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RightNow broadens reach of hosted CRM tool

RightNow Technologies today introduced Locator 3.0, an extension of its eService Center hosted online customer service and support offering.

Hosted customer support provider RightNow Technologies Inc. expanded its lineup of online services Monday with the introduction of its Locator 3.0 tool.

The Bozeman, Mont.-based application service provider (ASP) claims the new offering helps increase customer retention by aiding online shoppers in finding retailers' local brick-and-mortar service locations. The system also helps reduce call center expenses by creating more opportunities to utilize online customer self-service, according to RightNow.

"The main benefit is creating proactive customer self-service," said Greg Gianforte, RightNow chairman and CEO. "We're trying to help move the call center from a revenue-eater into a revenue opportunity by building a knowledge base that delivers predictive information to users."

The primary upgrade promised by Locator 3.0 is the ability to add PDA support to RightNow's flagship eService Center offering. RightNow reported that the Locator 3.0 release also includes enhanced capabilities for online customers to communicate with in-store support employees via a PC.

RightNow's eService Center platform is a hosted customer service system that powers CRM functions, including e-mail and call center management, online satisfaction surveys and Web-based chat capability. While RightNow doesn't classify itself strictly as an ASP, the company estimates that some 70% of its customers currently utilize its hosted services via the Web.

It is largely recognized by industry experts that hosted services have yet to gain widespread popularity among enterprise users, but the firm claims that some 50% of its 1,000 customers are among the largest 2,000 companies in the world. RightNow is also riding a wave of growth, as evidenced by 16 consecutive quarters of revenue growth.

According to at least one analyst, RightNow is making a name for itself by providing users with an important piece of the customer service business through an alternative, and potentially cost-saving, delivery model. Mary Wardley, an analyst with Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp. (IDC) said that RightNow has also established a reputation for staying in contact with its customers after they've signed on for its services.

"RightNow is becoming a viable competitor in the customer service arena, and not just based on its ASP delivery model," Wardley said. "Their ability to integrate e-mail and other support functions into a knowledge base is an attractive alternative."

According to Wardley, RightNow is competing increasingly for user dollars against established e-service vendors such as eGain Communications Corp. and even full-blown CRM providers, such as Kana Software Inc., PeopleSoft Inc. and Siebel Systems Inc. RightNow's services are also being used as a complement to broader CRM packages in some circumstances, she said.

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