RightNow Takes Aim at Customer Service 2.0

In what its executives are calling a continuation of a longheld focus on “consumer-centric CRM”, Bozeman, Mont.-based on-demand customer service solution provider RightNow Technologies has expanded its foray into Web 2.0 technologies with its latest quarterly release, August ’08.

Andrew Hull, RightNow’s vice president of marketing, explains that this latest release drills into the third of four pillars his company stands upon: consumer-centric CRM. “In our world, our customers need very high uptime because consumers interact with them 365 days a year, 24 hours a day,” he says. (RightNow describes its other three "pillars" as e-service leadership, the multichannel contact center, and the RightNow Technology Ecosystem.)

The company highlights three main features driving its August ’08 update:

  • customer portal;
  • capabilities for what the compnay is calling "co-browsing"; and
  • proactive chat.

The customer portal, according to Hull, contains out-of-the-box best practices for online customer self-service that the vendor has accumulated in its 10-year existence. According to additional information provided by company executives, the customer portal also includes Portal Studio, in which companies can use virtually any design program -- Adobe Dreamweaver, for example -- to combine brand elements with Web 2.0 mashups such as videos, forums, and blogs. “Our customer can see user-generated content right next to the company [information],” Hull explains. “I think it builds confidence on both sides, because consumers are increasingly relying on user-generated content as a trusted source for answers. Also, companies will continue to figure out how they balance official answers next to [customer] comments.” In short, he says, the portal is the new release's biggest point of differentiation. “That’s definitely a game-changer for us; it pushes entire market forward,” he declares.

Not everyone agrees. Rob Bois, research director at Boston-based AMR Research, says the real differentiator is the co-browse functionality. “[The customer portal] is a checkbox item; they need to have it at this point in the game,” he explains. “The co-browse [capability is] something that the typical consumer-based company isn’t doing today.”

The co-browse feature gives consumers the option to invite an agent -- whether on the phone or participating in online chat -- to share their desktop for resolving a problem, filling out a form, or guiding them through an online purchase. This gives agents the ability to go beyond just a consumer’s Web browser, extending the service reach out to the entire desktop. Hull says it's important for companies to entrust the proper agents who won’t try to take advantage of other consumer information not related to the task at hand. “The company has to be very confident agents are going to be trustworthy,” he warns. “They could technically restart a person’s computer or do something more malicious.”

Bois says security is always a concern, and RightNow should guide companies in how to best navigate the potentially rocky road. However, he says he doesn’t believe the potential issue will cripple the feature’s adoption. “Anytime there's a new overall reliance on emerging technology, these kinds of questions always tend to come up,” he says. “A lot of these [concerns] will work themselves out over time. At least now they have ability to consume these technologies; that’s half the battle.”

The combination of these types of technologies opens up a world in which the customer can dictate the nature of the interaction with businesses, according to Bois. “This is a big challenge for organizations looking at enriching the customer experience, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” he stresses, saying preferences can vary by generation, demographics, and even by geographic location. “Unfortunately, a lot of organizations have taken a static approach...in the past by throwing more human resources at the problem. [Many times], the best experience is whatever gets you information the fastest...so you need to have these multiple channels in place.”

Bearing this in mind, Bois says RightNow is positioned well competitively with August ’08. “The theme of this release is about pushing the envelope on those emerging technologies [that] consumer-centric organizations are increasingly going to be looking for to differentiate in its cross-channel service,” he says. “RightNow is doing whatever it can to stay ahead of curve. Clearly this is something [the company] is serious about.”

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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