RightNow Gets Schooled
Since its inception about 10 years ago RightNow Technologies has kept its product portfolio horizontally focused. That has now changed: The on-demand player has set its sights on expanding its footprint among higher-learning institutions with the general availability of RightNow Education, its first vertical-specific release. RightNow Education is based on RightNow 8, its full CRM suite, and industry best practices the company has seen from its higher education customer base; more than 100 of the company's client roster of about 1,800 organizations are higher education institutions. At its core the offering, which includes preconfigured guides or templates, is intended to help institutions recruit, retain, and inform students.
"As a small organization it's tempting but dangerous to diverge into a vertical-specific offering too quickly because it can really consume a lot of cycles internally," says David Vap, RightNow's vice president of product. "That said, we are now at a point with revenues well over $100 million and 700 employees where we can begin supporting in a much more robust way the fairly large vertical segments that we have in a number of areas."
RightNow intends to roll out additional vertical solutions in the future. It's important to note, however, that RightNow is not creating a new code branch of its core functionality to support its vertical strategy. "We've taken our core sales, service, and marketing capabilities and what we've learned from our very large install base in this area and created a solution, which will accelerate the time to market for new and existing customers when they're implementing our software," Vap says.
One of the core components of the release is its recruitment-guide functionality, which addresses one of the fundamental issues that higher education institutions face. The release features recruitment guides that can help institutions drive and track the recruitment process, making it easy for schools to monitor the status of prospective students, the strategy used to recruit a student, and specific follow-up tasks assigned to university staff related to each prospective student, according to the company.
As is the case with other industries, retention after students are recruited is crucial. "Once you recruit these students they're going to want the same level of attention [they received] when they were being recruited, and oftentimes that just doesn't happen," says Colin Jones, higher education executive at RightNow. With RightNow Higher Education, campaign guides can help quickly roll out student service campaigns that inform students about activities like academic advising, registration, and financial aid, and provide students, parents, and alumni with information online, according to the company. Additional components of the solution include higher education specific analytical and reporting tools, which help institutions track their progress toward meeting their recruitment and retention targets.
A company that's at the very beginning stages of moving into industry-specific editions has two luxuries, according to Rob Bois, research director at AMR Research: the ability to look at its existing customer base and determine where it's seen good penetration, and to examine the competitive landscape and determine where there's low hanging fruit or less stiff market competition. "Higher education certainly makes sense," Bois says. "They've identified that higher education is an industry they've done fairly well in and it's also an industry that traditionally really hasn't been directly addressed by CRM."
Bois adds, "oftentimes a higher education institution isn't really thinking of their students as customers per se, like a traditional B2B or B2C [company] would, but the notion is the same. Instead of doing lead management, you're doing recruiting." The features and functions of CRM actually translate very well into higher education, he says. "[It] gives RightNow a unique opportunity and I don't think they're going to see a ton of competition like they would if they began in financial services [or] telecommunications."
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