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November 3, 2009updated 23 Aug 2016 3:01pm

Man on a mission

RightNow CEO Greg Gianforte is on a mission: to rid the world of bad customer experiences

By Janine Milne

Speaking at the customer experience management firm’s European user summit, Gianforte was keen to push home the idea of social network monitoring as the hot new tool for improving customer service.

Q What are your customers telling you they need at the moment
A I do a lot of customer visits and what they’re asking about is social networking. They know they need to do something, but they don’t know what.
Their focus is on cost reduction and most engagements start on that path. Before where you’d have senior executives go to the CEO and say I need a tonne of money to do a project, and they’d talk about the benefits of SaaS, but now they can try it and then show to senior management the business value. In the last quarter, we did seven deals over $1m.

Q Is there a danger that social networking is becoming a tick-in-the-box feature for companies?
A It all depends on whether a company has commitment. There’s a DNA issue. Senior management has to accept that customer experience is important. If you take three days to answer a call, you don’t need social network monitoring, you need to answer those calls. But to be exceptional you do need social network monitoring. Even at the point when you have a 95% customer satisfaction rating that means you’re still upsetting 5%.  You can either sit back and be content with that 95% or try and sort out the 5%.
Social network systems also can’t be in silos. You can’t set up a new centre to run your social networking. It misses the point that you need to connect social networking with the business.
Customer service is measured in average handling times; it’s designed to get the customer off the phone as quickly as possible, but sales down the hall are trying to get people on the phone. From the customer point of view it’s just the same company.

Q How does your approach differ from that of
A The difference between us and Salesforce is we have products that ship. You can’t demo a press release. They bought InStranet [a vendor of knowledge management software for call centres] a year and a half ago, but they have no knowledge base, no email management, no chat, no feedback management and no social solution. Other than that it’s a great solution!
They make huge announcements, they’ve come into our backyard and their version of the truth does not always add up with ours. They bought InStranet, but said they are not going to ship until next year. I don’t know how you can be in this business without a knowledge base. We’re very clear about what we’re shipping and we work very hard to build up integrity with our customers and then Salesforce comes along and blatantly says these things and that impinges on the whole industry and pisses me off!
Our user conference is up 30% year-on-year and if you look at traffic statistics, the traffic we manage is ten times what Salesforce manages.

Q The new product set RightNow CX talks about customer experience rather than CRM, are you a CRM firm?
A We’ve always had a problem with the CRM label and we’ve spent a lot of time talking about consumer-centric CRM, but it’s just way too hard. For us it’s all about the customer experience. It’s bigger than CRM – it includes CRM, but it’s bigger. We don’t want to confuse what customers are searching for; we’re just putting under the customer experience umbrella. If you go to Google and search for CRM, we’ll still come up.

Q How has the recession affected business?
A In Q1, we saw people climb under the desk and get in the foetal position. Projects stopped. We saw a slowdown in bookings in Q1 and as we worked out the new ‘normal’ for getting purchases agreed. Where before senior executives would sign off a purchase, there needs to be far more levels of sign-off. In Q2 and Q3 we’ve had record bookings. We’re living with the new model where approval takes longer. In a given quarter, we probably do 750 to 1,000 transactions and add 50-70 new customers. So most of our business is with existing customers – 60% of our customers have revenues greater than $1bn. We decided to pick a big, hairy, nasty problem where we can sustain differentiation longer term. That was a strategic decision.

Q Do you have plans to move into the mid-market space?
A We do work at the high end of the mid-market, but not the SMB space. Decisions there tend to be price-feature based. Our average contact centre has 50 seats – we’ll start at 15 people, but if there’s less than that it’s probably not a market for us.

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Q You’re referred to as a SaaS company, are you not tempted to call yourselves a cloud company?
A I think we’re a cloud company too. The cloud in and of itself, all you get out of it is fog and rain – no one goes shopping for cloud. Cloud, SaaS and on-demand are helping us to rid the world of bad customer experiences. Cloud is not the first thing we introduce to a client, because it’s not what they’re shopping for.




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