Unstructured Feedback Analysis Technology: Making Sense of the Market Fragmentation

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In my last Ecosystm Insights, I spoke about why organisations need to think about the Voice of the Customer (VoC) quite literally. Organisations need to listen to what their customers are telling them – not just to the survey questions they responded to, answering pre-defined questions that the organisations want to hear about.   

The concept of customer feedback is evolving, and how organisations design and manage VoC programs must also change. Technology is now capable of enabling customer teams to tap into all those unsolicited, and often unstructured, raw feedback sources. Think contact centre conversations (calls, chats, chatbots, emails, complaints, call notes), CRM notes, online reviews, social media, etc. Those are all sources of raw customer feedback, waiting to be converted into customer insights.  

Organisations can now find the capability of extracting customer insight from raw data across a wide range of solutions, from VoC platforms, data management platforms, contact centre solutions, text analytics players, etc. The expanding tech ecosystem presents opportunities for organisations to enhance their programs. However, navigating this breadth of options can also be confusing as they strive to identify the most suitable tools for their requirements. 

As CX programs mature and shift from survey feedback to truly listening to customers, the demand for tech solutions tailored to various needs increases.

Where are tech vendors headed? 

As part of my job as CX Consultant & Tech Advisor, I spend a lot of time working with my clients. But I also spend a lot of time speaking with technology vendors, who provide the solutions my clients need. Over the last few weeks and months there’s been a flurry of activity across the CX technology market with lots of product announcements around one specific topic. You guessed it, GenAI.   

So, I invested some time in finding out how tech vendors are evolving their offerings. From Medallia, InMoment, Thematic, LiquidVoice, Concentrix, Snowflake, Nice, to Tethr – a broad variety of different vendors, but all with one thing in common; they help analyse customer feedback data.  

And I like what I hear. The conversation has not been about GenAI because of GenAI, but about use cases and real-life applications for CX practitioners, including Insights & Research team, Contact Centre, CX,  VoC, Digital teams, and so on. The list is long when we include everyone who has a role to play in creating, maintaining, and improving customer experiences.  

It’s no wonder that many different vendors have started to embed those capabilities into their solutions and launch new products or features. The tech landscape is becoming increasingly fragmented at this stage.  

What are an organisation’s tech options?  

  • The traditional VoC platform providers typically offer some text analytics capabilities (although not always included in the base price) and have started to tap into the contact centre solutions as well. Some also offer some social media or online review analysis, leaving organisations with a relatively good understanding of customer sentiment and a better understanding of their CX.  
  • Contact centre solutions are traditionally focused on analysing calls for Quality Assurance (QA) purposes and use surveys for agent coaching. Many contact centre players have evolved their portfolios to include text analytics or conversational intelligence to extract broader customer insights. Although at this stage they’re not always shared with the rest of the organisation (one step at a time…).  
  • Conversational analytics/intelligence providers have emerged over the last few years and are a powerhouse for contact centre and chatbot conversations. The contact centre really is the treasure trove of customer insights, although vastly underutilised for it so far!  
  • CRMs are the backbone of the customer experience management toolkit as they hold a vast amount of metadata. They’ve also been able to send surveys for a while now. Analysing unstructured data however (whether survey verbatim or otherwise) isn’t one of their strengths. This leaves organisations with a lot of data but not necessarily insights.  
  • Social media listening tools are often standalone tools used by the social media teams. There are not many instances of them being used for the analysis of other unstructured feedback.   
  • Digital/website feedback tools, in line with some of the above, are centred around collecting feedback, not necessarily analysing the unstructured feedback.  
  • Pure text analytics players are traditionally focused on analysing surveys verbatim. As this is their core offering, they tend to be proficient in it and have started to broaden their portfolios to include other unstructured feedback sources.  
  • Customer Data Platforms (CDP)/ Data Management Platforms (DMP) are more focused on quantitative data about customers and their experiences. Although many speak about their ability to analyse unstructured feedback as well, it doesn’t appear to be their strengths.  


But what does that leave organisations with? Apart from very confused tech users trying to find the right solution for their organisation.  

At this stage, there is immense market fragmentation, with many vendors from different core capabilities starting to incorporate capabilities to analyse unstructured data in the wake of the GenAI boom. However, a market convergence is expected.  

