Customer Insight and Action (CIA) Platforms Emerge

In the Temkin Group report, The Evolution Of Voice Of The Customer Programs, we label a class of applications as “Customer Insight and Action (CIA) Platforms” which we define as:

A technology for automating multi-channel customer feedback, analysis, and response and the related workflow associated with closed-loop voice of the customer programs

Some people have asked why I didn’t call them Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) applications, which is a term that has some traction throughout the industry (thanks to Carl Henning). While that’s a great question, it didn’t seem appropriate for me to address it in the report. But that’s why I love to blog; I get to discuss anything.

EFM was a great name for those applications when the term was coined in 2004. Instead of having a bunch of uncoordinated surveys taking place across a company, EFM applications provided a platform for managing these important customer (and sometimes employee) contacts across an entire organization. Enterprise Feedback Management applications were focussed on, as the name aptly described, managing feedback.

So the the EFM moniker describes where these applications came from… but it misses the mark on where they are heading.

To some degree, surveying functionality is becoming a commodity. Organizations are recognizing that feedback is not valuable on its own; it only becomes valuable when it’s used as an input to insights which drive some type of action. So the focus is no longer on feedback, but on insight and action. Hence, Customer Insight and Action (CIA) Platforms.

CIA Platforms need to support closed-loop voice of the customer (VoC) programs that are going beyond structured, solicited feedback (traditional surveys). With the maturing of text analytics and the rise of social media, companies are increasingly mining insights from unstructured, unsolicited feedback like customer comments on surveys, notes and verbatims from contact center conversations, inbound emails, online chats, social media sites, customer feedback comments, etc

But new channels of feedback (also called “listening posts”) are not the only element that distinguishes CIA Platforms from their predecessors. These applications also provide actionable insights by:

  • Incorporating non-feedback data like customer profiles and transactional history
  • Distributing tailored, contextual insights across an organization
  • Providing alerts based on specific criteria
  • Supporting workflow associated with taking action based on the insights
  • Integrating with other applications like CRM and workforce management

The bottom line: Feedback is cheap, actionable insights are priceless.

About Bruce Temkin
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

7 Responses to Customer Insight and Action (CIA) Platforms Emerge

  1. Your positioning of the VoC within the quadrant highlights to me that many/most current Voc activities may be based on analysis of “passive” feedback i.e. customers are only providing the feedback because we asked a specific question. This may lead to actions that, while valid, may be relatively unimportant to the customer.

    Feedback in the top right-hand unsolicited/unstructured sub-quadrant, however, is what I would call”pro-active” feedback – initiated by the customer without any question to prompt them. I accept that emotion may often pay a strong role in this category of feedback but there is an arguement to say that this feedback is should carry more weight when deciding on resulting actions.

    The ability to capture and respond to unsolicited/unstructured feedback and to appropriately include it in VoC programs may provide a great source of differentiation in the market.

  2. Hi Bruce!

    Can you explain how these are different than online community platforms that are currently being used for marketing research and consumer insights projects?

    I think this is interesting, but want to see if they are similar to other platforms in which we are currently using in the MR space.

    Thanks!

    Ben

  3. I want to endorse this latest work from Bruce and any move any company makes towards increased Customer Insight or listening to the VoC (voice of the customer). However there is no single solution it is about a range of tools & tactics. The only central requirement is that you want to find out what your customers really thinks rather than trying to prove that they think your service is good.

    So here are 10 notes of caution about the gaps which I think are also needed too.

    1 – Listening and understanding are very different things. Our business sciences group look at this question of listening and understanding for large organisations and a few government types and the gap between the two is significant.

    2 – Different generations from different cultures use different vocabulary and express themselves in very different ways.

    3 – The gap between what technology can tell us and what we really want to understand and report on has been growing for years. The way we use the information we gather is as important as what we gather.

    4 – I can’t think of a major organisation who has not proved that their customer satisfaction has increased year on year but according to a study done by one of the major consulting firms recently consumers think the opposite. If you doubt this think like a consumer and ask yourself what you think about your suppliers.

