RightNow: Ready with More Multichannel Muscle
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. -- On-demand specialist RightNow Technologies unveiled the latest version of its flagship product at its ninth annual user conference--2007 RightNow Summit--here Tuesday, while providing a glimpse into its product road map.
One of the staples of the upgrade--RightNow 8.2 (available now)--is an emotion-detection component called SmartSense, which automatically measures how customers feel about an organization by applying emotional ratings to text-based interactions. RightNow 8.2 is also equipped with a new sitemap component, a feature designed to index a corporate knowledge base in a way that makes it more accessible to search engines.
Other enhancements include:
- personalized call routing based on customer information;
- new chat capabilities like multi-agent conferencing;
- automatic reconnect;
- integrated incident management;
- embedded offer advisor; and
- one-click opportunity creation.
RightNow 8.2 is "ensuring that each of the channels that we have currently in our product set continues to be a competitive offering in support of that channel," said David Vap, RightNow's vice president of products, during a Tuesday morning session.
It's worth noting that RightNow has migrated to a rigid quarterly release strategy, with updates due every February, May, August, and November, a contrast to the more-scattershot cycles that used to be common, according to Vap. (In fact, the new schedule has been in place for all of 2007: The May release of RightNow 8.1 followed February's launch of RightNow 8.0.) The company's next upgrade on the quarterly timetable, slated for November 15, will include distributed knowledge-base answers throughout a company's Web site, expanded platform and OS support, and support for an additional 12 languages (bringing the total to 33).
Meanwhile, during separate sessions, Vap and Greg Gianforte, RightNow's founder and chief executive officer, each outlined key strategies that will drive the company's development over the next three to five years:
- E-service leadership: As to be expected, a large portion of RightNow's engineering efforts will focus on deepening and broadening its capabilities in the online service arena, the company's typical gateway into most client organizations. "Service needs to be [intertwined] with the rest of your content, and even more importantly it can be used essentially as a merchandising vehicle," Vap said.
- Multichannel contact center: "We want to facilitate all of the interactions you have between your organization and your customers, so that [you have a] single system that gives you one view of those interactions," Gianforte said during his general keynote session. Example features include skills-based routing, agent workflow, call scripting, interaction management, and chat.
- Customer-centric CRM: The emphasis here is on support for sales and marketing business processes, as well as customer empowerment (through mechanisms such as forums) and personalization.
- RightNow technology ecosystem: Initiatives include providing simple environments for enhancing RightNow CRM with additional capabilities, and providing easy access to development environments for integration and testing. While Gianforte noted that partner participation has increased, the company's ecosystem strategy has also manifested in RightNow Connect, a standards-based SOA integration framework announced earlier this year. RightNow Connect enables the integration of a CRM application with other systems in the organization.
The company also announced the findings of the second annual Customer Experience Impact Report, a RightNow-sponsored study based on a survey of 2,049 US adults conducted by market research firm Harris Interactive.
Fifty-one percent of consumers cited "outstanding service" as a primary reason for continuing to do business with a company, while 60 percent slotted it as a key motive behind their decision to recommend a company. However, other survey results center on the consumer's increasingly dwindling patience with substandard service interactions. Eighty percent of survey respondents revealed they would never go back to a company after having a negative experience, a year-over-year increase of 12 percentage points. Moreover, 74 percent of consumers reported they would register a complaint or tell others about bad experiences, up from 67 percent last year.
Consumers continue to be most frustrated by not being able to reach a live rep (68 percent, up from 53 percent in 2006). Other sources of customer frustration include:
- waiting on hold, listening to bad music, or receiving repetitive messages (56 percent combined); and
- unanswered emails and phone messages (33 percent).
Interestingly enough, as in last year's study, consumers are reacting strongly (and, some might argue, strangely) while in the throes of poor customer service experiences. For starters:
- 34 percent have fantasized about emailing friends, family, or coworkers in order to request they boycott the organization;
- 29 percent have gotten a headache, experienced chest tightening, and/or cried;
- 12 percent have dreamt of picketing and/or defacing an organization's headquarters.
"There's a very serious issue here, which is [that] customer service--the way we take care of our clients--is mission-critical," Gianforte said. "Customer loyalty is more likely to be driven by the quality of the experience than by price or product capabilities. We've got to do a good job of delivering great experience to our clients or risk our business."
Erin TenWolde, senior analyst for software-as-a-service (SaaS) at industry research firm IDC, makes note of the significant interest in SaaS with regard to service. "Customers have definitely seen the value in that kind of a delivery model, and RightNow has clearly had its positioning in the SaaS area for quite some time," she says, noting the company's focus on strengthening the customer experience.
For his part, Denis Pombriant, managing principal at Beagle Research, contends that the market may finally be at a point where service and support share equal billing with sales and marketing. "Historically, at least since the time I've been doing survey work, there has always been more money and glamour in SFA, and while that may continue we might see greater and greater emphasis put on service and support," he says. "We're not seeing tons of new customers coming into the banking world, for example, to get their first account. We're seeing banks increasingly trying to focus on selling another product to [an existing] customer. Those things are best sold through a service-oriented approach as opposed to a purely sales-oriented approach. RightNow sees that, and RightNow is positioning itself well to take advantage of that trend in the market."
The 2007 RightNow Summit continues through Thurs., Aug. 30; additional news stories will follow.
In a published report, Credit Suisse software analyst Jason Maynard concluded that RightNow may well have turned a corner: "Based on our conversations with a number of RightNow's customers, employees, and partners, we continue to believe that business fundamentals remain strong, [and] execution has stabilized." As for Version 8 of RightNow's software, Maynard's report included a note that the company's management had confirmed "that 300 of its customers have upgraded to the newest version, which is 50 more since the Q2 earnings report." That trend could escalate over the coming months. "The vast majority of the customers we spoke with were still running version 7," Maynard wrote, "but expected to upgrade to 8 within the next 12 months." In short, Credit Suisse concluded, "[t]he feedback after viewing a demo of 8 was overwhelmingly positive, and we expect migrations will continue steadily for the majority of RightNow customers."
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