RightNow Revamps The Software Buying Experience

About 6 months ago, I gave the thumbs-up to RightNow Technologies’ new mission: “To rid the world of bad experiences.” Having spent considerable time with RightNow’s management team, I could see that the new mission was more than just a slogan, it’s a commitment to an operating model that’s driving all of the firm’s key decisions.

The company recently announced the next element of that new mission, a new client agreement for its SaaS (software-as-a-service) offering called a “Cloud Services Agreement.” Here’s how the company describes some of the key attributes of the new agreement:

  1. No Shelfware – clients should be able to buy only what they need and still get long-term pricing certainty 
  2. Minimum 5-Year Pricing Certainty –  clients should get long-term fixed and transparent pricing without long-term lock-ins
  3. No Long-Term Contract Lock Ins – clients should be able to walk away from contracts if vendors aren’t delivering value
  4. No-Haggle Flex Up / Down – clients should be able to easily adjust seats, capacity or even product modules up – or down – to meet their changing business requirements
  5. “Roll-Over” Usage – clients should be able to adjust for seasonality without having to purchase capacity for peak usage that then sits idle most of the year
  6. Cash Service Credits – clients should receive a cash reimbursement if a vendor fails to meet its service commitments

My take: I really like the Cloud Service Agreement; it reverses many of the customer-unfriendly practices in the enterprise software market. Not only does this look like a good strategy for RightNow, but it also provides lessons for other companies and other industries. Here’s what people can learn from this strategy:

  • Be consistent with your mission; this strategy supports a key pillar that RightNow calls “easy to buy”
  • Recognize that everything impacts customer experience; purchase agreements establish the framework for an ongoing relationship (or a constant battle)
  • Create a tighter linkage between your revenue stream and customer value; tension will grow when there’s a mismatch in value
  • Provide flexibility for customers so they can easily respond to variability and unknowns in their business
  • Adjust your business model to take advantage of new capabilities; RightNow is leveraging native SaaS capabilities to depart from typical enterprise software licensing models
  • Pick strategies that large competitors can’t easily match; it will be difficult for vendors like SAP and Oracle to replicate this strategy
  • Recognize that everything is connected; making an isolated change in just one part of your business may have little long-term impact

The bottom line: Software-as-a-service will enable more customer-centric enterprise software!

Exterminate Bad Experiences RightNow

At its user conference in Colorado Springs, RightNow Technologies announced a new mission: To rid the world of bad experiences. CEO Greg Gianforte unveiled the mission along with its three pillars:

  1. Invest in its solution to help RightNow clients eliminate bad customer experiences from their consumer base.
  2. Improve the way it engages with their clients to ensure they always have great experiences when interacting with RightNow
  3. Give back to the communities in which it operates.

Here are some details that went along with the announcement:

  • It renamed its platform: RightNow CX, the customer experience suite.
  • It announced three new social media offerings (RightNow Support Community, RightNow Innovation Community, and RightNow Social Experience Designer) which are integrated with its Web and contact center components.
  • To enhance its relationship with its clients, the company announced its CX Commitment which has three elements: relentless focus on business results, expertise on every engagement, and delivering on the promise of SaaS.
  • It’s adding Client Success Managers to every RightNow account, free of charge. These people won’t carry sales quotas and will be measured on the business results of their clients.
  • RightNow won’t start an engagement until the client and RightNow agree on what the results will be; and they won’t consider a project finished until they’ve delivered those results.
  • The company has ambitious plans for its SaaS platform which include a commitment to no shelf-ware, complete pricing transparency, and what it calls “invisible updates” – frictionless changes from version to version.

Gianforte ended his remarks by inviting attendees to join RightNow in ridding the world of bad experiences.

My take: I’ve seen many vendors create missions like this; announcing audacious statements about how they want to be perceived. Most fail miserably. But RightNow’s announcement is different from most.

Since the mission dovetails completely with my focus, I sat down with several people across RightNow including its CEO, CMO, and COO to understand what this mission really means. Here’s how I’d rate RightNow’s mission against the 6 criteria that I use for evaluating organizational missions:

  • Is it compelling? YES
  • Are employees bought-in? YES
  • Is it consistent with the company’s core beliefs? YES
  • Is there value for all key constituents? YES
  • Has the company aligned its investments to the mission? YES
  • Are significant changes being made to align with the mission? YES

Ridding the world of bad experiences is more than just a slogan for RightNow, it’s a commitment to an operating model that’s driving all of its key decisions.

