Notes from the RightNow 2007 Summit
I’m in Colorado Springs for the 9th RightNow Summit. (You know you have a great job when it requires you to spend time at the Broadmoor, one of the best hotels in the world.) I always enjoy attending the RightNow user conferences; these are rabidly happy customers and they are willing to share their experiences, warts and all. Many vendor user conferences “shepherd” analysts to avoid much direct interaction with customers, or hold separate analyst conferences to avoid the issue entirely. But RightNow encourages interaction with customers, and lines up 1:1 meetings with customers for us.
With over 500 customers in attendance, this is a sizeable conference. For the first time, there are breakouts focusing on individual industries, allowing more focused knowledge sharing. The session topics are also broader this year, reflecting RightNow’s expansion beyond customer service into full CRM. The highlight of the first morning for me was the customer panel, with representatives from some big name companies including Orbitz, William Sonoma, Electronic Arts, Telstra and eHarmony. Some interesting tidbits for you:
- Telstra, Australia’s largest mobile and broadband provider, leverages RightNow for broadband customer support. With an enviable churn rating (as low as 15%, compared to the normal 30% or higher), Telstra must be doing something right with service. Half of the 100,000 customer emails received each month are resolved by email auto-response–an impressive result. 10 people are dedicated to creating and maintaining knowledge.
- Electronic Arts, the company that brought gaming into the Web 2.0 world, has customers all over the world and are working to provide more support options in local languages. Currently, self-service is offered in 10 languages, with 6 more coming soon, and as many as a dozen more planned for next year. Currently, EA creates KB content in English, then routes to local support groups around the world to translate. The most interesting thing I heard from EA is that they are now embedding RightNow knowledgebase content directly into games, sort of a mashup, so if you are struggling in a game you now can receive context sensitive help from within the game.
- eHarmony, the online matchmaker, talked about their unique approach to agent screening. When interviewing prospective contact center agents, instead of looking for call center experience or being pacified by applicants saying how much they love to talk to people (which apparently is a common answer for why they want to be an agent), they screen to identify people who care about others and sincerely want to help. You can teach contact center skills, but you can’t teach empathy.
One of the most enlightening parts of my day was a meeting with another RightNow customer, Lou Peragallo, VP of Operations for Wiley Publishing. If you don’t think you know Wiley, you are wrong: these are the folks bringing you Cliffs Notes, the “Dummies” books, Frommer’s travel guides, Betty Crocker cookbooks, as well as many higher education texts. Wiley also offers online education and professional development products for students and adults, and they field customer issues from problems with online tools to questions on content in any of their published titles. There were several things that Lou talked about that really impressed me:
- B2C increasingly influences B2B. Lou first decided to include RightNow in their list of possible vendors when searching for a KB, email, self-service and contact center solution because as a customer of SBC, he loved the online help SBC offers consumers, and noticed the “Powered by RightNow” logo on the SBC online help screens. I have said many times that consumers bring their experiences into the workplace, and that serving consumers well leads to success in the B2B world, and this is a perfect example.
- Customers for life. The SSPA’s push toward Value Added Service talks about the importance of excellent service to long term customer profitability, and Wiley is all over this. Lou explained how customers who love CliffsNotes in high school can lead to brand loyalty to Wiley’s text books in college, to the Dummies series for everyday life after college, and even online for professional development as an adult. Every service interaction is an opportunity to reinforce the brand, spread awareness of Wiley’s other titles and products, and show how much they care about each customer.
- Partnering with your vendor is key. Several customers mentioned the free “Tuneups” RightNow offers all customers every six months. These tuneups allow the RightNow experts to evaluate your implementation, compare it to their collection of best practices, and make recommendations for how to better leverage the technology to improve service. Lou had a great example of how these tuneups help: in one tuneup session, the RightNow expert noticed that Wiley’s KB content, both problem descriptions and resolution text, were very long, and recommended that both be shortened so customers performing self-service can immediately grasp the question and answer being presented. With some work, Wiley now offers dramatic results of online self-service adoption: unique self-service sessions are up 150%, page turns up 144%, and KB searches up 104%.
I also had 1:1 meetings with several RightNow execs, including Scott Creighton, VP of Bus Dev; Michael Saracini, GM Americas; David Vap, VP of Products; and Sandy Erickson, Director, Service Product Line, who I knew from my Clarify days. The highlight of the exec meetings for me was a lively discussion with one of my favorite RightNowers, Jason Mittelstaedt, VP of Marketing, in which we talked about how Web 2.0 is changing the face of support processes, customers, and technology.
I was happy to see some SSPA Partners in the RightNow partner pavilion: Lithium, which has a slick packaged integration of their online community platform with RightNow; e4e, a tech support outsourcer/service provider who has some great success stories with SSPA members including Symantec; and UCN Inc., provider of OnDemand IP telephony solutions.
Thanks for reading; if you have any comments or questions, post a comment or shoot me an email!