Confirmit Buys CustomerSat As CIA Platforms Evolve

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the customer experience management space is ripe for M&A activity. So it wasn’t a big surprise last week when Confirmit announced that it had acquired CustomerSat from MarketTools. For those of you who don’t know these firms, they both provide what I call Customer Insight and Action (CIA) platforms that are sometimes referred to as Enterprise Feedback Management or EFM. These vendors provide tools and capabilities for organizations to manage their voice of the customer (VoC) programs.

I spoke with Confirmit CEO Henning Hansen and members of his management team about this move. Not surprisingly, they were excited about the opportunities for both companies. CustomerSat brings 120 or so enterprise customers and a strong services team. The execs also spoke about how CustomerSat customers will get access to new capabilities such as Confirmit’s mobile features from its previous acquisition of Techneos. Here are some other tidbits from my discussion:

  • Confirmit is committed to supporting both platforms. Hansen told me that they “will not lose one customer because of shutting off support.” Having said that, the company has not yet defined the combined product roadmap that (from my point of view) must eventually merge the platforms.
  • CustomerSat’s services capabilities will help Confirmit accelerate its plans to add more services around its CIA technology platform.
  • Confirmit will be able to incorporate parts of CustomerSat’s reporting and dashboard capabilities since it is better suited for access by untrained, non-analysts.
  • The companies will not immediately combine the two sales forces, but will incent the two groups to help each other with joint customers and opportunities. I expect that they will combine the salesforce by the beginning of 2013.
  • I suggested that the company should consider rebranding itself from Confirmit to CustomerSat. Hansen said that they were open to looking at all possibilities as they complete the post-acquisition plans.

My take: Although Confirmit did not share any of the financial details of this deal, it appears to be an excellent move. Confirmit has had a strong foothold in Europe and with market research companies that use its platforms as part of their offerings. CustomerSat provides the company with significant scale in the US and a stronger base of enterprise customers. It also needed to round out its platform with more services, which was a strong area for CustomerSat.

This is also an excellent move for CustomerSat and its customers. While CustomerSat is one of the most tenured CIA vendors and has had a strong offering, it was somewhat orphaned when TPG Growth purchased MarketTools to combine other pieces of the company with SurveyMonkey. This move should provide more stability for CustomerSat customers and a stronger long-term roadmap. Having said that, both CustomerSat and Confirmit customers will likely have to deal with some migration issues in the future when Confirmit merges the platforms. I would expect the company to invest heavily in minimizing the impact of these transitions.

More importantly, this solidifies Confirmit as one of the leading CIA vendors for large enterprises along with vendors such as Allegiance, Medallia, Mindshare Technologies, ResponseTek, and Vovici.

As VoC programs continue to expand and mature (see Temkin Group report: Prepare For Next Generation Voice of the Customer Programs), we expect to see demand continue to grow for CIA platforms. These vendors will need to increasingly build out their social media, analytics and mobile capabilities while adding services to support more advanced VoC programs within large enterprises.

I expect to see additional acquisitions in this market as the CIA vendors creep into other markets such as CRM, analytics, market research, and business intelligence.

The bottom line: The CIA market will continue to evolve

Verint Buys Vovici; Let The Games Begin

I spoke with Verint and Vovici execs today about Verint’s acquisition of Vovici for an estimated $76 million. For those of you who don’t know these vendors, Verint provides workforce management, call recording, and analytical capabilities targeted at contact centers. Vovici is an Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) vendor (I consider EFM an outdated term) that provides voice of the customer (VoC) software and services. It appears that Vovici will continue to operate somewhat independently as “A Verint Company.”

My take: First of all, kudos to Verint. It’s a good extension to its offering and the price tag seems fair (although I don’t get too involved in valuations). And, they can share all of the company towels that have a “V” monogram. :-) This is a natural evolution in the market, and is consistent with the M&A activity I’ve expected and have been writing about for a while. Here are some things that I think we can learn from this acquisition:

  • The contact center is a VoC goldmine. There’s a ton of insights about customers that remain locked inside of contact centers. Companies can learn a lot by blending their contact center interactions into their voice of the customer programs.
  • Unstructured data is critical. Vovici grew up as a survey vendor which is the heritage of most of the “EFM” firms. But there’s a ton of lost insight in unstructured content such as social media conversations, call center interactions, sales notes, etc. That’s why “unstructured data appreciation” is one of our 8 customer experience megatrends. Vovici will be able to tap into Verint’s voice analytics to offer compelling capabilities around things like mobile voice feedback.
  • Look for a NICE next move. Verint’s largest competitor, Israel-based Nice Systems, needs to make a move. With a ton of “EFM” vendors around, there are a lot to choose from (including Allegiance, Medallia, Mindshare, and even another Israeli firm, Ransys, to name just a few of the many vendors).
  • The big boys will awaken. Verint’s acquisition of a major player in this market will accelerate the moves by large software players such as SAP, Oracle, SAS, and IBM. I’ve discussed that this market was heading away from “EFM” vendors towards what I’ve called “Customer Insight And Action (CIA) Platforms.” These vendors are evolving into other categories like CRM, BI, analytics, contact center, and BPM in which much larger vendors play.
  • Voice of the customer programs are evolving. All of these vendor moves will make it easier for companies to develop actionable insights from a variety of data sources. That’s why firms must continue to update and evolve their VoC programs.

The bottom line: This is the start of a busy M&A season.

P.S. Check out our Voice Of The Customer Topic Page

Congrats to VoC Winners: Experian, Progressive, and Vanguard

Well, it’s been a wild day; the Grand Hyatt was hopping today as we kicked off our Customer Experience Forum.

My opening keynote speech seemed to go over really well. I weaved the story of the customer experience journey together with the story of Dorothy’s journey in the Wizard Of Oz. I actually ended my speech with a rewritten version of the song “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” I also showcased some data from my new report that went live today called “Customer Experience Boosts Revenue.” I’ll talk more about my speech and that research in future posts.

For now, I want to congratulate the three winners of Forrester’s 2009 Voice Of The Customer (VoC) Award: Experian, Progressive, and Vanguard. We received 40 strong nominations, so these winners did a really great job. They all were adept at the four key elements of a VoC program: Listening, Interpreting, Reacting, and Monitoring and were able to identify significant business results from those efforts. You can download their nomination forms from Forrester’s customer experience blog.

There were so many outstanding nominations, that we named 11 finalists:

  • Cardinal Health
  • CIGNA
  • Experian
  • Gaylord
  • Hyatt Place
  • iRobot
  • Logitech
  • Oracle
  • Progressive Insurance
  • Symantec
  • Vanguard

Voice of the customer is a critical component for just about any customer experience effort. And the trends indicate that VoC will become even more important in the future. A lot of the advances in VoC are coming from innovative work from a number of vendors. That’s why one of the questions we asked was: “What technology vendors or service providers are critical to your success?”

Here’s a shout out to the vendors that were mentioned by the 11 finalists:

Bain and Company, Burke Research, CAHPS, Clarabridge, Cognos, Convergys, ECHO, Healthways, iModerate, JD Power, Lotus Notes, M/A/R/C, Medallia, Microsoft, National Committee for Quality Assurance, NICE, Opinion Lab, Oracle, Radiano, RightNow Technologies, Satmetrix, Somentics, TeaLeaf, Vovici, and Webtrends.

The nominations were loaded with great insights, so I’ll be writing a lot more about what we found.

The bottom line: Congratulations to all of the winners, finalists, and the vendors that helped!

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