As consumers’ lives become more and more focused on their phones, laptops and tablets, companies are looking for new ways to use the information from those machines to understand them.

Minneapolis-based Calabrio, a data collection and analytics company, is helping companies pool valuable information to better inform customer interactions. With more than 160 new clients added last year, executives believe the company has only started to break through.

Calabrio offers a package of services that allows companies to collect call recordings, keystrokes, e-mails and other correspondence from their call centers. After collection, the data is compiled and analyzed in a variety of ways. Speech-to-text conversions and screen, voice and keystroke recordings are among data that is automatically put through a phonetic engine to search for keywords, cancellations or mentions of competition.

All of these interactions are compiled into a simple report that shows companies what types of interactions work best and those that need to be tweaked.

Though Calabrio’s rapid growth has revealed a bright forecast for the company, it took years for the company to begin to set itself apart.

“This is not a young industry,” said Tom Goodmanson, chief executive of Calabrio. “Our two big competitors are each $2 billion companies. Getting people on these systems is difficult.”

Nevertheless, Goodmanson credits forward thinking and the rise of “big data” as two of the driving factors behind Calabrio’s competitive move into the market.

Finding customers was simple at first because the company was able to recruit people who may not have been using any type of recording or analytics service, he said. But when they started pulling customers away from existing companies, the competition took it harshly.

“It’s really studying and listening to people to stay ahead,” Goodmanson said. Through listening to customer feedback, studying new technology and hosting conferences, Calabrio has been able to make enough moves to keep ahead in an ever-growing industry, he said.

“You can’t just be the executives,” he said. “You need to be the experts. We are just curious about how technology can help.”

The analytics wrapped up within the data recording services also allow companies to tweak their marketing strategy by combing through calls and other data to find trends in interactions that are most likely to result in a positive experience for the customer. Goodmanson said companies are always trying to do their best to figure out the efficiency of an advertising program and Calabrio’s products help companies find exactly which words, phrases or ad campaign has been most successful.

Three industries are leading the way in using this type of technology, he said. Retail stores, shipping companies and banks have all stepped forward to use Calabrio’s products, and companies like J. Crew and FedEx represent two high-profile customers. It makes sense that companies in those industries would be taking advantage of these analytics-based tools, Goodmanson said, because their work is highly tied to customer engagement.

The company offers a variety of products, but many customers end up buying the entire package, or “suite,” which includes the recording of communications, workforce optimization and analytics. Interest in Calabrio’s products pushed the company’s revenue above $65 million last year. Goodmanson believes there is plenty of room to grow. The company is planning to add 40 employees this year.

And as technology evolves, this type of consumer data will be coming from a host of devices through different “Internet of Things,” or IoT, systems. Washing machines will be able to report to their manufacturers when there is a malfunction or repair that is needed, Goodmanson said, and the ability to find trends in that type of data will propel the growing industry even further.

The more people’s lives become shaped around the technology they use, the more companies like Calabrio will be able to find opportunities to use the data collected, he said.

“I think IoT is going to be really cool,” Goodmanson said. “The trend of identities being wrapped up [in technology] is growing.”

But with massive troves of data being collected, the responsibility of safely handling and storing that information becomes even more important. Calabrio heavily encrypts all of the data gathered, Goodmanson said, and constantly reviews products and procedures to ensure customer data isn’t accessible to outsiders.

These safety measures are vital because this technological interactivity is already a part of our everyday lives, he said.


Brian Edwards is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.