Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Text Analytics / Customer Experience Intelligence 2009 - Predictions

I was recently asked what I "see as the 3 most important text-analytics technology, solution, or market challenges in 2009?"

Good question. 2008 has been an expansionary year for the text analytics space along many dimensions - expanding appreciation of the business value of text analytics, expanding deployments across corporate enterprises, and a general expansion and evolution of the market segment away from a 'tech' sell to more of a solution sell.

2008 also seemed to validate that text analytics, and specifically text analytics applied to voice of the customer analytics, (tapping into and transforming customer feedback and experience content into rich actionable analytics) are largely "recession-proof" if sold and deployed effectively.

My company, Clarabridge, is having a great year - we continue to grow, achieve a fantastic level of deployment success, and continue to add value to customers in many ways:

- we help customers do more analysis, with less cost
- we let our customers spot problems more quickly than before (within a day or two, vs within a week or month), so
- our customers can take action on customer feedback and opinion quickly and decisively (i.e. if they spot a service or product issue they can address it and fix it quickly and decisively)

As a result of the time and cost efficiencies inherent in text analytics-based customer experience solutions, we enable decisions and customer experience improvements far more cost effectively than manual reading, coding, analysis and decision making would allow.

Partly due to the successes of our customers, and willingness of our customers to share their success stories of cost savings and decision making efficiencies with other customers, partners, and prospects, we've continued to grow our customer base -- even in a slowing economy this year demand for our customer experience/text analytics solutions remained strong and grew solidly.

2008 proved that customer experience-based text analytics solutions are needed in both good times and bad - in good times firms want to maintain their reputation, fix issues quickly, and outcompete their rivals, and in bad times firms want to do all they can to be responsive to their customers to maintain their loyalty and profitability.

I think 2009 will largely see a further evolution of the space as we've seen in 2008, a bit more 'mainstreaming' of the solution, and the development of interesting partnerships and technology integrations between vendors and solution providers.

Specifically, then, my 3 predictions:

1) Text Analytics solutions will expand from a functional/departmental initiative to an enterprise imperative. In 2006-2008 - text analytics was deployed to enable the analysis of marketing, call center, and survey/market research departments, and the results of the text analysis were used primarily within a single department.

In 2008 we saw at Clarabridge a few of our more progressive customers looking to evolve and expand from departmental approaches to an approach that supports multiple organizations. We see a few prospects (who will likely become customers in 2009) who actually want, on DAY ONE of deployment to have a solution that can that meets the needs of many groups and departments in an enterprise.

As a result of having a cross-functional, cross organizational goal, I expect in 2009 that for a class of "enterprise buyer" selling cycles will become more complex, the solutions will need to show more a priori business value and relevance to many stakeholders, and because the solutions are not just deployed in one area, IT requirements and architecture criteria will become more important as organizations will want to know more how the solution is going to fit with "enterprise" standards.

As a result of this trend - in 2009 selling and deploying will become more complex, more constituencies will become involved in the decision, and at the same time articulating and demonstrating business value will be even more important to more business stakeholders.

2) Text Analytics will evolve from being an isolated to an integrated solution. Towards the end of 2008 we started seeing more interest from companies and partners looking to seamlessly integrate the results of text analytics back into operational systems. -- i.e. they wanted to process customer verbatims and merge the categorized, scored results back into call center applications, or moderated web forums.

This new requirement - not just for text analytics, but for operational integration of text insights and scores into downstream applications and solutions, provides an interesting opportunity for text analytics vendors to consider - whether to be a standalone application, or to be a more tightly integrated with partner products and offerings. I think the progressive text analytics companies will be wise to look for strategic partners with whom to integrate their solutions.

3) Text Analytics solutions in the customer experience space will quickly get bigger and faster. 2008 taught Clarabridge that to succeed, we needed to support ever bigger data sets, with ever faster processing requirements, and as a result we quickly learned to create our solution for scale and growth. Companies with small volumes of text data are keeping their history for perspective and trending. Companies with large customer bases and diverse lines of business are creating huge data sets - with 10s to 100s of millions of customer interactions being processed through the Clarabridge text analytics engines. Data volumes will continue to grow in 2009 and usage requirements will also go up as more users seek to explore, analyze and act on the insights in customer experience solutions.

There's no reason to expect scalability requirements won't continue to grow in 2009 and beyond. Successful vendors will be those who can see beyond today's data and user volumes and design for an order or two more magnitude in their offerings.

As long as vendors grow with the market and deliver value and efficiency to customers, they will succeed as this market evolves. Clarabridge will be one of those successful vendors.

- Sid Banerjee
CEO, Clarabridge

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