The web has changed, purchasing and procurement has changed, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has changed – and the sum effect of these shifts means that companies must now learn to use web 2.0 inspired technologies to interact with their customer base and constantly ‘gauge the mood’ of their target audience.

Companies attempting to push this sector of the commercial web into ubiquitous adoption include Vovici, a specialist in online surveys and customer feedback programmes that includes a tight integration of both Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) and CRM technologies.

But there are some caveats here; it is not simply a case of saying that we will turn on the firehose stream of survey-based data and integrate this into our CRM systems. There is a data management issue here to be resolved and if you will excuse the industry acronym-heavy phraseology, this is ‘intelligent data management’ in its most condensed form.

In line with Vovici’s work with survey data, new European (and in some cases international) laws mean that increasingly, companies will be obligated to archive their unstructured data for so much longer now. So simply put, this means that survey data must remain within the realms of ‘managed’ data – and social networking will only make this requirement more complex.

Writing in an independent report published by Forrester, technologist William Band said, “Locking in customer loyalty through deeper engagement and differentiated experiences will continue to be critical priorities for organizations in all sectors in the decade ahead, but navigating the complex customer relationship management (CRM) technology landscape remains challenging – particularly in light of the rapid rise of social computing, the increasing adoption of software-as-a service (SaaS) solutions, and the need to provide mobile capabilities for front-line personnel.”

Vovici has provided evidence of the way online survey management can work effectively through its deal with leading event organiser Reed Exhibitions. The company adopted Vovici as its global provider of customer feedback solutions to track what is more than 6 million attendees and exhibitors at more than 500 events around the globe each year.

“We plan to integrate Vovici simultaneously with our implementation of Understanding how to best meet the needs of exhibitors and attendees around the globe and reaching out to them at critical times will help us maintain our leadership position,” said Dominic Shine, group chief information officer at Reed Exhibitions.

For this kind of solution to result in a successful deployment the must-have factors are all about form and function, or to put it another way – application design and integration features. Vovici says that its work with Reed Exhibitions, which features integration with is evidence enough of these factors.

Looking forward, we need to see this type of technology prove its worth in terms of return on investment and its wider uptake (or not) among companies who wish to use online tools to monitor and help manage customer perceptions. Is this a nascent technology iteration that will ultimately morph into bigger CRM offerings as a whole? Or is this a natural evolution of customer-to-corporate interaction that fits all the classic models of web-based success. Who knows for sure – perhaps it’s time for a survey to find out.