    5 – Context and channel of contact impacts our understanding of what is being said. Sound quality and IVR for call centres is an issue. Consumers may be nice to CSR staff even if they may have spent 20 minutes in an IVR process that has raised their levels of overall dissatisfaction which may not appear in the conversation text.

    6 – Listen to what your customers say to your IVR’s. We have done some work on this for organisations and the comments are unprintable. We hear people swearing at IVR systems that repeats silly messages and all of us have experienced this…..telling people who have failed to complete a website process that you should visit the website drives consumers crazy while they wait for the “next available agent”. Telling people that their call is valuable while you waste their time.

    7 – You can get some indication about what people think about your brand from the explosion of social comment even that is biased to those who wish to comment rather than the majority that don’t.

    8 – If you are looking at these new tools you may be asking the cost question not the value question and that is also a gap to consider. If you don’t know the customer value seek help urgently.

    9 – Ask the question – are we hearing sentiment and not emotion? It is the emotional content that you really need to understand. Emotional value is the gold dust of customer partnerships. This stuff is all about context. So you need a range of tactics tools and processes to understand the customer and that is how you develop a contact strategy. If you think that this is all difficult then you are probably doing the right thing …..It is difficult.

    10 – Let me demonstrate:

    “This is sick” and “This is fine” could both be positive or negative comments it just depends on who you are talking to and when.

    They may also mean nothing in terms of customer value or emotional impact. It may also tell you nothing about what the consumer really thinks about your organisation.

    • Hi Morris,
      SPOT ON!!
      Its about truly UNDERSTANDING and not just listening (which is really only good for what was previously a press clippings service, counting mentions and monitoring trends). To obtain true value from customer conversations (from any channel) it is important to be able to obtain the “Why” behind an opinion or concern being expressed. Getting to this root cause requires a deep understanding of language and semantics as well as context. Any solution MUST have the ability to go beyond identifying nouns and build up pictures of “who did what to whom, when and where” etc and the expression of sentiment is just one facet that is required to augment the understanding, other “voices” such as intent, question, conditional etc must also be able to be analysed. Only Natural Language Processing (NLP), combined with semantic analysis can achieve this degree of understanding of the conversations and extract true value for the business.

  4. Pingback: Contact Centers Enter The Loyalty Mix « Customer Experience Matters

  5. Perhaps the ultimate validation of the need to mine insights from unstructured social media chatter is Twitter’s decision to develop their own real-time analytics package:

    http://mashable.com/2010/09/23/twitter-real-time-analytics/

    The initial release will probably be light, free, and basic, but I can see Twitter marketing deeper, freemium conversation analytics solutions that could start putting pressure on Twitalyzer Radian6, Sysomos, etc.

  6. bradkesel says:

    I think in service operations, there’s a distinction that can be made between high level, or strategic improvements versus on the ground tactics that may be aligned with strategy but are focused on delivering success “one customer at a time.” As we know, traditional customer research is more strategic– typically in the form of ex-post-facto email invites to web surveys and later aggregated for periodic larger scale decisions. But in a bricks and mortar world (this still exists, doesn’t it?), researchers and service operations managers would love to have knowledge of customer perceptions, attitudes and behaviors during the experience. It is contextual insight during the experience that would have greatest power and benefit — before customers exit. In that scenario, marketing and service delivery forces on the ground could quickly react and deliver experiences aligned with, or exceeding customer expectations, influencing attitudes and future behavior prior to exiting the experience. Some research companies are trying to achieve this using new platforms such as iPod for survey delivery, but for many reasons (and potentially huge non-response bias), it’s still not practical, effective or efficient to execute traditional research instruments during the customer experience.
    But what if there was a solution that incorporated the key elements of contextual insight (thank you, Bruce!) with passively solicited and continuously captured mid-experience, unstructured, open ended feedback offered by the consumer (complete with emotion) in the fastest, easiest way – voice, and distributed same in real time (minutes) to all with a need to know in a form (verbatim text+audio) that was easily understood, easily acted upon and aggregated for summary and detail views?
    My company, VOC Systems, does this now for global brands in the hotel industry. I’d be happy to share some of the results if you’d like to discuss further.

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