Several months ago, I wrote a piece about Voice of the Customer (VoC) and how text analytics companies are getting good traction from this application. I recently got an update from Sid Banerjee, CEO of Clarabridge that further supports this observation. Clarabridge, an independent text analytics vendor is garnering much success with what it is referring to as Customer Experience Intelligence (CEI). This is really another term for a Voice of the Customer with an emphasis on analyzing the experience – from the customer’s point of view.
The Chief Customer Officer wants to know
It goes without saying that customer experience matters to companies. Companies want to know what their customers are thinking about their products and services. New positions, such as the Chief Customer Officer have even been developed at some larger companies to address this issue. The traditional method of manually reading through surveys, emails, etc to answer questions about customer experience is time consuming and not effective. I remember reading through this kind of information myself to try to determine why customers were dropping a service and I’ll be the first to say that the process was not pretty. Text analytics enables companies to sift through this massive amount of information much more efficiently and effectively and derive valuable insight from it. Clarabridge is getting good traction from groups concerned with enterprise feedback management, CRM including call centers, tech support and the Chief Customer officer her/himself, to help analyze structured and unstructured information to understand customer experience. These types of deployments have helped fuel the company’s rapid growth.
While text analytics technology helps companies gain valuable insight about their customers, companies deploying the technology have faced challenges, regardless of the vendor they have chosen to work with. Our Hurwitz & Associates research last year highlighted a number of challenges including taxonomy and rule development. End-users complained that taxonomy development was often a very frustrating experience. End-users also stated that rule development was often difficult and time consuming.
Earlier this year, Clarabridge released Clarabridge Navigator. Navigator is an interface for business users to help them build taxonomies and categories more effectively. The interface enables end-users to iteratively explore categories that they build. The example Sid used in our discussion utilized hotel related data. Suppose I’ve created a category (in Navigator) called bed comfort. I’ve keyed off of words such as comfort and bed and, using Navigator, I can see the kinds of text that gets returned off of these words. Perhaps when I am exploring this I see that people are talking about other words such as queen and king. I can then incorporate the concept of bed size into my categorization. In this way the end-user can interactively and iteratively explore text data and develop a better categorization scheme. Navigator provides the same functionality for sentiment. The Clarabridge product comes with over ten thousand words that are sentiment related. However, if the user wants to explore the data and change the defaults, it can be done via Navigator.
If the categories are correct, this makes rule development more efficient. Instead of running the data through the rules and hoping it makes sense, this gives end-users a more effective way to develop rules. This doesn’t negate the need for people involvement in the taxonomy and rule development process, but it is one step in making the process easier – and enabling text analytics to become more mainstream.
When I first started to research the text analytics industry about three years ago, people didn’t understand why I was so interested in this nascent marketplace. I had always anticipated how important it would be. I remember working at Bell Laboratories, in the 1980s, analyzing structured data using advanced data mining techniques, trying to predict customer actions. I knew then, that this structured data was only a piece of the puzzle and that unstructured data needed to be part of the mix. Since that time technology and computing power have obviously come a long way and text analytics has become an increasingly mature market.
Over the past several years, I’ve gotten to know many of the vendors in the space, talked to many customers deploying the technology, and in 2007 published a benchmark study entitled, “Text Analytics: The Road to Understanding Your Company’s Unstructured Data.” Three key findings from our research have been borne out in the market:
· Voice of the Customer is a key application area. Our research indicated that end-users placed a high priority on customer focused applications, with75% of respondents planning to deploy customer care related solutions. Today, many of the vendors in this space have gained great traction in this area.
· Text analytics moves beyond business intelligence. While early adopters of the technology deployed text analytics together with data mining and BI, and this is still a very popular means of deploying the technology, our study indicated that end-users were interested in deploying text analytics in conjunction with both BI and content management. Since then, I’ve seen more evidence in the market for this kind of deployment.
· The market will continue to consolidate. At the time the report was published, ClearForest and Inxight had recently been acquired. I predicted that additional market consolidation would take place; and it has.
Since the study was published in August, 2007, and due to the factors mentioned above, the market has reached the next level of maturity. For these reasons, I believe it is time to provide another benchmark. I am looking for a few sponsors who would like to partner with our firm in bringing valuable market research to the end-user community. If you are interested, please contact Carol Caliendo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-454-1030.