While we watch how the market unfolds, one thing is certain. Organisations and customer teams will need to adjust – and that includes the tech stack as well as the CX program set up. With customer feedback now coming from anywhere within or outside the organisation, there is a need for a consolidated source of truth to make sense of it all and move from raw data to customer insights. While organisations will benefit immensely from a consolidated customer data repository, it’s also crucial to break down organisational silos at the same time and democratise insights as widely as possible to enable informed decision-making. 

The Experience Economy
Feedback Disruption: Break Down Silos With GenAI

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Customer feedback is at the heart of Customer Experience (CX). But it’s changing. What we consider customer feedback, how we collect and analyse it, and how we act on it is changing. Today, an estimated 80-90% of customer data is unstructured. Are you able and ready to leverage insights from that vast amount of customer feedback data?

Let’s begin with the basics: What is VoC and why is there so much buzz around it now?

Voice of the Customer (VoC) traditionally refers to customer feedback programs. In its most basic form that means organisations are sending surveys to customers to ask for feedback. And for a long time that really was the only way for organisations to understand what their customers thought about their brand, products, and services.

But that was way back then. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the market (organisations and vendors) dipping their toes into the world of unsolicited feedback.

What’s unsolicited feedback, you ask?

Unsolicited feedback simply means organisations didn’t actually ask for it and they’re often not in control over it, but the customer provides feedback in some way, shape, or form. That’s quite a change to the traditional survey approach, where they got answers to questions they specifically asked (solicited feedback).

Unsolicited feedback is important for many reasons:

  • Organisations can tap into a much wider range of feedback sources, from surveys to contact centre phone calls, chats, emails, complaints, social media conversations, online reviews, CRM notes – the list is long.
  • Surveys have many advantages, but also many disadvantages. From only hearing from a very specific customer type (those who respond and are typically at the extreme ends of the feedback sentiment), getting feedback on the questions they ask, and hearing from a very small portion of the customer base (think email open rates and survey fatigue).
  • With unsolicited feedback organisations hear from 100% of the customers who interact with the brand. They hear what customers have to say, and not just how they answer predefined questions.

It is a huge step up, especially from the traditional post-call survey. Imagine a customer just spent 30 min on the line with an agent explaining their problem and frustration, just to receive a survey post call, to tell the organisation what they just told the agent, and how they felt about the experience. Organisations should already know that. In fact, they probably do – they just haven’t started tapping into that data yet. At least not for CX and customer insights purposes.

When does GenAI feature?

We can now tap into those raw feedback sources and analyse the unstructured data in a way never seen before. Long gone are the days of manual excel survey verbatim read-throughs or coding (although I’m well aware that that’s still happening!). Tech, in particular GenAI and Large Language Models (LLMs), are now assisting organisations in decluttering all the messy conversations and unstructured data. Not only is the quality of the analysis greatly enhanced, but the insights are also presented in user-friendly formats. Customer teams ask for the insights they need, and the tools spit it out in text form, graphs, tables, and so on.

The time from raw data to insights has reduced drastically, from hours and days down to seconds. Not only has the speed, quality, and ease of analysis improved, but many vendors are now integrating recommendations into their offerings. The tools can provide “basic” recommendations to help customer teams to act on the feedback, based on the insights uncovered.

Think of all the productivity gains and spare time organisations now have to act on the insights and drive positive CX improvements.

What does that mean for CX Teams and Organisations?  

Including unsolicited feedback into the analysis to gain customer insights also changes how organisations set up and run CX and insights programs.

It’s important to understand that feedback doesn’t belong to a single person or team. CX is a team sport and particularly when it comes to acting on insights. It’s essential to share these insights with the right people, at the right time.

Some common misperceptions:

  • Surveys have “owners” and only the owners can see that feedback.
  • Feedback that comes through a specific channel, is specific to that channel or product.
  • Contact centre feedback is only collected to coach staff.

If that’s how organisations have built their programs, they’ll have to rethink what they’re doing.

If organisations think about some of the more commonly used unstructured feedback, such as that from the contact centre or social media, it’s important to note that this feedback isn’t solely about the contact centre or social media teams. It’s about something else. In fact, it’s usually about something that created friction in the customer experience, that was generated by another team in the organisation. For example: An incorrect bill can lead to a grumpy social media post or a faulty product can lead to a disgruntled call to the contact centre. If the feedback is only shared with the social media or contact centre team, how will the underlying issues be resolved? The frontline teams service customers, but organisations also need to fix the underlying root causes that created the friction in the first place.

And that’s why organisations need to start consolidating the feedback data and democratise it.

