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2/5/2010
10:08 AM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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Clarabridge Asks, Are You Customer Experienced?

Add "customer" to Jimi Hendrix' song title and you have a question central to last week's Clarabridge Customer Connections (C3) conference, Are You Customer Experienced?

Add "customer" to Jimi Hendrix' song title and you have a question central to last week's Clarabridge Customer Connections (C3) conference, Are You Customer Experienced?

Clarabridge is a leading text-analytics vendor, delivering voice of the customer and related business solutions. The C3 conference's Orlando-Disney venue lent itself to a bit of Goofy-ness, and CEO Sid Banerjee indeed riffed off the magical journey theme in his post-conference write-up. Forrester analyst Bruce Temkin, who titled his conference summation It's Time For Text Analytics, used a different magical kingdom, that of the Wizard of Oz, to illustrate a customer-experience voyage of discovery in his conference keynote, although a panel he later moderated wasn't immune to an intrusion of Disneyicity.The conference had other surprises in store, also some non-surprises. On the non-surprise side: Clarabridge Enterprise 4.1, due out in April and previewed by company President Justin Langseth, appears to be solid and useful, well engineered to provide usable, capable BI-integrated text analytics for business analysts.

Also on the non side: the company's announcement, timed to coincide with the conference, of 50% revenue growth in 2009, a pace I expect to continue through 2010. (I estimate Clarabridge's 2009 revenue at $12-15 million in an overall text-analytics market that likely generated $425 million globally in software, support, and vendor-provided-services revenue, partner and OEM sales included.) Chalk up Clarabridge's success to strong products, well positioned in a growing market, and a great track record delivering ROI to happy customers.

C3 surprises

Actually, it was the C3 conference itself rather than the company and products that surprised me. (Disclosure: Clarabridge has paid me for the last two years to write a column for the company's Bridgepoints newsletter and paid to co-sponsor a study I conducted last year, Text Analytics 2009: User Perspectives on Solutions and Providers. This writing is editorially independent and looks at general themes, not Clarabridge products. Readers actually might find my Bridgepoints columns interesting, for instance, Unstructured Data and the 80 Percent Rule. I paid my own expenses for the user conference.)

C3 attendance was over 150. While this figure includes Clarabridge and partner staff, it's notable given still-growing awareness of text analytics.

Beyond the numbers, attendees and presenters included a high proportion of end-user executives. I'm not accustomed to seeing execs at IT conferences. Their participation speaks to the strategic role that text analytics plays for their companies, or more precisely, for the strategic importance of customer experience as delivered by Clarabridge. And it speaks to the strategic relationships they have with Clarabridge.

Strategic partnerships

The same words, "strategic relationship," explain the C3 presence of several partner execs, not just product/marketing managers but senior folks from companies in Clarabridge's partner ecosystem. The concept of an ecosystem is not new to IT or to analytics: a set of complementary elements that together add up to a business solution. What's most notable about IT ecosystems, perhaps, is that they continue to offer a compelling middle-ground between (would-be) do-it-all providers and the type of loose application coupling that you get when you piece together components from disparate vendors whose attention is focused exclusively on their own parts of what really is a much larger computing picture. Clarabridge and partners each understand how their software works with the others' to enhance customer value.

I had great extended conversations at C3 with John Yapaola, Rory Byrne, and Robert Baptist from Kapow Technologies, whose Web Data Server provides access to Web data sources for Web and BI applications; Ran Achituv from Verint, a leader in contact-center analytics; and Jeffrey Henning, co-founder of Vovici, an enterprise feedback management (EFM) vendor. Jeffrey, by the way, has posted 8 (!) blog items recapping C3, collected with links to articles by others.

Note that Clarabridge's partners all also ally with text-analytics and BI vendors other than Clarabridge; that's how the ecosystem concept works. It can get strange sometimes. I'm thinking back to the C3 conversation I had with Charlie Marriott, director of worldwide operations at Bazaarvoice, which provides a content-moderation service that several Clarabridge customers use to screen comments posted to their Web sites. Bazaarvoice screening is 100% manual; the company employs around 150 staff who monitor and moderate content. Marriott stated that Bazaarvoice is not evaluating use of text analytics to automate this service, despite availability of quite-credible sentiment analysis from a dozen or more providers that include... Clarabridge. Bizarre. I even know of one company, Adaptive Semantics, that focuses on this particular application.

So which journey will it be, Hendrix, Disney, or the Wizard of Oz? Of course we bring them in, all three, only as a means of livening up our presentation of business and technology concepts. The real story, the C3 story, is that text analytics helps organizations deliver better customer experience. In the end, what counts is that you're heading down the right customer-experience path, using the right technologies and with the right partners, a lesson driven home last week in Orlando.


Sentiment analysis is important to effective customer experience management, so if you're interested in CEM, you'll be interested in a conference I'm organizing: The 2010 Sentiment Analysis Symposium will take place April 13 in New York, looking at solutions that discover business value in opinions and attitudes in social media, news, and enterprise feedback.Add "customer" to Jimi Hendrix' song title and you have a question central to last week's Clarabridge Customer Connections (C3) conference, Are You Customer Experienced?

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