Monday, February 25, 2013

How to get ideas from your customers. The Top 18 EFM / VOC Software Technologies.

It seems every organization wants to tap into the ideas of their customer.  A list of Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) or Voice of the Customer (VOC) software designed to accomplish this can be found below in today’s blog entry.

Introduction.  We talk about collaborative innovation but for the most part we mean “internal” collaboration.  We think of getting all the smart people who work for us assembled to collaborate on ideas.

With great frequency lately companies I talk to are asking me how to open the innovation process up to those people outside of the company.   

They want to know...

  • How can I get ideas from my customers?
  • How can I get my vendors to submit solutions to internal problems?
  • How can I gain an understanding of what the public feels about my company’s offering?

Best of Both Worlds.  Companies are trying to harness the intellectual capital of their smart employees.   Internal portals dedicated to collaborative ideation are perfect to manage the process.  Companies also have always wanted to gain an understanding of what their customers are thinking.  They want to be able to harvest the great ideas customers can generate.  Enterprise Feedback Management software is ideally suited to capture the Voice of the Customer, with the results ready to be brought inside for further discussion.

Intellectual Property Security.  Once we go down this road of opening things up outside of our safe, internal computing systems we start worrying about the security of our intellectual property. 
  1. How can I make sure no one outside of our company steals these ideas? 
  2. Can we bring externally captured ideas inside for further discussion? 
  3. How can we open up a portal where the inside team can see all the information but outsiders can only see a portion?
Internal Innovation Collaboration. Idea Management Software solutions serve a purpose.  They’re usually very good as a clearinghouse for ideas generated inside the company.  With the right exposure and administration, ideas can be pushed in front of your own subject matter experts and then they collaborate in order to enrich the ideas; readying the best concepts for eventual production.  But the notion of opening up these same portals to the customer base or to vendors or to the public is trickier.

External Innovation Portals.   The idea management software solutions themselves can be opened up to outsiders by presenting a different portal view into the system.  With good security administration, customers can see some parts of a challenge while internal team can see more.  In fact the portal presented to customers needs to be entirely intuitive (you can’t train thousands of customers, they have to be able to log in and figure out what they’re supposed to do).  And the customer facing portal into the ideation process needs to be compelling and interesting and alluring.

A great route is to hold an idea contest.  In this scenario customers are asked for their ideas and typically a prize is offered for a winning idea based on the most votes of all customers.  

Here's a sample external ideation portal designed to run an idea contest:
Software Designed For Customer Feedback.  An alternative method to gain an understanding of what your customer is thinking is to use software especially designed to capture their thoughts.  This category of technology is typically called “Voice of the Customer (VOC)” or “Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM)”.

How EFM Works.  These EFM software vendors use a variety of methods to capture customer thinking.  The very best of them reach the customer in every channel.  When a customer goes to a company web site a pop up window may ask for feedback or ask the visitor to answer a survey.  This can happen during mobile phone visits as well.  Obviously the formats for cell phone presentation need to be scaled to size.  And the entire process needs to avoid appearing intrusive.

The very best VOC software offerings also facilitate visits to brick and mortar sites.  When the customer goes to the company store they may see a Quick Response (QR) Code that takes the customer to an online portal on their phone where they can provide feedback.  A similar QR code can be placed on the product packaging.

Here’s a QR code on the right that takes you to a quickie survey I put together on my resume web site to solicit your feedback:  

Some of the EFM software vendors are more geared toward customer service and customer satisfaction, but their format is idea for idea solicitation.  
  • “Tell us what you think” 
  • “What should the smoothie blender of the future look like?” 
  • “Please rate these new products we’re thinking of bringing to the market”.
Where Customer Data Goes.  Once the customer feedback is collected a couple of things can happen.  One, Application Program Interfaces (API’s) can grab the collected data and put it into the company’s internal idea management system for further discussion.  The very best customer ideas can then be enriched, promoted and turned into realities.  