It’s time to break down data and organisational silos and truly start thinking about the customer. No more silos. Instead, organisations must focus on a centralised customer data repository and data democratisation to share insights with the right people at the right time.

In my next Ecosystm Insights, I will discuss some of the tech options that CX teams have. Stay tuned!

The Experience Economy
3 Phases from VoC Insights to Action

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In her earlier Ecosystm Insight Melanie Disse spoke about how to measure customer experience (CX) success through an effective Voice of Customer (VoC) program.

In this Ecosystm byte, Melanie talks about why every VoC program needs to have an Insight to Action framework at its core, to detect and drive continuous improvement opportunities and positively impact organisations’ bottom line.

Read on to find out more about the “Listen – Analyse – Act” VoC Insights to Action framework. Each phase of the framework has its own challenges, and the success of the entire framework depends on the quality of each phase.

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The Experience Economy
Why Do You Fail to Deliver a Consistent and Memorable Digital Customer Experience? – Part 2

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Consistent customer and brand experiences should be at the heart of every digital strategy. In the first part of this feature, we explored the barriers to creating memorable customer experience (CX). Here we look at what organisations who have mastered the art of great CX have in common.

Best Practices

Through Ecosystm research and interviews with organisations we have found that businesses that are already creating a consistent, effective, and memorable digital customer experience have these traits in common:

Success factors for your digital customer experience

Had CEO and Board-level support for their strategy. Your ability to create a memorable and consistent digital experience lives and dies by the support of your senior management team. Without the CEO telling the rest of the business that this is a priority, the employees simply won’t come along for the ride.

Gained Employee support for the strategy. There is no point in creating a digital customer strategy at the Board and senior management level if it is not consistent with the lived experience of employees. An Australian bank made the mistake of making all their digital experience decisions at the most senior levels without taking the employees on the journey too. Change needs buy-in from all levels of the business – so make sure all levels are heard and that they understand why and how you will change the way they work and deliver customer value.

Made the delivery of a brand-consistent experience into a key KPI. In these businesses, a consistent CX is a given. That doesn’t mean they are not personalising their customer experiences or optimising them for specific touchpoints – it means that collaboration with other teams and channels is a base expectation. Changes are not made without the knowledge of other teams.

Prioritised governance over management. The risk of collaboration and including many people in decisions is that it slows decisions down and impacts business agility. To enable their collaborative approach to digital experience delivery, these businesses have set rules and guardrails into their decision-making processes to ensure they continue to deliver on-brand and consistent experiences. Many also have created cross-channel teams or sewn their digital skills across the different channel teams to ensure consistency of customer experience.

Consolidated on fewer platforms and CX ecosystems. Five years ago, businesses needed to source smaller, more innovative CX software and cloud components just to keep up with customer expectations. The trendsetters had built their own CX capabilities and weren’t relying on the traditional ISVs for their CX innovation. Smaller providers were emerging to fill these gaps for businesses who were not digitally native. Sourcing best-practice solutions is much easier today. Some of those smaller vendors have emerged to create their own platforms and CX ecosystems, and other suppliers have acquired and innovated their own software to meet and exceed customer requirements. For example, you no longer need multiple content management systems or platforms – a single content source can now meet the different needs of your different channel teams and feed consistent content to all customers tailored to their journey stage or chosen touchpoint.

Used data for their customers – not against them. Many personalisation or automation attempts have failed. Not because they used the wrong data, but because they were driving the wrong outcome. They were designed to corner a customer into a decision, versus helping them make the best decision for their circumstance. We all know what that looks like – if an interaction feels “creepy” like they are following you around the web and across touchpoints, or they seem to know too much about you. This is when a business is using data against you to try to force an action. Smart businesses use data to help customers achieve their goals – in the knowledge that happy customers will not only return to the business or brand, but also tell their friends and family about the experience.

Creating a consistent and on-brand digital experience will drive many positive outcomes for your customers and your business. Your customers will know what to expect and be comfortable in their interactions with your brand in whatever channel or touchpoint they desire – with the knowledge that the experience will be consistent and integrated and their time will not be wasted. They’ll return to your business over and over again. The consistent experience will also drive down your costs – with less rework, fewer platforms to support, more automation and hopefully a simpler technology architecture. Done right, it will also create a single unifying digital initiative across the business that will help to break down barriers, improve collaboration, and unlock innovation in and between your business teams.

