As a well-known solution provider for customer/employee experience and market research, Confirmit continually works to be a true and trusted partner for its clients. Many brands are hyper-focused on customer experience, immediacy, connecting with customers in the moment, which has only become more prevalent due to COVID-19. Confirmit helps clients keep up with rapidly changing expectations by powering VoC programs that facilitate valuable two-way dialogues. Furthermore, as many businesses have shifted to a remote-work format, at least for the time being, keeping companies and teams connected through VoE solutions is crucial, especially as many brands are quickly shifting and adapting to keep pace with the changing customer landscape.
As its clients continue to evolve during this time, Confirmit has made some changes of its own, including the hiring of Kyle Ferguson, as the company's new Chief Executive Officer.
Loyalty360 was recently able to speak to Kyle about his new role, opportunities he sees Confirmit and the industry, and what trends we may see in customer loyalty and customer experience because of COVID-19.
Can you give us an introduction to Confirmit – what you do and the industries you work with?
Confirmit has been around for a number of years, almost two decades, and you can almost say that we're a bit of a pioneer, certainly in the market research space. Quite simply, we develop SaaS-based solutions for market research, customer engagement, customer loyalty, what's commonly referred to a CX or voice of the customer solutions, as well as employee engagement or EX type of solutions, again, voice of the employee. There are a number of different acronyms that are being used in the industry, but at the end of the day, I think what we're trying to do is help our customers, customers retain, grow and, and support their customers and their life cycle with them.
Equally, when we engage with direct corporates, whether it's through our CX or EX solutions, we're trying to do the same thing. We pull a number of different data points that allow us to try and get on the front foot in terms of determining the sentiment, how customers are feeling, how employees are feeling and what that ultimately leads to in terms of brand experience, the customer experience, the product experience. I think that that is the most important thing in terms of what we are trying to achieve.
Congratulations on the new role as Confirmit's CEO. What attracted you to the company?
I am not a stranger to the SaaS technology space. In my previous role, I led a FinTech organization that was a market leader in its field. For me, being surrounded by strong, very knowledgeable, experts in their field, I think was one of the biggest draws for me to Confirmit. Equally, this is a company that has been around for a long, long time, and I said earlier, is one of the pioneers and in the market research space. There is a lot of really strong history and pedigree here.
You take that with a strong and engaged workforce, an excellent leading-edge technology, and this is the kind of business that I want to be part of. There is a huge runway in both the market research and the CX space. I don't think anyone has really tapped into it, and I think some of the things that we're looking at and we're looking to do over the coming weeks, months and years ahead, will position us at the forefront of both of those sectors.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities you see from a customer experience perspective and how can brands do a more effective job with those efforts?
Ultimately, companies are trying to survive in a world where data is so rich. It is so abundant – trying to make sense of that data and turn that into actionable insights. There are a lot of companies that are in the ethos developing web applications to collect data and to report on it. It is important to be able to do that, and it's equally and probably more important for companies to be able to take that information, interpret it, drive insights and drive actions out of it. I think that is a combination of intellect and understanding how companies operate, how industries operate using the technology to the best of its ability.
I am almost six weeks into this job and something abundantly clear to me is that no two companies and no two employees are alike. Also, another thing that has become abundantly clear to me, and it was abundantly clear to me in my previous life is that no two companies and no two employees are alike. They have different wants and needs as well as different challenges in different regions of the world. They are unique in terms of how they try to differentiate themselves from their competition and how they try to engage their employees.
Having a solution coupled with that level of understanding and expertise is not something you can just automate at the press of a button. Hopefully, we will get there one day, but we are not quite there yet because we do not have ubiquity across how data is collected. We set out to try and figure out how we're going to get all this information as quickly and as efficiently as possible, trying to then adjust that information so that you can drive those insights, drive the actionable outcomes, I think is probably the most important piece. However, you hear it time and time again – garbage in garbage out. Meaning, you can have a lot of data points, but if you can't make any sense of it, [the] technology of the application is relatively unusable.
As a result of COVID-19, what opportunities do you see for brands to be more empathetic or personalized in their communications with potential or current customers?
[With] the pandemic and what's happening with COVID-19, this is a perfect opportunity for companies like Confirmit to get on the front foot and say, "Hey, we know you guys are doing tough, so are we, here are some of the things that we've learned through reading and interpreting the data in a slightly different way. It is times of crisis that sort of separate the wheat from the chaff and so we see this as just another opportunity for us to try and create more value.
Can you tell us what sets Confirmit apart from the competitors in the industry? What makes you unique and different?
It is a combination of the pedigree, richness, and history of what we've done for a long, long time. You cannot underestimate the power of experience. That coupled with an innovative, engaged workforce and an incredibly strong and robust platform. The key here is not to lose too much focus. How do we help brands drive customer retention and growth and the things that any type of application like Confirmit's trying to do?
