Superstah! Right Now: Building Beyond the Traditional - Customer Relationship Management

I’ve known Bozeman,Montana–based SaaS solution RightNow and especially its CEO Greg Gianforte for many years and have been trackingthem for as long as I have known them. They have always been a company that provided a solid SaaS-based customer service application suite that just did the trick for service agents and management when it came to doing what was traditional call center and helpdesk work.

For a while they toyed with the idea of a full-service CRM suite,buying the deep process focused CRM SaaS application SalesNet for a bargain basement $9 million in May 2006. But that wasn’t their forte. They were an ace customer service application and they quickly realized that. They still offer the full suite—sales,marketing,and customer service—but customer service remains what they are ubermensches at.

Right Now also pioneered the selective upgrade that is now standard throughout the on-demand world. They were the first who didn’t just push the upgrade automatically,but allowed the customer to select whether or not they wanted to upgrade and the parts of the upgrade they wanted.

In 2007,they took a turn that has vaulted them into a position that gets them my Superstah! rating because they added the customer to their product and service configuration,not just in word,but in deed. Greg,a highly successful,articulate businessperson,author of several books,and a forward thinker,realized that not only was the customer experience the paramount “feature” of customer service,but that all the products that RightNow made needed to be able to engage customers in ways that satisfied the experience they were looking for. He began looking into the idea of customer communities and worked out an alliance with Lithium,one of the premier community-building services in the high tech world. In September 2009,he bought Hive- Live,a good enterprise social networking platform to enhance his social CRM offering even more. He began to incorporate experience based metrics into the analytics he was providing,such as customer satisfaction KPIs. In conjunction with that,Greg released “Eight Steps to Improve Customer Experiences” in both print and digital formats.

But RightNow is also doing things that might be deemed more traditional very well. They have a large vertical presence in multiple industries,including the public sector,where they are very strong with clients like the Environmental Protection Agency and Social Security Administration,and the financial services industry; with a strong presence in software and services and consumer electronics. This is no mean feat. Establishing a foothold in one vertical is hard enough,multiple verticals a huge task—yet they’ve done it. As they’ve done many smart things.

Mission 21st Century
The factors that will affect RightNow for the next several years were defined by Greg Gianforte in a discussion he and I had:

The need for speed Instant messaging,texting,and Twitter have all contributed to make consumers expect immediate responses to their questions. Consequently, companies need strategies to address these rising expectations without driving up costs. The pace will continue to accelerate. Consumer care organizations will need to react immediately to most inquiries received from multiple channels.

Collaboration everywhere Consumer care organizations are shifting from an “answer the consumers’ questions” mentality to a “consumer empowerment” mentality. Empowering consumers means that consumers can resolve their own issues—without humans. This trend will be at the heart of most consumer care strategies going forward. We are seeing communities arise everywhere; Facebook,LinkedIn,MySpace are just a few examples. Companies must develop methods to monitor and participate in these open communities. Plus,creating company-specific communities presents an opportunity to build loyalty with consumers and leverage loyal enthusiasts to reduce consumer care costs if your consumers find them useful. You will need to empower consumers to self-serve 99 percent of all their inquiries.

Work-at-home agents Most of RightNow’s largest customers are either using work-at-home agents or investigating their use. Workat- home agents often have lower turnover,deliver higher consumer satisfaction,and may lower operating costs as well. Plan for it. Most of your care agents will probably not be in traditional contact centers.

Mobile Assume 75 percent of your consumers will be contacting you via mobile devices; consider how you will answer questions from online,SMS,IM,chat,or something else not invented yet.

Proactive care Advanced consumer care automation will look at trends and predict when things will go wrong for consumers. Some companies are already experimenting with these predictive technologies. Consequently companies who adopt these methods will be able to solve problems before consumers even realize they have them. Where would you be if your competitors could predict problems with your consumers,but you can’t?

The Product
What makes Greg’s Mission 21st Century statement particularly interesting is that his current products are a direct reflection of this exact thinking. He is absolutely right in his look at how communities and self-service are going to affect customer care,and anticipation of the issues is becoming increasingly important. His customer service products released in May 2009 reflect these trends. RightNow has all the traditional features and functions you want in this kind of solution, among them:

  • Agent desktop This is the most essential part of any call center–based technology solution. It provides the agent with all the contact and case information in addition to the knowledge base info the agent needs to resolve the customer’s problems or answer their inquiries. The RightNow desktop provides agent scripting and guided assistance for specific problems.

  • Up-sell and cross-sell There is a Best Offer engine that provides the agent with the best possible “other products” based on the profile of the customer. Additionally,the agent is able to show the products to the customer through the Co-browse feature,which enables the agent to take temporary control of the customer’s browser.

  • Feedback The customer service solution can gather data from the customer across all service interaction channels—phone,web,e-mail,and chat. You can incorporate surveys for the agents to give through the Feedback by Proxy feature.

  • Self-service This is self service via web or phone. When a customer logs onto the portal,the agent sees the customer’s activity through pop-up screens and can communicate with the customer using the live chat function. But this is also how customers can use self-service to handle their own efforts such as registration or searching a knowledge base. One major benefit is that customer data is captured as they use the self-service portal. The RightNow system is so robust that iRobot,the company that makes that cute little robot vacuum cleaner the Roomba,now has 97 percent of its customers taking care of themselves. This led to a 30 percent reduction in calls to their call centers.

Using those features of Right Now ordinarily makes you successful,if you’ve done your due diligence and implemented correctly. What makes the user stand out is the focus RightNow is giving to the social customer’s world. There are three major components that deserve highlighting:

  • Cloud Monitor While not unique,Cloud Monitor is innovative,intelligent,and sorely needed in customer service. This is integrated social media monitoring that not only goes out to the crowd conversation and finds the customer service concerns,but uses what they call their SmartSense Emotion Detector to separate the emotional substance from the noise. This is a sentiment analysis tool that can identify and prioritize the unhappy campers to the top of the monitoring results. While it doesn’t automate the business rules and workflow to send red flags to selected role players in the company,the dangerous issues are clearly delineated so the agent can take action. The agent gets a choice of what action to take,whether it is creating a service ticket,ignoring the issue,directly calling the customer,or kicking it upstairs if need be. It also provides a dashboard that indicates the search monitoring results and the agent actions associated with each of them. The record stems from the point of origination in the cloud so where the incident comes from is identified. My only beef with this is that they started with monitoring only two sources,Twitter and YouTube,though by the time of publication of this book,they’ll have Facebook and multiple other sources. I’d have started with blogs and Facebook too. But that’s a tiny beef,given the benefits of this incredible functionality,which you can see in below Figure.
    Cloud Monitor
    The RightNow Cloud Monitor

  • Customer communities The RightNow alliance with Lithium puts RightNow in the forefront of community-driven customer service,which I’ve already explained.

  • Enterprise analytics RightNow’s enterprise analytics,built around an SaaS-based data warehouse,integrates CRM,call switch,telephony,RMA,and order management data and then runs its industrial-strength algorithms. The strong reporting function gives managers and agents a good look at the data in the format they need,from scorecards to performance management data.

These are merely snapshots of RightNow’s rather robust offerings. But what is right about RightNow is they’ve figured out that there is an actual benefit to solving customers’ problems,even if those customers morph into something more demanding and more social. They get the picture.

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