I am particularly impressed by the company’s commitment to align itself more fully with its customers’ success – instead of just selling software. If successful, RightNow might actually redefine a more customer-centric model for software companies. That would certainly rid the world of many bad experiences!

The bottom line: Let’s collectively rid the world of bad experiences.

Congrats to VoC Winners: Experian, Progressive, and Vanguard

Well, it’s been a wild day; the Grand Hyatt was hopping today as we kicked off our Customer Experience Forum.

My opening keynote speech seemed to go over really well. I weaved the story of the customer experience journey together with the story of Dorothy’s journey in the Wizard Of Oz. I actually ended my speech with a rewritten version of the song “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” I also showcased some data from my new report that went live today called “Customer Experience Boosts Revenue.” I’ll talk more about my speech and that research in future posts.

For now, I want to congratulate the three winners of Forrester’s 2009 Voice Of The Customer (VoC) Award: Experian, Progressive, and Vanguard. We received 40 strong nominations, so these winners did a really great job. They all were adept at the four key elements of a VoC program: Listening, Interpreting, Reacting, and Monitoring and were able to identify significant business results from those efforts. You can download their nomination forms from Forrester’s customer experience blog.

There were so many outstanding nominations, that we named 11 finalists:

  • Cardinal Health
  • Experian
  • Gaylord
  • Hyatt Place
  • iRobot
  • Logitech
  • Oracle
  • Progressive Insurance
  • Symantec
  • Vanguard

Voice of the customer is a critical component for just about any customer experience effort. And the trends indicate that VoC will become even more important in the future. A lot of the advances in VoC are coming from innovative work from a number of vendors. That’s why one of the questions we asked was: “What technology vendors or service providers are critical to your success?”

Here’s a shout out to the vendors that were mentioned by the 11 finalists:

Bain and Company, Burke Research, CAHPS, Clarabridge, Cognos, Convergys, ECHO, Healthways, iModerate, JD Power, Lotus Notes, M/A/R/C, Medallia, Microsoft, National Committee for Quality Assurance, NICE, Opinion Lab, Oracle, Radiano, RightNow Technologies, Satmetrix, Somentics, TeaLeaf, Vovici, and Webtrends.

The nominations were loaded with great insights, so I’ll be writing a lot more about what we found.

The bottom line: Congratulations to all of the winners, finalists, and the vendors that helped!

Social Media Meets Good Old-Fashioned Service

In a recent briefing from RightNow Technologies, the SaaS (Software as a Service) CRM provider showcased it’s new functionality called Cloud Monitor. The vendor can now search social networking sites for comments about a company, identify the sentiment of the comment (very negative to very positive), and enable reps to respond to the comments using their normal CRM tools.

Here’s a screen shot (courtesy of RightNow) showing how the tool can be used to respond to tweets:

RightNow Cloud Monitor

RightNow Technologies' Cloud Monitor Functionality

My take: This new offering from RightNow is a great example of an important voice of the customer (VoC) trend: The integration of social media monitoring into broader VoC efforts. There’s no reason for social media efforts to look substantially different from how companies handle other forms of feedback.

And this becomes even more important when companies decide to respond. Why should reps have different (and less integrated) tools for responding to Tweets than they do when responding to emails? They shouldn’t. RightNow’s type of solution allows companies to utilize existing knowledge bases, efficiently deal with correspondences, and maintain a centralized record of customer contacts.

While this initial functionality from RightNow is a good starting point, it certainly needs some more enhancements before it matches up with pure brand monitoring tools. Here are some of the areas where it should (and likely will) make improvements: A broader set of sites that it monitors, classification (and agent routing) of comments by topic, identification of the influence level of the commenter, inference of customer details (like is it a customer or not), and tailored text mining tools.

So, for the time being, companies need to make a trade-off between comprehensive brand monitoring tools and integration with CRM applications. But it won’t be long until social media is just another channel that companies interact with through their existing CRM applications.

The bottom line: Everything new that survives becomes mainstream. 

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