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RightNow Technologies: Ridding the world of bad experiences?

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4th Feb 2010
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RightNow Technologies CEO Greg Gianforte is on a crusade to "rid the world of bad experiences". So just how is he going to do that?

Greg Gianforte has a simple objective: he wants to "rid the world of bad experiences". The RightNow Technologies CEO reckons that ensuring good customer experiences is a major competitive differentiator for the Cloud CRM firm and one that chimes with the needs of the wider end user market.

"One priority for me over this last year has been spending time on the road with customers and partners," he says. "In 2009 I visited over 150 individual customers around the globe. Those visits not only gave us perspective on what drove our strong performance in 2009 but also highlights the key trends that we believe will drive our success in 2010 and beyond.

"I am meeting with more C-level people than ever before. We believe this shift has to do with the increasing importance of the customer experience (CX). We are the experts and our customers are asking us to help them develop their CX strategies. The challenges they want to solve is integrating all three experiences; the web, contact centre and social into one actionable knowledge base and they want direction from us. They know what their ultimate goal is but they want us to help them reach that goal.

"Our recipe for success starts with our eight steps approach to great customer experience and the expertise we have built around this. Recognising this strategic advantage we have established a comprehensive set of best practices. Our customers work with hands on experts who are tasked with using our best practices to walk clients through the eight step approach, benchmark their efforts and show them how to best utilise the CX platform for an integrated customer experience."

Gianforte cites the example of one Fortune 50 B2B2C company who decided to implement an integrated customer experience initiative. "That started with a directive from the CIO and the CMO. In addition, the chief security officer was also heavily involved as our team worked directly with him to clear their security requirements," he notes.

"This was a customer we had three C-level execs each owning a specific business process mandate shaping the direction of the project. We ended up growing our relationship with a multi-solution commitment in Q4 that included our agent desktop, knowledge base, web self service, enterprise feedback management and marketing. With serving their customer’s needs top of mind at the executive level we were able to work together to integrate a customer experience strategy unique to their consumers."

Socialising CRM

Gianforte also cites the increased importance of the social experience. "This focus on social has really intensified in recent months. Most of the customers I have met wanted to talk about how to leverage social networking in a consumer business," he says. "Their reasons for this focus are obvious. Facebook gets over 5 billion minutes of use a day. There are 3 million Tweets every day. 100 million videos on YouTube viewed and 85% of social media users believe a company should go beyond just having a presence online and actually interacting with the customers. The number of sites with user generated content is growing every day. Organisations need to listen to and participate in conversations in the cloud and facilitate communities for their customers."

There are now examples of integrating social channel with the RightNow CX platform, he says, including Photo Box, Europe’s number one online photo site. "They were an existing user of many of our solutions and when we showed them our new social experience it didn’t take long for them to see the benefits," explains Gianforte. "They have a lot of traffic through Facebook and Twitter they want to manage better. They also want to use the platform to answer support issues, up sell and cross sell through their communities and drive product innovation. In addition, Photo Box has many white label customers throughout EMEA and with our social solution they will be able to integrate these communities using the same platform."

With public sector Cloud Computing now on the political agenda around the world, Gianforte argues that RightNow is the best positioned provider. "The reality is Salesforce.com, Oracle On Demand CRM and the cornucopia of other Cloud-based offerings don’t even meet the moderate security levels for federal agency applications, let alone the higher security levels required by the Department of Defense that we are deploying solutions under today," he claims.

"Our Cloud offering differentiates us from our competitors and puts us a league of our own. For example, the United States Army Human Resources Command last quarter committed to our government Cloud offering. This command manages all personnel activity for the U.S. Army, enlisted, officers, Reserves, National Guard and certain Joint Forces. They selected our CX platform for the entire command beating out Oracle and other legacy CRM custom developed, on-premise solutions.

"We have had great success in the public sector but having our government Cloud significantly benefits the government accounts that already use RightNow and allows us to move forward with other areas that require this specialised secure capability," he adds. "Our government initiatives align well also with President Obama’s new Open Government directive which requires compliance for all federal agencies for increased transparency, participation and collaboration. Because of our track record of success serving federal government customers we are well positioned to be a strategic partner as cabinet level agencies strive to meet this new directive. In fact, within one week the Department of Defense publicly declared their compliance with the Open Government directive because of their existing use of RightNow on the website Defense.gov."

Salesforce baiting

In terms of day to day business, Gianforte says that the firm is seeing more deals in which Cloud offerings are replacing home-grown systems. "As more CIOs are recognising the benefits of spending their dollars on proven solutions where they can easily measure the ROI instead of throwing more dollars at legacy systems," he argues. “New and expanded business came from customers like Alltel, [Belvacom], eHarmony, Jacuzzi brands, Life Nation, 3M, Napster, Rakutan, Survey Monkey, Social Security Administration and Virgin Atlantic Airways.

"We are also seeing continued strong win rates against Salesforce.com including a number of replacements this past quarter," he adds, a continuation of a more aggressive positioning against the rival firm in recent months. "Last quarter we did see quite a bit of mistruths and misinformation being promoted and I felt I needed to address it head on. So that is kind of no real change. I will say that we have seen less of the hype this last quarter but if they come out with Version 2.0 of Hype as a service I will let you know. Honestly I have been surprised at how quiet they have been. There has really been no product announcements in this area. We haven’t really been seeing them in an as many competitive deals."

Overall, Gianforte is confident about prospects for RightNow in 2010 as the economy picks up and spending resumes. As for his wider objective of wiping out bad customer experiences, he notes: "With a goal like that we know we will be gainfully employed for a long time."

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