Qualtrics co-founder and CEO Ryan Smith
Courtesy of Qualtrics
By Heather Clancy
February 18, 2016

Most companies collect reams of information about customer sentiment, employee attitudes, and broad market conditions—usually through very separately managed processes. Qualtrics, a 14-year-old Utah survey software specialist, is introducing a new service that unifies management of this sort of business intelligence.

The new product, called the Qualtrics Insights Platform, is already being tested with more than 60,000 users at companies such as e-commerce organization Overstock.com and MyFitnessPal, one of the mobile apps bought by Under Armour last year. Qualtrics co-founder and CEO Ryan Smith said a growing number of his company’s 8,000 customers want to monitor their research holistically.

The rationale: when employees are unhappy or upset, it’s difficult for them to be enthusiastic about their jobs. Likewise, changes in customer sentiment could signal that it’s time for sales managers to adjust forecasts.

“If you are a retailer, when a customer enters your store, they don’t experience your brand in three separate categories,” Smith said. “They don’t think about their experience just with your employees or solely in the context of the products or even based simply on service. To a customer, it is just one experience.”

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Gathering that information, however, doesn’t necessarily require fielding surveys. The best course might be suggested by considering existing feedback through a different lens, Smith said.

Rob Markey, a partner with Bain & Company and global leader of its customers strategy and marketing practice, said currently it is difficult for organizations to piece this sort of data together into cohesive insights that could guide product development, suggest changes for customer service, or offer new sales insights. “Data about customers tends to exist in siloes across an organization. Payment behaviors might be tracked in a different place than someone’s service experience,” Markey said.

Some companies have cobbled together systems that marry insights in the manner that Qualtrics is suggesting, he said, citing Apple as an example of one that has taken this initiative. The technology giant collects real-time feedback from customers in its retail locations, sharing it with employees to encourage more creative and better customer service. “They are engaging in a constant dialog,” Markey said.

Likewise, Qualtrics customer Procter & Gamble is prioritizing how to collect and share more data gathered “in the moment” through short surveys, said Tia Maurer, a senior scientist for the consumer products and personal care company. “We’re sometimes testing a claim, sometimes we’re testing a package, sometimes the product,” she said.

Qualtrics’ software is used by half of the Fortune 100 as well as 99 of the top business schools. That latter statistic is compelling when you consider that students often gravitate toward research methods and tools they use for academic exercises when they begin their professional careers.

The company is backed with more than $220 million in venture funding from the likes of Accel Partners and Sequoia. It doesn’t discuss its business valuation, but the amount was last year pegged at more than $1 billion.

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Qualtrics’ traditional competition in online survey services includes SurveyMonkey, which is also backed with millions of dollars in venture funding. The latter company in January named its second CEO in six months, tapping GoPro senior vice president Zander Lurie. He took over from former Hewlett-Packard executive Bill Veghte, who came onboard after the sudden death of Dave Goldberg last summer.

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