Tech Executives and Don Brown and Tech Companies and Interactive Intelligence and Manufacturing & Technology and Technology

Interactive Intelligence partners on social media application

July 17, 2010

Businesses are almost as eager as status-conscious teen-agers to find out what’s being said about them on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

While teens might be trying to advance within a clique, businesses are pursuing increased sales.

Love or hate the social media phenomenon, it’s worked its way into the product line of that most practical of business contact center and process automation firms, Interactive Intelligence Inc.

The Indianapolis software company has partnered with Cambridge, Mass.-based Buzzient Inc. to allow Interactive Intelligence clients to monitor chatter about them on social media sites and to analyze and channel the information to the appropriate manager within the client’s company.

A survey by Mountain View, Calif.-based research firm Frost & Sullivan of its North American customers found nearly 30 percent now “monitor and extract” intelligence from social media activities.

“Social media came on everybody so quickly. It’s kind of off the chart as far as the level of interest businesses have in it,” said Joe Staples, chief marketing officer at Interactive Intelligence.

The company went through the usual “buy, build or partner” analysis and decided not to develop the social media monitoring technology in-house, however. Buzzient had a couple of years’ lead in the niche. The 2-year-old firm grew out of research conducted with Google at the Center for Digital Business at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“We did not bite off more than we could chew in this social media sphere,” said Staples, alluding to its emerging and uncertain long-term prospects. “We’re not going to get sucked into a hype cycle.”

Rather, Buzzient will provide the social media monitoring under a contract with Interactive Intelligence clients. The information gathered by Buzzient will include the tone of conversations about the company in social media, for instance.

The information could involve such aspects as customer satisfaction with a product, (or lack thereof) or where the product was purchased, which could be useful to a company’s marketing team.

Chatter about the company’s financial situation might be of interest to its finance department or investor relations. And topical information, such as that on medical diagnostics equipment, could provide leads to a sales force of a medical-device maker, for example.

Under the revenue-sharing agreement, Buzzient will hand off the information to Interactive Intelligence. Its own analysis tools will forward the information to the most appropriate person within a client’s firm.

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Interactive Intelligence, founded 16 years ago by local tech entrepreneur Don Brown, has offered products enabling customers to manage phone calls, e-mail, faxes, Web chats and other forms of communication.

The Buzzient deal gave Interactive Intelligence a quick entry into the social media market, which businesses are still looking for ways to exploit.

Already, the Buzzient partnership is generating inquiries from potential clients, Staples said. “I saw one from Poland, this morning.”

Much of Interactive’s in-house development has focused on twists on its existing product line, such as applications for the insurance and credit/collections industries.

Earlier this month, Interactive introduced an offering for the collections industry that includes an outbound dialing function that predicts when a debt collection agent is likely to catch a client by phone, said Matt Taylor, product manager in the segment.

Last year, the company acquired South Carolina-based AcroSoft Corp., which makes document- and workflow-management software for the insurance industry.

Interactive Intelligence has about a 2 percent market share in a $6 billion annual software and hardware market for running call centers, estimates James Bitzer, senior managing director at Falcon Point Capital in San Francisco.

He said the company is poised to grow, in part thanks to growing industry recognition—including a prominent ranking in Gartner Group’s “Magic Quadrant”—that’s attracted resellers. Sales in the quarter ended March 31 rose 19 percent to $35 million, with profit rising 53 percent, to $1.9 million.

Product demand “appears robust,” said Morgan Keegan & Co. analyst Tavis McCourt, saying the company lassoed orders from 77 new customers in the first quarter.

Bitzer told Wall Street Transcript that Interactive Intelligence could grow its market share to as much as 6 percent in two to three years.•

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