The Feedback Funnel: Properly Harnessed, Customer Feedback Can Help Companies Forge a Competitive Advantage. but with Feedback Pouring in from All Directions, Companies Are Struggling Just to Keep Up

By Musico, Christopher | CRM Magazine, January 2009 | Go to article overview

The Feedback Funnel: Properly Harnessed, Customer Feedback Can Help Companies Forge a Competitive Advantage. but with Feedback Pouring in from All Directions, Companies Are Struggling Just to Keep Up


Musico, Christopher, CRM Magazine


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AT VECTRA BANK COLORADO, customer feedback once took the form of paper-based surveys that were distributed throughout its various branches. Completed surveys were then accumulated and mailed back to corporate headquarters for analysis and routing to the proper employees.

"That's not a really effective feedback management tool," admits Erica McIntire, senior vice president and director of marketing communications for Vectra, a Denver-based provider of banking, trust, investment, and financial planning products and services. "It's a great way of hearing what your customers are saying about you, but by the time the customer takes the survey, mails it out, and it gets into the right hands in the bank, you can well imagine what the timeline is on that. So as we began to accumulate more [information], we had a desire to be able to respond to our customers and be able to act on or fix whatever problem they had."

To do so, Vectra turned to Allegiance, a South Jordan, Utah-based enterprise feedback management (EFM) provider. Since implementing Allegiance's Engage platform, the company has doubled the amount of feedback received since 2003, response times have dropped from two weeks to 24 hours, and resolution times have plummeted from 31 days to five.

And yet despite scattered results of that caliber, it seems as if EFM's true potential has only just begun to reveal itself, in part because the maturity of the solutions--and of the vendors offering those solutions --remains somewhat unresolved. (For more on the vendors operating in this field, see "Feedback Is the Future," Scouting Report, December 2008.)

The reality of the situation isn't lost on the players in the field. "EFM has grown up and become a real force to be reckoned with, and that's only happened in the last 18 months," says Chris Cottle, vice president of corporate marketing at Allegiance. "The market had to mature."

SHIFTING TO EFM

Vectra is not alone in its pursuit of a full-fledged feedback solution. In fact, EFM is top-of-mind right now for most companies, says Oscar Alban, principal market consultant for contact center solution provider Verint Systems. "Up until now, it's been very interesting to me that many organizations have guessed what was important to customers," he says. "To me, this whole feedback piece has been the absolute missing link to CRM."

Recent research backs up Alban's observation. According to the "2008 Contact Center Survey/Feedback and Analytics Market Report" from West Orange, N.J.--based industry research firm DMG Consulting, the EFM space grew by 21.3 percent between 2007 and 2008, the highest rate of growth in its history.

As the market continues to grow, the manner in which companies are trying to cull and act on the treasure trove of information is also evolving. "Last year we examined survey solutions [in this study]; this year we also included feedback, but next year we're just going to call it 'EFM,'" declares Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting and author of the report. "We're not interested in vendors that [just] have one piece. [Any qualified offering] has to support multiple channels, have a centralized environment, handle analytics, and communicate the information throughout the organization in a timely basis."

In the past, companies collected feedback in the hopes of being able to solve a consumer's problem--and also to keep tabs on contact center agents to ensure they were doing their jobs properly.

"You had the feedback of how the agent performed during the experience, and then internal quality teams also monitored them for quality and customer assurance as well," recalls Roger Woolley, vice president of marketing for Autonomy etalk, a provider of quality monitoring and analytics solutions. "So it was a very quality-centric application, and it still is today. However, we're really seeing this information used more to drive business operations. …

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