There are a lot of players in the space that offered [a high] level of service configuration, but sometimes that can be very cost prohibitive. There is a sweet spot that allows us to not only drive and use our technology in a way that's going to specifically solve discrete problems for these customers, but also take the data. Then that customer experience with our platform, coupled with the industry knowhow that we have through our people that allows us to continually try to differentiate in a very crowded space.
Can you tell us what customer loyalty means to you and Confirmit?
Customer loyalty is a customer that advocates on your behalf. Moving beyond that buyer/vendor relationship to this idea. We hear it all the time – trusted advisor/partner. If we did a pulse of every single one of our customers, and they said, "They're great at their technology and they've got great people, but at the end of the day, we couldn't be as successful as we are today without them." That to me is the true litmus test of customer loyalty.
Confirmit recently was acquired by Verdane and merged with Dapresy – why do you feel this was a good match?
That's a great question. We have an opportunity and access to a private equity company and new ownership structure that has a significant capacity to provide insights and experience. We have access to a capital pool and the ability to turn the dial up. Under the new ownership structure, you are going to see a lot of really exciting things to come, in terms of people, investments, and technology. We are just getting started so that's on the Verdane angle. In terms of the Dapresy, which is a market leader at developing dashboards and reporting analytics for customers, this only strengthens our platform approach, providing unique value-added services to our customers on top of a data collection platform that is best in class.
Do you think there will be other consolidations or investments in the industry, or is it somewhat unique?
If you are in any sector that's delivering SaaS-based technology, I think you're going to experience some level of consolidation. It happened in my previous industry in FinTech and it continues to happen. Customer experience is at the forefront of every company's mind in terms of how do I continually try to differentiate my products and services from my competitors? How do I continually try and add value to my customers so that they think they cannot do business without us? How do I continually try and engage the marketplace with a value proposition that is market-leading so that I can not only retain my customers but grow them, right? This is on the minds of every single CEO executive across the globe, I would say today, especially in SaaS-based technology.
You have companies like Confirmit that have been doing this for a long time and then you've got other emerging companies coming on the scene almost daily. They are doing things that we or other companies are not doing, and we're always looking for unique companies or technology assets that are going to improve the customer experience and improve our strategic position.
How important is CX, machine learning, and AI and where do you see that going?
Customer experience is a big theme for any company or business. We are always thinking about how we can better engage our customers to drive better customer loyalty. In Britain, I like to say eat your own dog food. Which means practice what you preach. We are going to continue to do that and connect with the marketplace and our customers to ensure the products and services we're offering are best in class and drive CX engagement. Part of that is going to be able to leverage emerging technologies in both machine learning and the AI space.
Having that human touch combined with more predictive analytics and making sense of that data is what's going to allow us to sort of outpace the competition and differentiate. My competitors might have a different view on that. They might think that what they're doing in AI machine learning is going to outpace us, but we have the firm belief that we're going to have the best-in-class approach to machine learning, predictive analytics, coupled with the ability to interpret that data and hold the hands of our customers.
How are you helping brands through the unique challenge and opportunistic time of COVID-19?
We are not very unique in that respect, but we've got an online COVID-19 resource hub, which provides guidance to CX and EX teams. The key focus here is around community connection, ultimately trying to connect peer groups and discussion groups by sharing webinars, providing an online library of resources and information, insights, and professional support That means offering one on one conversations with experts to talk about key areas and develop skills needed to differentiate business value in these unique times. Additionally, we have a wealth of free dedicated solutions. A lot of our companies and businesses are already using our Horizons platform, which allows them to get access to the latest tech that we offer and start to embrace more information in a unique way. So those are some of the ways in which we're helping our customers through this period.
Are there things that clients are asking for now they may not have asked for before the pandemic?
They want to get their hands-on real-time information. As the pandemic evolves and differs by country, they are wanting to get hands-on information in real-time and take that information, adapt, drive better insights and, actionable outcomes for their customers in a unique and short time frame.
How do you see COVID affecting your customers' businesses going forward in the future?
The shift to remote working has had a hugely impactful and a lasting impact on companies. Businesses not dissimilar from yours or mine are having to figure out ways to engage their customers through more digital means. [Businesses] are getting back into the office, getting out and talking to customers, and working with them in a more sort of intimate way, which will continue.
We're seeing a new shift in terms of how companies are operating and in the headlines of some of the larger tech companies, whether it's the Facebooks or Googles of the world, announcing a shift to remote working and they're putting a stake in the ground. We are making sure we're doing the right things by our employees that are feeling tense about getting back to work. We are looking to extend that homeworking policy. It's incumbent upon us to have a duty of care for our people because, at the end of the day, they're the brains behind the technology we offer to our customers. We're having to figure out a way we're going to work in this new digital world that will allow us to drive a better engagement process with our customers and with employees and I don't think that's going to be different for any of our customers.