When shopping for CX management tools, organizations will want to evaluate each platform for features that will serve their customer service strategies. It is also important to consider the vendor's pedigree. Some may have made significant investments in text analytics, like Clarabridge, while others, like Medallia, may have a stronger voice of the customer capabilities.
"Part of the challenge is that no one size fits all," said Faith Adams, analyst at Forrester Research. "IT buyers need to have a clear, specific goal and vision for a CX program. In that vision, it's important to know what features will be necessary from day one: integration with social media, a bidirectional interface with the CRM system or connection to point-of-sale systems," she noted.
One factor that organizations will want to consider is how a CX management platform integrates with their existing systems, as well as their people and processes. According to Adams, when it comes to IT integrations, it's critical to know how the system maps data and how integrations work with different aspects of the IT landscape. "Organizations need to know that they can get the data they want for their CX initiatives with the system, and different vendors have different capabilities to achieve this. Some already have prebuilt integrations or connectors, or organizations can use APIs to integrate. If companies need to build a custom integration, however, this may add more costs," she said.
Forrester identified Clarabridge as a leader in aggregating different data sources, sometimes from other customer feedback or CX management systems and also noted that Service Management Group (SMG) has invested in more integrations since the previous "Forrester Wave" report. Oracle Service Cloud includes integrations with Oracle's own complementary applications, like web and mobile self-service, analytics, chat and email. Zendesk also scored high for API integration in Gartner's "Magic Quadrant."
Inventory management for customer experience management (CEM) purposes goes beyond just keeping tabs on what products are -- or are not -- in stock. A good CEM system will include an integrated product database that can easily track inventory as well as provide insights into what products and product versions customers already have. It will also monitor any customer issues by tracking bug reports and feature requests and creating trouble tickets from these items. Checking for integrations will be important if the organization wants to integrate with existing inventory management software.
Reporting and analytics
Organizations that want to utilize data in different departments, and for different purposes, will want to carefully consider a prospective platform's reporting capabilities and analytics features, particularly whether departments or admins can set up dashboards or not. Analytics can include web behavioral and tracking analytics, voice of the customer (VOC) analytics and business analytics.
IT buyers will also want to examine whether the data from reports and dashboards provides actionable insights, such as a warning that customer churn is imminent. Most well-established vendors use AI and machine learning to recommend the next best actions and when to execute them. The vendors with the most mature machine learning functionalities are Pegasystems Inc. and Oracle, according to Ovum. Forrester noted that SMG provides actionable insights, as well as a proprietary BrandGeek market intelligence tool that pulls in location analytics and data about customer shopping behavior.
Buyers should also consider what kind of analytics they will run and what data they will use. Some vendors are stronger than others in what they offer, how they handle different types of analytics, and whether they have prebuilt industry models as well as support for more languages. Clarabridge stands out as a vendor with high-performing capabilities in text analytics, particularly for the healthcare and financial industries, and customers measure sentiment, topic, emotion and intent using Clarabridge. Medallia Inc. has also improved its text analytics functionalities in the past year, according to Forrester.
Web content management
The web content management portion of a CEM platform is the functionality that provides a personalized customer experience, whether the customer is logged in or not. In the background, the CX management platform manages and delivers content to the web, as well as mobile devices and other media channels that the customer may use. It also analyzes content engagement and allows organizations to set up engagement scenarios. A/B testing may also come into play here to determine what content most resonates with current and prospective customers. Adobe Experience Manager may be the best known CEM platform that offers web content management.
As part of personalization, some CEM platforms include marketing optimization, which can include A/B testing, multivariate testing and geotargeting. Marketing automation, on the other hand, involves a certain amount of AI and machine learning that triggers the right message at the right time, helping to provide the personalized experiences that organizations aim to offer. IBM's Watson Marketing offers marketing automation, while BPMOnline offers a marketing campaign management component.
Integration may play a large part in workflow optimization. However, IT buyers need to look for capabilities that include some measure of AI and machine learning to trigger automatic ticket creation, route actions to the appropriate team, and provide essential functional support to employees. This helps with case management as well as problem and service resolution.
Clarabridge is particularly strong in its ability to identify data that is not compliant and trigger notices so that admins can take corrective action, according to Forrester. Meanwhile, Gartner identified Pegasystems as a standout for workflow optimization, as well as its use of business process management.
Social media and voice of the customer
Unsolicited feedback on social media may be one of the most valuable insights a company can glean. CEM platforms increasingly integrate with networks like Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram to aggregate and analyze customer feedback and sentiment. Some CEM circles consider social media sentiment VOC. According to Forrester, Medallia and Verint offer solid VOC capabilities and integration.
Organizations want to improve the customer experience as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition, particularly in crowded industries like retail. CX management platforms provide the technology necessary to deliver more personalized and comprehensive customer experiences, as well as the ability to manage inventory, monitor and manage workflows and utilize reporting and various types of analytics as long as buyers choose the right system for their organizations.
Editor's note: With extensive research into the customer experience management market, TechTarget editors have focused this series of articles on vendors with considerable market presence that offer CEM software that is enterprise-facing rather than customer-facing. Our research included Gartner, Forrester Research and TechTarget surveys.