Customer Experience Insights
Why Do You Fail to Deliver a Consistent and Memorable Digital Customer Experience? – Part 1

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More than ever before you are having to cater to digital-savvy customers and create a competitive edge through the customer experience (CX) that you provide. In this two-part feature, I explore the barriers organisations face in their goal to create a memorable CX; and what the organisations that are getting it right have in common.

Spend on digital services, technologies, platforms, and solutions is skyrocketing. As businesses adapt to a new normal, they are increasing their spend on digital strategies and initiatives well beyond the increase they witnessed in 2020 when all customer and employee experiences went digital-only. But many digital and technology professionals I meet or interview maintain that their digital experiences are poor – offering inconsistent and fragmented experiences.

The Barriers

Digital, CX and tech leaders highlight their laundry list of challenges in getting their digital experiences to deliver a desired and on-brand customer experience:

A poorly informed view of the customer and their journey.  Sometimes the customer personas and journey maps are simply wrong – they were developed by people with an agenda or a fixed idea of what problems need solving.

Inconsistent data. Too much, too little, or plain incorrect data means that automation or personalisation initiatives will fail. Poor access to data or lack of data sharing between teams, applications and processes means that businesses cannot even begin to build a consistent CX.

Too many applications and platforms. As digital initiatives took hold, technology teams witnessed an explosion of applications and platforms all conquering small elements of the digital journey. While they might be great at what they do, they sometimes make it impossible to create a simple and consistent customer journey. Some are beyond the control of the technology team – some are even introduced by partners and agencies.

Inconsistent content. For many businesses, content is at the heart of their digital experience and commerce strategy. But too often, that content is poorly planned, managed, and coordinated. Different teams and individuals create content; this content is then inconsistently delivered across customer touchpoints; the content is created for a single channel or touchpoint; and delivers to customers at the wrong stage of the journey.

Little co-ordination across channels. Contact centres, retail or other physical locations and digital teams often don’t sing from the same songbook. Not only is the customer experience inconsistent across different physical and digital touchpoints, but it may even be inconsistent across digital touchpoints – chat, web and mobile offer different experiences – even different parts of the web experience can be inconsistent!


Knowledge is not shared between channels. Smart customers will “game” a company – finding the best offer across different customer touchpoints. But more often than not, inconsistent knowledge leads to very poor customer experiences. For example, a telecom provider might give different or conflicting information about their plans across web, mobile, contact centre and retail outlets; and with the increasing popularity of marketplaces, customers receive inconsistent product information when they deal with the brand directly than through the marketplace. Knowledge systems are often created to serve individual channels and are not trusted by customer service or retail representatives. We see this in Ecosystm data – when customer service agents are asked a question, they don’t know the answer to, the first place they look is NOT their Knowledge Management tool.

Poor prioritisation of customer pain points. Customer teams may find that it is easier to tackle the small customer challenges and score easy points – and just deprioritise the bigger ones that will take significant effort and require considerable change. Unifying the customer journey between the contact centre and digital is one big challenge that many businesses continue to delay.

And it gets worse… According to Ecosystm data, 55% of organisations consider getting board and management buy-in as their biggest CX challenge. This means that Chief Digital Officers, CX professionals and digital teams are still spending a disproportionate amount of time selling their vision and strategy to the senior management teams!

But some organisations are getting it right – creating a memorable digital experience that retains their customers and attracts more. I will talk about what is working for them in the next feature. 

Customer Experience Insights
Understanding Your Customer’s Journey

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In the ‘Top 5 Customer Experience Trends for 2020’  that I authored with Tim Sheedy, we had spoken about the need for businesses to understand the end-to-end journey of each customer and to evaluate how to personalise it. To be able to personalise customer experience (CX), organisations need to get feedback from their customers. However, today’s customers are experiencing survey fatigue! Surveys are always the best way to measure how customers feel after they have interacted with a brand. Already, many will not participate unless there is a discount or incentive, which eats into future margins. Smart businesses will begin to use AI to detect emotions and mood, and analytics to measure experiences.

The challenge for years has been that customer teams have focused on the traditional inbound and outbound customer interactions. Ecosystm research finds that while organisations are investing in improving customer self-service, not all of these organisations focus on customer journey mapping and analysis (Figure 1).

Brands now need to understand and personalise the experience before the customer interacts with the brand and after they are done interacting with the brand. The ability to apply machine learning and AI to offer insights to predict the movement and journey of the customer will be a significant focus – and challenge – for customer teams. Customer Journey Analytics will allow brands to deliver that “frictionless” service.

