Vistara Capital Image of Vision Critical mobile survey application

Long gone are the days in which companies interact with customers through a single touchpoint. The rise of omnichannel commerce has created a need for companies to deliver a curated and cohesive experience across numerous touchpoints in the customer journey. Furthermore, the rapid proliferation of new channels, applications, and devices has fueled a highly competitive environment in which companies must strategically vie for customer attention and share of wallet. The most successful companies understand that regardless of what they are selling, they are in the “customer experience” business. This has resulted in a need for companies to drive greater engagement and seek more detailed insights from their customers beyond what traditional market research and one-directional surveys can offer. Therefore, companies have begun turning to technology solutions to equip them with the data and insights to proactively manage the customer experience in order to build loyalty, grow purchases, and increase retention.

The current environment has undoubtedly served as a catalyst for meaningful changes in consumer spending, preferences, and expectations. As a result, customer experience management (CXM) has been catapulted to the forefront of priorities for many companies. And while the last two quarters have brought heightened attention to adapting and elevating the customer experience among companies looking to maintain their topline during times of uncertainty, we believe that delivering a strong customer experience will remain a top priority even once the pandemic passes. Specifically, as product commoditization trends continue, we expect that the way in which companies both win and retain customers will be increasingly based on providing innovative customer journeys. This sentiment has also been shared by industry analysts covering the CXM space, such as Gartner and Forrester, who have long pointed to customer experience as a revenue generating opportunity, as opposed to a cost center.

Having served as an operator for over ten years in both the B2C and B2B businesses in the healthcare and food tech spaces, two industries in which the end-to-end customer experience is paramount, I gained an acute understanding that companies are undergoing a fundamental shift in which they are no longer competing for customers solely on product differentiation. Technology has created an empowered customer base that has come to broadly expect personalization, convenience, and immediacy across their consumption of goods and services. As a result, we have firmly entered into an era in which how a company delivers its product has become just as important as what it delivers. We believe we will see this trend accelerate with customer experience becoming the primary battleground where companies will compete for revenue.

With an appreciation of the importance and growing relevancy of the CXM space, we assessed Vision Critical in the context of their core mission to allow companies to collect meaningful and actionable insights needed to create relevant customer experiences, particularly as consumer preferences continue to evolve. Founded in 2000, the Company is best known for its market leadership in customer insight communities, an effective channel for companies to uncover deep, robust feedback from a subset of its most engaged customers. Differing from other CXM vendors such as Medallia or Qualtrics that focus on enabling the collection of broad feedback from a wide audience, Vision Critical allows companies to develop rich consumer profiles and detailed customer segmentation. Today over 750 brands use the deep customer insights captured on the platform to help inform optimal business decisions related to items such as product designs, pricing, product launches, and marketing campaigns.

To successfully deliver relevant consumer experiences in today’s competitive and rapidly changing environment, companies need a holistic and real-time understanding of their customer base. This requires regularly connecting with a range of customers, across multiple channels, using different mediums. Deep insights are needed to uncover customer preferences beyond simple demographic data and quick feedback is required to augment this data and ensure its relevancy. Vision Critical understands this and under its new seasoned management team, the Company has started to execute against an aggressive growth strategy and bold product roadmap to innovate beyond insight communities and become a market leader in the broader CXM space. CXM providers who are able to offer companies the ability to connect meaningfully with its most engaged customers as well as broader audiences will allow organizations to keep an accurate pulse on consumer preferences and successfully adapt customer journeys accordingly.

We believe Vision Critical is uniquely positioned to do just this. To complement its strong foundation in insight communities that help companies to discover deep customer attributes like motivation, preference, and beliefs, Vision Critical has started to develop new ways for companies to also collect broader feedback from customers who are not part of their insight communities as well as from non-customers. For example, the newly released Touchpoint and NPS Accelerator products allow companies to craft brief interactions to gather quick feedback from a much wider set of customers and external market segments, and to access these individuals through new digital channels. By developing a platform in which companies can collect both deep customer insights along with real-time broad feedback, Vision Critical is creating the capabilities for companies to holistically manage, monitor, and optimize customer experiences across different teams, lines of business, and consumer segments.

Beyond just customers, we are also seeing companies look to proactively engage a broader range of stakeholders that impact the customer journey, including their own employees. As part of their Summer 2020 Product Release, Vision Critical recently announced the launch of their Voice of Employee solution that is designed to elevate the employee experience by allowing companies to collect real-time feedback from their staff. By utilizing these insights, companies are able to more effectively attract, engage, and retain employees, who ultimately serve as the most valuable conduit to their customers and the core driver of the overall customer experience.

With our recent US$20 million growth financing, we are delighted to partner with Vision Critical on this next chapter in becoming a leading player in the broader CXM industry. It has been a pleasure getting to know CEO Ross Wainwright and the rest of the Company’s management team, comprised of veteran software executives with a strong track record of scaling enterprise businesses. It is clear that Vision Critical has built an exceptional team that has a customer-centric approach embedded deeply in its DNA. We look forward to the Company leveraging its strong foundation in insight communities to build a powerful and dynamic CXM platform that will enable companies to effectively connect with a broader range of their customers and create standout customer experiences both today and over the long-term.

This post was written by Kathleen Kaulins, Director, Investments at Vistara Capital Partners and a Board Observer on Vision Critical.