communications to make a more personal connection with their female consumers. Women are higher users of social media than men and have the potential to drive a brand’s reputation online because they are more connected and like to talk about brands and products. The key to making a digital connection with women is to understand their life stage and engage with them around the passion points that intersect with your brand. Brands like Kraft are leading social media, with Kraft innovating through its “Real Women of Philadelphia” campaign that uses social media as a creative inspiration. Check out my report “Engage Women With Personal And Relevant Social Interactions” to learn how to connect with your female consumer. 

How are you using social media to connect with women? What’s its role in your marketing mix? Answer here, or engage in the discussion we have started in the CMO Community here, "How are you using digital to connect with your female consumer?"

Thanks!