• June 12, 2006
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

RightNow's Voice

RightNow Technologies keeps driving into the voice space: Two offerings that focus on contact management and caller identification were unveiled today. The apps, which capture information about calls and link that information to customer accounts, fall under the umbrella of RightNow Voice, the company's voice-enabled CRM initiative.

The RightNow Voice contact management application uses automatic number identification (ANI), touchtone IVR input, or human speech to identify known customers when they call, according to the company. Once a caller is identified the application can drive actions like presenting screen pops to agent desktops or retrieving data from any back-end system. The RightNow Voice caller ID app allows contact centers to identify callers based on ANI, even if the caller is not in the existing customer database, according to the company. It uses data services from privately held TARGUSinfo, which can provide caller information based on company requirements.

"CRM has always been internally focused, which has led to a lack of customer knowledge," says Greg Gianforte, CEO and founder of RightNow. "Now CRM is outward focused to give companies knowledge at the point of action," which the company calls KAPA.

RightNow Voice seamlessly integrates with RightNow CRM and other third-party applications and telephony infrastructure solutions. "It's nice that it's integrated out of the box," says Laurie McCabe, vice president for SMB insights and business solutions at AMI-Partners. But voice is "one of those areas where you have to apply the technology with your customers in mind, so that you don't aggravate them more than anything else."

Integrating voice messaging with CRM is crucial, according to George Goodall, research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group, noting that this integration is also the one area where on-demand vendors have lagged. "RightNow's ongoing work to address the problem of call center integration will enable it to compete head-to-head with traditional CRM vendors," he says.

Goodall adds, though, that integrating RightNow's CRM functionality with its clients' premise-based telephone equipment will continue to be a challenge. RightNow released RightNow Telephony API (RTAPI) to facilitate this integration, but "many smaller enterprises will require consulting assistance," Goodall says. "RightNow must both improve its own consulting capabilities and develop channel partners to address the integration burden."

The two latest releases are indicative of RightNow's interest in the voice market. In June 2005 the company announced its first voice-related patent (awarded in February 2005) and the completion of the acquisition of voice self-service solutions provider Convergent Voice. The company also announced the hiring of Joseph Brown, former CEO and general manager of Edify, as vice president of voice solutions, and David Lanning, president and CEO of Convergent Voice, as director of voice solutions. Tapping into Convergent Voice's capabilities, RightNow also unveiled eight modules last June, including voice access to the knowledge base, voice incident management system, location finder, order status, repair tracking, refund status password reset, and customer surveys.

Referring to RightNow's overall push into the voice market, the company has to differentiate itself from both other on-demand CRM vendors and basic CRM packages, according to Goodall. "Given the increasing popularity of very affordable open-source packages, and aggressively marketed products like Microsoft CRM 3.0, RightNow must evolve," he says. "Voice integration is a largely untapped opportunity. Provided that RightNow overcomes the problem of providing distributed integration of voice and enterprise application, the strategy is viable."

Additional reporting by Colin Beasty.

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