General Mills cereals are displayed on a kitchen counter in Golden, Colorado
General Mills cereals are displayed on a kitchen counter in Golden, Colorado Reuters

QuestBack, a fast-growing Norwegian developer of feedback software, is making a play for the U.S. market by opening an office and beefing up local personnel.

The goal, said CEO Ivar Kroghrud, is to expand the customer base beyond the likes of General Mills (NYSE: GIS) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and give U.S. rivals competition. It also comes at a time when social media giant Facebook is in registration for an estimated $100 billion initial public offering.

QuestBack already embeds customer-relationship management (CRM) software for mainly European clients on Facebook.

Financed by Oslo private-equity firm Reiten with help from some small investors, QuestBack expects 2012 revenue to increase 20 percent to about $60 million, Kroghrud said in New York. The company's operating profit is around 35 percent, he said.

General Mills, the 41-year-old CEO said, uses QuestBack software to interact with consumers before launching a new cereal brand to collect immediate feedback so it can be fine-tuned.

In Europe, a client like Robert Bosch uses QuestBack for its power tools division, targeting plumbers and carpenters for its professional market but increasingly trying to interest new customers - women and young do-it-yourselfers - in new products. Swiss International Air Lines, now part of Deutsche Lufthansa (FRA: LHA) employs the product to generate direct customer feedback.

Prices range from $20,000 to start to several hundred thousand, Kroghrud said. All of QuestBack's products are sold as software-as-a-service, with clients licensing what they want to use.

Gartner's 'Magic Quadrant'

Last year, market researcher Gartner (NYSE: IT) placed the Norwegian company, with a payroll around 300, in its magic quadrant of CRM players, which is a good recommendation. In part, that was due to QuestBack's acquisition of private Globalpark.

Practically speaking, for a private company, that means it becomes a target for a bigger player such as IBM (NYSE: IBM) which previously acquired SPSS, the Chicago statistical-analysis software pioneer, or Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) which is a perennial acquirer.

We prefer to be independent, Kroghrud said, although he didn't rule anything out. This year, QuestBack hopes to add staff to an office in Connecticut to call on U.S. clients and add North American sales.

Besides another private Norwegian feedback software developer, ConfirmIt, U.S. rivals such Market Metrix and Mission Critical Technologies as well as IBM vie for market share in feedback CRM, the CEO said.