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 Vovici is an Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) vendor (I consider EFM an outdated term) that provides voice of the customer (VoC) software and services.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

Customer Experience Was Born In 1994

Yesterday, Google launched a very cool tool called Google Books Ngram Viewer that provides a searchable database of millions of books published over five centuries. The tool lets people search through 500 billion words from 5.2 million books in Chinese, English, French, German, Russian and Spanish.

As you might expect, I was intrigued by the announcement of this new analytical tool — so I decided to do a bit of my own analysis of the English corpus. Rather than do a bunch of analysis on the data, I’m just sharing the data with some basic observations. Notice the shape and peaks of the “S-curves” which highlight the evolution of terms that I examined. How would you interpret this data?

The focus on “Customer Experience” started in 1994

The focus On “Voice Of The Customer” started in 1986

“Customers” start to outpace “profits” and “employees” in 1995

CRM started in 1998 and peaked In 2003

Total Quality had an 18-year run, ending in 1996

The bottom line: Thank you Google for this new analysis toy!

RightNow Revamps The Software Buying Experience

About 6 months ago, I gave the thumbs-up to RightNow Technologies’ new mission: “To rid the world of bad experiences.” Having spent considerable time with RightNow’s management team, I could see that the new mission was more than just a slogan, it’s a commitment to an operating model that’s driving all of the firm’s key decisions.

The company recently announced the next element of that new mission, a new client agreement for its SaaS (software-as-a-service) offering called a “Cloud Services Agreement.” Here’s how the company describes some of the key attributes of the new agreement:

  1. No Shelfware – clients should be able to buy only what they need and still get long-term pricing certainty 
  2. Minimum 5-Year Pricing Certainty –  clients should get long-term fixed and transparent pricing without long-term lock-ins
  3. No Long-Term Contract Lock Ins – clients should be able to walk away from contracts if vendors aren’t delivering value
  4. No-Haggle Flex Up / Down – clients should be able to easily adjust seats, capacity or even product modules up – or down – to meet their changing business requirements
  5. “Roll-Over” Usage – clients should be able to adjust for seasonality without having to purchase capacity for peak usage that then sits idle most of the year
  6. Cash Service Credits – clients should receive a cash reimbursement if a vendor fails to meet its service commitments

My take: I really like the Cloud Service Agreement; it reverses many of the customer-unfriendly practices in the enterprise software market. Not only does this look like a good strategy for RightNow, but it also provides lessons for other companies and other industries. Here’s what people can learn from this strategy:

  • Be consistent with your mission; this strategy supports a key pillar that RightNow calls “easy to buy”
  • Recognize that everything impacts customer experience; purchase agreements establish the framework for an ongoing relationship (or a constant battle)
  • Create a tighter linkage between your revenue stream and customer value; tension will grow when there’s a mismatch in value
  • Provide flexibility for customers so they can easily respond to variability and unknowns in their business
  • Adjust your business model to take advantage of new capabilities; RightNow is leveraging native SaaS capabilities to depart from typical enterprise software licensing models
  • Pick strategies that large competitors can’t easily match; it will be difficult for vendors like SAP and Oracle to replicate this strategy
  • Recognize that everything is connected; making an isolated change in just one part of your business may have little long-term impact

The bottom line: Software-as-a-service will enable more customer-centric enterprise software!

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