Are mobile apps the future of enterprise feedback management?

9th Sep 2011

As Confirmit announces its acquisition of Techneos, does this indicate the important role that mobile apps will play in the future of enterprise feedback management?

Do mobile apps represent the future of enterprise feedback management?
Businesses have been talking up the benefits of mobile devices as a customer survey channel for some time, and the buzz has been building. At the leading edge of this are apps, an as yet largely untapped field, that has vast potential.
Keen to capitalise on this, EFM provider Confirmit has announced the acquisition of Techneos Systems, a specialist in mobile feedback, survey and market research solutions, that has powered the collection of over 15 million mobile surveys last year - and significantly was the only company to do so via mobile apps.
“It is definitely the case that mobile apps can do a whole bunch of things that no other approach can do at all,” says Pat Molloy, CSO of Confirmit. “SMS is very basic, really pretty bad from a respondent experience perspective, but has a huge reach, with three or four questions it can and does work. The mobile web is with us now, and there are some good browsers on android and blackberry and the apple devices but there are still a bunch of things that you can’t do over the web like this rich data capture. HTML5 is getting more powerful as time goes on but it is very early in its adoption curve right now. But if you want any of this rich data and you want a really slick and smooth respondent experience then applications are definitely the way to go.”
Point of experience
With more than 4 billion mobile phones in use worldwide and mobile internet usage expected to surpass desktop internet usage by 2014, the mobile platform is expected to emerge as a critical tool for EFM.
Techneos’ CEO and director, Dave King, who will be joining Confirmit as EVP mobile solutions, highlights: “We know a number of brand companies that are pushing their market research companies and mandating that they have mobile as part of their methodology and that is something that has changed and in the last 6-12 months. We are seeing the big brands push their suppliers to put mobile in many of their studies.”
“Mobile gives you ‘point of experience’ and there is quite a lot of good evidence to suggest that asking people in the moment is a lot better than asking them a day or two, or a week later, because there are problems in market research terms with recall,” continues Molloy. “The other thing is that the whole experience of using a touch device to provide feedback is simply better than using a keyboard and a mouse. It is more fun. It is less stressful. It is more intuitive. It is more modern. And when we ask people about their experiences of using competing surveys, is that they find touch devices much more favourable than traditional methods.”
And there are other benefits that mobile surveys can offer, according to Molloy.
“Mobile offers up a whole new set of data that you can collect. So traditionally we would have yes/no questions or multiple choice questions, or ‘how much does X/Y/Z cost’. With mobile of course, because there are cameras and microphones, there is a whole new rich set of data that we can collect – videos, pictures, sounds, locations and so on. And those are things that we’ve not really been easily able to do before.”
A delicate touch
Nonetheless, despite the growth in mobile, it is still a relatively new survey platform and given the personal nature of mobile such an exercise requires a delicate touch. Yet conversely, if executed properly, it can deliver a user experience unparalleled by other platforms.
King explains: “What we find in our development process is that you have to get the interface experience right. If people disengage with you from mobile devices then they will from other devices because they consider it so personal and such a part of everyday life that they won’t put up with an average experience.”
But the flexibility of the mobile also means that businesses have a variety of options to engage with the consumer, from MMS, and mobile web through to SMS, which can be used to bring users back to the study. However, it is the emergence of apps that has really caught the imagination.
King continues: “What we are finding is that there is no longer an aversion to downloading an application. We saw Steve Jobs do a good job for us years ago in demystifying that process. And in most cases people much prefer the experience they can get from an application as opposed to other methods.”
Hit the wave
The acquisition of Techneos will add a more sophisticated mobile component to Confirmit’s platform, which to date supported mobile web and SMS. In March next year there will be simple integration between the Techneos architecture and the reporting and dashboard capabilities of Confirmit. And it is likely that the following year a totally new Confirmit Horizons platform will be launched, boasting full integration with the apps functionality.
Henning Hansen, president & CEO of Confirmit acknowledges that it is still early days for mobile devices as survey platforms, and the apps side is still at a nascent stage. But this acquisition, he emphasises, is very much conducted with the future in mind – a future in which apps are likely to feature prominently.
“We want to develop the best software and technology so that our clients have success with these feedback processes and the programmes they are running – regardless of the source of data they want to use,” he concludes.  
“Everyone tends to be very over optimistic for the short-term future of technologies and we are seeing that with mobile as well. Confirmit with mobile is a long-term layer. We have been in business for 15 years, and we are investing now in the mobile capabilities to be able to hit the wave when it really takes off.”

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