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7/20/2011
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Verint Buys Vovici, Marries Survey, Social Data

Can now combine call center monitoring, social listening, and structured surveys in Voice of the Customer platform.

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With its acquisition of Vovici, announced this week, Verint plans to combine call center monitoring, social listening, and structured surveys in one platform.

Venture-backed Vovici agreed to sell for a price of about $60 million, with the transaction to close within the next couple of weeks. Verint plans to combine Vovici's online survey service with its own text and voice analytics capabilities to strengthen the Voice of the Customer analytics platform it unveiled in May.

Verint licenses a version of Clarabridge's text analytics engine, which it uses for customer analytics that covers social media, email, and the output of its proprietary voice analytics technology. Because one of Verint's specialties is analytics and workforce optimization software used in call centers, its analysis of customer sentiment has traditionally been tuned to evaluating the quality of service delivered by customer service representatives. The Vovici acquisition will propel Verint deeper into the marketing applications of customer analytics, since Vovici customers include chief marketing officers interested in mining customer sentiment for clues to their product and branding strategies, as well as executives charged with monitoring customer satisfaction.

Vovici chairman and CEO Greg Stock said his approach is to treat marketing strategy and customer satisfaction as two sides of the same coin. "Our approach is based on the idea that it costs 10 times more to bring in a new customer than to keep one you already have," he said, so the best route to success is "listening to them and rolling their feedback into the strategy of the company."

Vovici had made itself a leader in gathering structured feedback from customers through online surveys and other feedback mechanisms, but customers were increasingly asking for a way to integrate that with the unstructured feedback coming in through social channels, Stock said. As the company investigated the feasibility of developing social media analytics on its own, he was approached by Verint executives about a possible acquisition that would allow the companies to combine their strengths and get to market quicker, he said.

Previously, Verint had a survey capability based on interactive voice response (IVR), but did not have its own online surveying software, said Ryan Hollenbeck, senior VP of global marketing at Verint. The IVR solution was typically used by call center agents who would conclude a call by asking customers if they wanted to take a survey. At the end of the survey, customers would also get a chance to leave a free-form recorded comment, and Verint used its voice and text analytics capabilities to recognize frequently mentioned words and other patterns to pay attention to in those recordings. Once the Vovici technology is integrated, the analytics platform will be able to correlate customer input received via voice, email, social media, and surveys into a common picture of customer sentiment.

Although the social media data can't always be correlated with specific customer records, customers in industries like travel and cable television use it to give them a broader picture than they might get from individual phone survey responses, Hollenbeck said. "Sometimes it gives you a heads up to see what's going on in the general blogosphere, in social media, and the Web."

Vovici offered online surveys but by itself didn't have a way of taking customer feedback over the phone, Stock said, so that's another way the two products were complementary. Vovici also had a previous relationship with Clarabridge for text analytics, which should simplify technical integration of the product lines.

One other difference is that Vovici went to market primarily (although not exclusively) as Software as a Service, delivered through its own data centers, where Verint primarily sells on-premises software. Hollenbeck said Verint plans to use Vovici's experience with the SaaS model to guide the development of its own hosted services.

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