RightNow Technologies: Aggressive Player

By Brian P. Watson Print this article Print

RightNow's 2006 acquisition of SalesNet boosted its sales product.

Greg Gianforte, founder and chief executive of RightNow Technologies, believes companies face a "do-or-die business issue" when it comes to handling how the Internet impacts relations with their customers: Do they stick with the client/server software model, or move to an integrated, on-demand system?

And he enthusiastically proclaims his company—which offers a self-named, on-demand customer relationship management suite with sales, marketing and support modules—as the vendor to manage those interactions.

RightNow's own customers credit the firm's on-demand customer relationship management software, which focuses on call-center automation, with helping cut the clutter of calls and e-mail messages to customer service reps.

Before late 2004, customer service agents with TD Banknorth were going through a "nightmare" scenario, according to Mark Ellis, who until this month served as senior vice president and online strategist for the Portland, Maine, financial services firm.

E-mails to TD's contact center rose sharply each year as the company grew, Ellis says (he wouldn't provide exact volumes). At the time, agents had no knowledge base by which they could generate consistent answers to customer questions, so agents had to answer each separately. Surfing through TD's Web site, Ellis adds, wasn't helping customers either, since its FAQ pages contained only limited advice.

So, Ellis looked for software that could help TD build an online knowledge base and aid agents in processing customer e-mails. He went with RightNow's Service solution, which helped TD revise the online FAQ and more quickly respond to e-mails. Ellis says the firm's new online knowledge base helped reduce incoming e-mails by 70%, beginning in early 2005.

Still, other customers who found success with RightNow warn that the vendor's salespeople and consultants can be irrationally exuberant about deployment planning and execution.

Alex Marxer, vice president of operations with ResortCom International, a resort management and financing company, says RightNow's primary salesman was a "little overexcited." RightNow had written a large amount of code into its browser, which added complexity for ResortCom to integrate it with their systems, Marxer says, though the salesman said it would be easy.

To RightNow's credit, though, Marxer says the vendor sent in its top professional service staffers to remedy the problem. "How people respond to that is integral in how a relationship develops," Marxer says. "They sent in their 'A' team."

Ken Harris, chief information officer of Shaklee, a maker of nutrition and personal care products, says that despite meeting their deployment goals, both his staff and the RightNow team could have jelled better in setting expectations. "There was a little more excitement and less formal planning, initially," he says.

Both customers, though, hit the initial time lines for the project. That, Gianforte says, speaks for itself. "I'm very pleased that our field organization is enthusiastic about our product," he says. "If they weren't, that would be a bad thing."

RightNow's average deployment takes 60 days, he says, adding that on-premise CRM deployments can take up to two years and competitive on-demand suites average three months or more. "Given the performance of my competitors, I'm declaring victory."

This article was originally published on 2007-03-08
Associate Editor

Brian joined Baseline in March 2006. In addition to previous stints at Inter@ctive Week and The Net Economy, he's written for The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., as well as The Sunday Tribune in Dublin, Ireland. Brian has a B.A. from Bucknell University and a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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