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RightNow Pushes Customer Experience Global
RightNow Summit '08: CEO Greg Gianforte calls customer experience the final frontier of differentiation.
Posted Oct 7, 2008
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COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. — The summit that RightNow Technologies is hosting here this week isn't the first time the on-demand customer experience management (CEM) provider has gathered its users in one place, but that isn't stopping the Bozeman, Mont.–based CRM pioneer from calling the get-together its first "global conference." Keeping that big-picture worldview in talking to a crowd of more than 800 here Monday, Chief Executive Officer and Founder Greg Gianforte stressed that his company is well positioned to grow despite the troubling times gripping the global marketplace.

In his keynote address, Gianforte said that there are two keys to any success his company achieves: improving the experiences of RightNow users, and helping those clients save money in their customer service operations. Giving the example of robotics supplier iRobot -- also a CRM Service Elite winner in 2008 -- Gianforte recounted the time he called iRobot's customer service line to follow up on an email he had previously sent: The experience was far from typical, he said. "The [interactive voice response system] asked, ‘Thank you for contacting iRobot. Are you calling about your most recent email to us? '" he recalled. "I said ‘yes' and I was transferred to the agent who had responded to my email. I didn't have to explain myself all over again -- [that fostered] a better experience, lower costs, and I felt like well taken care of."

Those two pieces -- customer experience and corporate efficiency -- drive success for everyone, particularly in today's economy. Continuing with the iRobot tale, Gianforte cited the fact that the robotics company was able to save $9.6 million in its contact center operations -- in a single financial quarter. And that's just one company, in one quarter, Gianforte said: Across RightNow's entire user base this past year, clients have saved $5 billion in operational customer service costs. "Today, these [statistics] couldn't be any more important," he said. "It means we're doing our jobs. This is at the heart of why we exist...in order to help you better serve [your] customers."

While Gianforte stressed RightNow is equipped to help customer service organizations navigate their own financial minefields, he also pointed out his own business -- publicly traded -- is taking the proper steps necessary to remain successful. "We're heading into softer economic times, but I'm pleased to report we have a strong ship," he assured. He explained that RightNow has $100 million in cash and investments on its balance sheet -- and zero debt. Additionally, RightNow signed a total of 250 new customers this past year, including Expedia, John Deere, Napster, NutriSystem, Netgear, and Verizon.

Gianforte went on to list the four main reasons why his company continues to grow:

  • cost containment, which he said is a "tremendous focus" for companies looking to save money, oftentimes through self-service initiatives;
  • increased focus on customer experience, which Gianforte declared the "only way to differentiate";
  • contact center transformations, as companies realize their existing client-server systems aren't as flexible as circumstances require, they are looking to newer network capabilities to foster an integrated multichannel experience; and
  • software-as-a-service, which Gianforte plainly stated "is not a trend, but the future of software."

Gianforte also lamented the number of companies still handling their customer service incorrectly, and to illustrate his claim cited statistics from a RightNow-sponsored Harris Interactive study on customer experience. (For some of the highlights, check out the relevant destinationCRM blogpost by clicking here.) "Organizations still have to do a better job," he admonished. "Doing the same thing as before will not get it done."

One reason in particular why many companies have failed, according to Gianforte, is that they have tried the "boil-the-ocean" approach to CRM. "Customer experience is like a big elephant," he posited. "How should you eat it? One bite at a time." To help illustrate how straightforward the path toward high-quality customer service is, he suggested eight simple steps to foster a better experience:

  • establish a knowledge foundation;
  • empower customers;
  • empower front-line employees;
  • offer multichannel options;
  • listen to customers;
  • design a seamless experience;
  • engage proactively; and
  • measure and improve continuously.

Gianforte concluded by expressing the gravity of the mission shared by RightNow and all customer service organizations. "Nothing could be more important than how any of us takes care of our clients," he said. "Whether that's you in your business, or us in our own [organization]."

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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