And two, the EFM software vendors typically provide wonderful analytics to help assess the data collected.  

Three, frequently the decisions made on the collected data can be used to push out a different web experience to the customer via different software known as Customer Experience Management (CEM).  If we know the customers’ interests are trending in a specific direction the banners on the web site can reflect that, as can other communication channels like email or banner ads on search engines.

EFM Software Vendors.  Several years ago I published a list of every idea management software vendor I could find.  Along with all the comments others added to it, the list became pretty comprehensive and a resource for those researching their choices of software for idea management.  

Here’s a first go at exploring the leading software offerings in the Enterprise Feedback Management space. 

The descriptions are gleaned from their web sites.  The majority are Software as a Service (SaaS).  Some of these focus on customer service or satisfaction more than capturing ideas.  But they’re all designed to solicit the Voice of the Customer.  If you feel I missed any please chime in by entering them into the comments section.

1.      Allegiance                         Voice of Customer (VOC) and Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM)
2.      Bazaarvoice                       letting consumers create and share ratings, reviews, questions, answers, and stories about products and brands on client websites.
3.      Confirmit                            easy for your customer to share feedback
4.      ForeSee                              a pioneer in customer experience analytics
5.      iPerceptions                       captures customer perceptions
6.      Kamplye                              collect, analyze, measure and respond to online user feedback, then deliver that data to sales and marketing teams via a lead generation dashboard
7.      LivePerson                         EFM software
8.      MarketTools                      online market research.
9.      Medallia                             Get feedback from customers—directly and through social media.
10.   Mindshare                          help you transform customer and employee feedback into actionable steps to improve your business.
11.   Mopinion                            Customer Experience Management (CEM) and Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) software
12.   NetReflector                     managed feedback solutions
13.   Omniture                            (purchased by Adobe) a complete set of analytics, social, advertising, targeting and web experience management solutions and a real-time dashboard
14.   OpinionLab                        omnichannel Voice of Customer (VoC)
15.   Parature                             web-based customer service software
16.   SMG                                     measure customer and employee experience
17.   UserVoice                          feedback forums, support ticket system
18.   Vovici                                  capture customer feedback

Summary:  Idea Management Solutions are perfect for internal collaboration focused on innovation.  Compelling portals with easily administered security can be configured using existing internal idea management software solutions.  Specialized software exists designed to encourage customers (and the public) to provide solicited feedback including ideas.  Most software vendors in both spaces provide Application Program Interfaces (API’s) to facilitate integration between each other.  

Excellent technology options exist for your company to facilitate internal collaboration on innovation, as well as to include ideas solicited from your customers.

Ron blogs researches and writes about enterprise technology focused on social media, innovation, voice of the customer, marketing automation and enterprise feedback management.  Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation ecosystem.  CogniStreamer serves as a Knowledge Management System, Idea Management System and Social Network for Innovation.  You can learn more about CogniStreamer here .  Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here) . You can follow him Twitter. You can follow his blogs at this Facebook group.  You can connect with Ron on LinkedIn.


Vandall said...

How about Social Lair? Our software combines external insights gathering with next generation idea management.

Innov Minder said...

you can add a newly created software the customer innovation management platform of the innovation minder company

Shail Khiyara said...

Innovation is mission critical for many organizations, and while internal collaboration tools serve a purpose, they are usually built with social capabilities on top. With over 3000 customers, Spigit has developed the Idea Management solution that not only drives internal collaboration but builds engagement, and a culture of innovation throughout the organization. If you are really looking for an idea management ecosystem of software, thought leadership, community experts, and great customers, check out

Ian Rainton said...

The WHY Code ( is a way to discover your customers' WHY Points - what your customers seek to achieve, what motivates them - and align your products/services to these WHY Points.

Hemen said...

QualQuant Signals ( is a breakthrough ideation tool to uncover high market potential ideas.

karpovich said...

I would also suggest
feedback tool as an option :)

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