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

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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
They want to know...

  • How can I get ideas from my customers?

  • How can I get my vendors to submit solutions to internal

  • 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
  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
  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
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
   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
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
  • '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
  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
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
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

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.

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

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 http://bit.ly/ac3x60
Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here) . You can follow him Twitter. You can follow his blogs at this Facebook
.  You can connect with Ron on LinkedIn.

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