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Column: RightNow key to Oracle’s customer experience management plans

CRM industry expert Denis Pombriant asserts the Oracle acquisition of RightNow is good news for customers, industry.

Oracle and RightNow will do well together -- that’s my prediction. Late last month,  the companies announced Oracle’s $1.5 billion offer to buy the customer service system provider at the RightNow Summit in Colorado Springs, Colo., and that set the industry atwitter. 

First reactions to the news centered on the culture mismatch, leaving many people wondering if Western civilization could survive. I believe it was as overdone as my mother-in-law’s Thanksgiving turkey (thank goodness she won’t read this). 

For starters, Oracle has many flaws, but it has a knack for making money and it will do what it takes to successfully absorb a company if it is a moneymaker. That’s not idle talk either; Oracle has done credible jobs absorbing Siebel, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and a long list of other companies.

More interesting to me than the culture clash and whether it will materialize is what the company plans to do with RightNow. You can easily argue that RightNow is spare parts, that Siebel and all the others have enough firepower to provide for the company’s customer service center needs into the indefinite future. I don’t agree with that.

Oracle has a lot of legacy software and is a company that knows it needs to get more social, mobile and analytic. Plus, it needs to do a lot in the cloud to gain credibility. I think the way you evaluate the RightNow acquisition is in light of the other recent acquisitions on Anthony Lye’s shopping list. Lye is the SVP of all CRM things at Oracle, and the RightNow buy should be seen in the context of his vision for the future of customer-facing cloud computing.

I can’t be sure of all the details, but if you just look at three recent acquisitions you can see a pattern. Lye bought ATG for 1 billion Oracle bucks last spring. ATG has a very powerful e-commerce system that will fit in nicely with Oracle CRM OnDemand. Then there is Endeca, a buy from earlier in October for an undisclosed amount. Endeca has e-commerce and analytics capabilities that focus on unstructured data. Finally, RightNow is all about customer experience and multi-channel customer service.

Hold that thought and go watch this video. It was the highlight of the RightNow Summit keynote address by CEO Greg Gianforte. It shows a person in the near future interacting with vendors in multiple ways through mobile and other devices. The focus is delivering what the customer wants when the customer wants it and wrapping it in a nice, professional, efficient experience. Sometimes the customer is interacting with a person and sometimes with a machine, but it’s hard to tell who and what are involved in the interactions.

The systems the customer interacts with anticipate his needs and offer up selections based on their understanding of the customer’s prior interactions. Amazingly, all of the things that are a big deal for us today -- social, mobile and analytic -- are mostly hidden below the surface of the actual interaction. What we’re left with are conversations and the conversations skip from service to marketing to seamless selling. The result of these conversations is a relationship -- not the kind of relationship that makes you want to have a beer with any of the participants, but one that delivers just what’s needed and satisfies a basic need. That satisfaction is what drives customer loyalty.

Of course, the reality in the video remains a future; it might happen, but the solutions don’t exist today. However, because it’s the near future, it all looks familiar and you can easily see how a few iterations from now the customer experience could look like this.

RightNow developed the video independently of any discussions with Oracle. CEO Greg Gianforte told me the negotiations took only 11 days from the letter of intent, and I expect the video took longer to conceive and make and that it was part of the planning for the summit.  That makes it all the more interesting. 

Oracle, in Lye, has a similar vision to what’s portrayed in the video. It also has the cash to assemble the building blocks, and to a great extent the company has done the basic assembly.  It remains to be seen if Oracle can synchronize the message,  products and personalities to achieve such a vision. I believe they can.









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