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IBM Launches Voice-of-the-Customer Analytic Service

Text mining and statistical clustering technologies tapped to bolster marketing, enhance service and improve customer loyalty.
It's one thing to know that X numbers of customers filed warranty claims or complaints about products Y or Z. But what are customers really saying about your company, your products and your services?

Voice-of-the-customer analysis is fast emerging as a cutting-edge approach companies can use to efficiently to mine meaning from high volumes call center comment fields, e-mail surveys, online feedback forms, blog posts, Twitter comments and even recorded customer conversations (using speech-to-text technologies). Yesterday, IBM stepped up its pursuit of the text analytics market by launching IBM Voice of the Customer Analytics (VOCA), a subscription-based, on-demand service aimed at helping companies to bolster customer marketing initiatives, enhance service and improve customer loyalty.

"We can do statistical clustering, classification and mining for customer sentiment in text as well as doing parts-of-speech analysis to understand phrases," says Kevin English, global offering lead for CRM analytics in IBM's Business Process Outsourcing group. "We then combine the results with structured-data insights to solve business problems, such as pinpointing customer satisfaction issues or defining cross-sell or up-sell opportunities."

Combining IBM's Content Analyzer software with technologies more recently developed by IBM Research, VOCA is being offered as a subscription-based service supported by outsource service centers in Chennai and Bangalore, India, where the company has reportedly made a large investment in software, high-horsepower servers and text-analytics expertise. The service starts in the low-six-figure range for an annual subscription.

"It would be very difficult for companies to match what we've developed here, and we're also constantly adding to and improving our capabilities," English says. "To get up and running you also need personnel, and analytics expertise can be quite expensive. We're saving customers money on up-front costs, and we can deliver results within a couple of months, which means a faster return on investment."

VOCA has been in pilot deployment mode for nearly a year, according to English, and tests have ranged from daily to monthly reporting scenarios. By year end, IBM plans to add text analytic and transcription and translation services for the major European languages and Arabic. In the first half of next year, the VOCA service will add speech-to-text technologies that will enable customers to mine customer support calls and other audio recordings.

The voice-of-the-customer category has mushroomed in recent years, let by vendors including Attensity, Clarabridge, SAS and, predating its acquisition by IBM, SPSS. Earlier this year Attensity introduced VOC Survey Advantage, a survey-specific hosted service that starts at $5,000 per month.