RightNow helps customers help themselves
Solid self-service and live chat features give e-service suite a boost, but beware of sticky integration and scalability
With an increasing number of customer touch points in today's service centers, managing the influx of communications is no easy task. E-services can reign in expenditures and help you better satisfy customer expectations.
RightNow Technologies recently released Version 6.0 of its suite of service-oriented products, and it's a good choice for organizations looking to jump-start customer relationship building while keeping service-related expenditures in check.
After spending some hands-on time with the Proactive Multi-Channel Customer Service Version, I found it to be a good tool for enabling customer self-service features and managing interactions. Although it offers limited deployment options and limited integration with other CRM and ERP systems, benefits such as an option for hosted deployment get you up and running quickly.
DIY Customer Service
The RightNow suite contains Service 6.0 to manage customer support and Web self-service, Outbound 6.0 to generate and track e-mail marketing campaigns, and the Live Chat application. And, RightNow integrates its features easily into your customer-facing Web front end without tampering with its look and feel.
Service 6.0 creates a "knowledge base," a back-end database responsible for holding everything from product backgrounder and case-resolution histories to tracking statistics on commonly asked questions. Using natural language processing and smart search technology, RightNow seeks out relevance from customer communications and taps the knowledge base for appropriate answers.
RightNow's real benefits come from tracking customer and agent usage and automating future interactions based on the collected data. The rules-based workflow facilities listen across your customer channels to perform triage, allowing staff to focus on escalating priorities while RightNow delivers first-response answers to customers over less-costly channels.
To get that workflow going, you set the rules and criteria for routing incoming requests. You can configure workflow to ensure top customers are given priority routing, for example, and Live Chats initiated from a product Web page are routed to the appropriate specialist.
When I logged into the RightNow service interface, I could see pending incident queues, pull cases into my inbox for processing, or start new cases from phone-initiated sources. I could even associate an incident to a customer's service-level agreement and log billable time.
Although I would have preferred the ability to drill into a queue directly, without having to first open a new console, the Support Console allowed views into full audit histories and associated support files that made for concise resource access. Service administrators will appreciate the incident queue's monitoring and management features, such as the option to reassign cases among agents.
I found the basic routing and prioritizing features good, but I would prefer to see workflow automation tied directly into the agent interface to improve training and ensure best practices during customer interaction, not just after the record is updated.
Agents' troubleshooting efforts will benefit from the Answer Console -- a window to knowledge-base support materials. Plus, agents can continually submit new cases for inclusion in the knowledge base, improving its value. The Answer Console would benefit from better taxonomy options and more keyword assistance to guide agents and improve hit ratios on searches, but it performed well overall.