Most customer experience professionals recognize that the voice of the customer (VoC) is critical to their success. After all, if you're trying to improve customers' perceptions, you better understand them. But building a comprehensive VoC program isn't easy. It involves complex challenges, such as collecting customer feedback across channels and tailoring reports for diverse internal audiences. Nothing can erase these challenges completely, but the right set of tools can help overcome them. Enterprise feedback management (EFM) vendors offer many of these tools, simplifying VoC activities by providing central systems for feedback collection, analysis, response, and reporting.

To get a better sense of the EFM market, Roxie Strohmenger and I scanned the space and asked 26 of the vendors to provide information about their software and services. You can find the vendor responses and my analysis of the market from a customer experience perspective in my latest report. Or you can check out Roxie's take from the market insights professionals' perspective.

Here are the key findings from my report:

The EFM market is crowded and hard to navigate. Most EFM vendors are small. Twenty-four of the 26 we surveyed generated $30 million or less in revenues from EFM in 2010. The lists of common competitors provided by the vendors suggest that survey technology is still the centerpiece of the market, but many vendors are evolving beyond that traditional area of focus.

Several key differentiators distinguish the vendors. Customer experience professionals should focus on key differentiators to make sense of the EFM space as it continues to evolve. These areas include unsolicited data collection, advanced statistical analysis and text mining, action management processes, integration with other customer databases, and professional services.

Customer experience and market insight professionals should collectively assess their EFM needs. Market insights (MI) professionals can help define appropriate EFM vendor selection criteria, particularly in areas that fall outside of the customer experience comfort zone. MI pros will want to participate because they can use EFM tools for their own purposes. They can also help customer experience professionals manage VoC activities.

The current market’s days are numbered. Firms shouldn’t get too comfortable with the EFM space as it exists today. Forrester sees major changes on the horizon. In particular, we expect technology giants to enter the market and EFM to coalesce with customer and business intelligence.

We'll  be looking at the EFM space in more depth over the coming months in preparation for a formal Forrester Wave evaluation. In the meantime, you can use my new report to explore the market and generate a list of vendors worth investigating further.

If you have thoughts about EFM vendors or the market in general, I'd love to hear them.