Within the marketing department, some companies have competitive intelligence gathering organizations. However, the customer service department is the best and the least expensive forum to obtain competitive intelligence. Agents can be trained to ask questions about competitive products. Your customers might be using your products along with competitor's products. You want to keep on making sure they use more of your products and services. Customers have friends and colleagues that are using competitive products. This is a rich opportunity for dialogue and it's dirt cheap. Just say no to the high priced market research firms and start a competitive intelligence program in the customer service department. Better yet, talk to the the VP of Marketing and run this idea by them over lunch. When you explain that your agents can be leveraged for competitive intelligence and save the marketing department a lot of money, the VP better pick up the tab for lunch!