Thursday, September 17, 2009

RightNow Adds Social Community Capabilities (But Don't Expect Support Costs to Fall as a Result)

Summary: RightNow has extended its social media footprint by purchasing HiveLive, which lets companies build public and private communities. It also released a benchmark survey showing that online channels (email, chat, Web self-service) don't do much to reduce customer service telephone calls.

In keeping with my recent posts about broader utilization of social media, I had a chat earlier this week with on-demand CRM vendor RightNow , who updated me on their recent purchase of HiveLive. HiveLive provides a social community platform, which means it lets companies build their own discussion groups, forums and such. HiveLive has many features to support business communities, both in terms of engaging with customers over issues such as product features and bugs, and in terms of building internal communities such as project teams.

HiveLive fits with RightNow’s vision of giving customers a seamless flow between community applications and a company’s traditional service systems. For example, if a question posted to a forum goes unanswered for a specified time, it can be escalated into a service system as a case to be handled by the company’s support group. If I understood correctly, RightNow and HiveLive can do this already.

We discussed deeper sharing, such as having answers developed in a public forum become part of a company’s internal customer service knowledgebase. That’s something RightNow may add in the future.

Our discussion veered onto other topics, and in particular how seriously companies really take the goal of improving the customer experience. RightNow shared a copy of its recent RightNow Multi-Channel Contact Center Benchmark Report, which was interesting in its own right.

One tidbit I found particularly intriguing was how few telephone service calls are “deflected” into email, chat and Web self-service channels. In the survey, most companies reported that fewer than 10% of customers in those channels would otherwise have made a phone call.

You could see this as bad news for the theory that having alternate channels available will reduce the need for call center agents. Or you could consider it good news that customers have more choices to pick the interaction method they find most congenial.

Another interesting item was that 55% of companies have some mechanism to gather feedback from customers, but just 10% of those use an IVR survey, which I personally consider the most effective way to gain broad participation. Again, you can treat this as good news (at least half the companies are trying) or bad news (just 5% of the total are doing it effectively). Either way, it’s food for thought.

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