A Voice Self-Service Surge
RightNow Technologies today unveiled its biggest push into the voice market with several voice-based announcements. Known for its Web self-service functionality and development into being a full suite CRM provider, the on-demand vendor has completed the acquisition of Convergent Voice; a voice self-service solutions provider. It also announced the availability of eight modules; its first voice-related granted patent; and the hiring of Joseph Brown, former Edify CEO and general manager, and David Lanning, the president and CEO of Convergent Voice. Brown joins as vice president of voice solutions, and Lanning will become the director of Voice Solutions.
Through the acquisition RightNow acquired Convergent Voice's intellectual property, core development team, accounts receivable, and contract rights. Terms of the acquisition, the first in RightNow's eight-year history, were not disclosed. The companies have been partners since 2002. Allen Bonde, president of Allen Bonde Group, considers the acquisition "surprising in general," because of the company's history of internal development, but, "given that it's in a space that I don't really think was their core competence in terms of voice, then maybe it's not a surprise."
Convergent Voice's portfolio includes Caller Authentication, Voice Self-Service Knowledge Base, Incident Reporting, Locator, One Number Routing, Password Reset, Personal Auto Attendant, and status and survey applications. In turn, RightNow has revealed eight modules, including voice access to the knowledge base, voice incident management system, location finder, order status, repair tracking, refund status password reset, and customer surveys.
RightNow already has end-user companies deploying these modules, including a mobile phone manufacturer. Brown spoke to CRM
magazine about the deployments and the announcements. "Their customer experience shot up dramatically, but more importantly, their revenue went up as well because they could provide the information, but then direct the consumer to where they could get the replacement [product]."
The acquisition also signals the launch of the company's Voice-Enabled CRM initiative coined RightNow Voice. RightNow's Voice-Enabled CRM solutions integrate voice-based automation functions into CRM processes, which Brown says will ensure "that it's a consistent answer," across channels. He also notes that RightNow is now positioned as delivering "the only integrated prebuilt, packaged application designed for voice that leverages the CRM suite." Bonde sees this claim as "pretty defendable," but contends that it refers more to the "Siebels, Oracles, and Salesforce.coms of the world, and KANA as well."
Also announced was the company's voice-related patent. Awarded in February 2005, it will allow customers waiting in queue to withdraw from the queue with a voice command and to vocalize menu responses to obtain correct information. The company now has six granted patents and 10 U.S. patents pending. As part of the acquisition the company acquired two additional voice-related patent applications.
Although the speech market has seen less-than-rapid adoption, Brown contends that the industry is beginning to see the speech market deliver on its promise. "There's prebuilt applications or there's toolkits that can build applications. We think the market is ready for prepackaged applications...[and] you can take advantage of what's been prebuilt and install quickly. You're starting to see hosting come up as people are saying, 'If I can get a hosted environment up and running, that means that upfront investment is significantly less.'"
Overall, Bonde sees the company's announcements as meshing with its multichannel strategy. "Most of their customers probably don't have well-integrated voice solutions. If they look to RightNow as not just an e-service, e-CRM company, but potentially a voice solutions provider, that's huge."
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