Detecting the problem earlier in the CX loop or before the call is placed to the contact centre has significant benefits. The emotion of the customer at every part of their journey and not just when they call the contact centre needs to be captured in real-time and analysed to address the problem as soon as it arises. For example, if it can be identified prior to the customer calling the airlines to complain about a booking, the agent can call the customer preemptively to inform the customer the problem will be fixed and even go the extra mile to give the customer a discount or a good seat.  Another scenario is when a hotel customer has had a bad experience with the meal they ordered, their feedback to the frontline staff earlier in the loop can be passed on and before they check out of the hotel,  incentives such as free vouchers can be used to improve the CX. When such measures are taken earlier in the CX journey, the customer will go a long way to buy more products and services from the organisation. This can have an impact too on post-experience surveys or Net promoter scores (NPS).

As organisations design, customer feedback platforms for customers such as simple surveys through an app or as a prompt on the mobile device or laptop, the look and feel of the platform combined with simplicity cannot be ignored. The design has to be carefully thought about and should be intuitive and also easy for the customer to enter the feedback.

Niche Vendors will play a crucial role in connecting the missing dots in CX

There are niche vendors emerging in this space and we can expect more players to emerge that will develop applications that can address CX issues very early in the journey of the customer. For example, Australian vendor Local Measure’s solution is used to capture feedback during the different points of a customer’s journey, especially in the tourism, hospitality, retail and entertainment industries. One of their solutions, Pulse is a real-time feedback tool to help improve satisfaction while customers are still on site. The company works in collaboration with Cisco and when customers log on to wifi on a site, a pop up appears on their screen to ask customers how their experience has been so far. By rating the experience using emojis (happy, sad, etc), the front desk staff or personnel within the premises, can see the feedback in real time. This can send alerts that will trigger that something has gone wrong to frontline staff or the contact centre team. The idea is to drive a positive outcome for the customer, identify problems early in the journey and address the problems immediately for higher customer satisfaction.

Figure 2: Local Measure’s Real-Time Customer Feedback Tool

The company has clients such as Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim that includes 13 major entertainment and retail-focused hotels, serving 1.6 million guests annually. Instead of giving feedback only at check-out, the Pulse feedback screen displays on guests’ computers or mobile devices as they log in to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, asking them to leave feedback on their experience. Novotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20 has also implemented the solution so that staff can view feedback immediately as responses come through on their mobile devices, and after addressing the issues they can mark each response as ‘actioned’, providing visibility to the whole team.

The Local Measure solution integrates into Cisco’s Wifi offering and when the customer opts a pop up will appear on their screen to lead the customer to the Local Measure platform. Products such as this help fill the gaps where the complaint by the customer can be escalated to the contact centre very early in the journey of the customer. Contact centre vendors have not addressed this space in a dedicated manner and we can expect more niche vendors to make their mark in this space. The data collected include real-time feedback, social media alerts, post-event experience and location analytics. When this data is further integrated into CRM and with the data gathered from the contact centre channels, organisations will be able to gain a better understanding of the customer journeys and analyse what should be done better.

As larger contact centre solution providers realise the value of such niche offerings that help connect the CX dots, they will look to acquire some of these niche solution providers in the customer experience segment. Cisco’s acquisition of Cloud Cherry last year, is an example. The solution allows organisations to listen to their customers across 17 different channels (e.g. email, chat, web) along the entire journey and leverage the Cisco’s contact centre solution to drive better. NICE acquired Satmetrix two years ago, to further enhance its presence in the CX management space.

CX is becoming a company-wide initiative

Technologies across customer journey analytics and CX management have often been sold to the marketing and sales teams. As companies look to complete the full loop of understanding the customer journey, the solution must be integrated into the contact centre teams. Based on the global Ecosystm CX Study, the marketing, sales, product, customer service, digital and UX teams are becoming influencers in CX (Figure 3). The Board and CEO are starting to play an important role in decision making. As organisations look to further drive greater CX, more teams across the organisation are starting to realise the need to collaborate to deliver on the vision.


Moving the needle from being Reactive to Proactive in CX will be important

The traditional way of getting feedback after the customer has had the experience or after the customer has spoken to the agent is one of the reasons why organisations are finding it hard to deal with customer frustrations. Being proactive rather than reactive is how customer journey analytics and CX management technologies can help organisations address these issues. AI and machine learning will play an important part in this area moving forward as after the call is placed to the customer, data around customer emotions, sentiments, tone of the voice and keywords used in the discussion, can help in better understanding of how to provide a solution or solve the customers’ challenges.

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