At the Right Now customer summit today, CEO and founder Greg Gianforte laid out a very compelling vision of where he sees the future of customer experience. If only just a few of our humdrum daily interactions with call center agents, support techs, and phone problem resolution situations were anything close to this nirvana. Nevertheless, it was an interesting perspective and I will share some of his thoughts with you. RightNow sells its own SaaS-based solution for self-service customer portals and is used by many of the largest corporations.
I have known Gianforte for nearly two decades and watch him build RightNow into a powerhouse organization, and now sell it to Oracle as was reported earlier this week. He demonstrated during his keynote how the nature of customer support has to change to make businesses successful.
First, there has to be a pluralism when it comes to which device a customer uses, meaning that customer-facing apps need to become device-aware and device-independent. A customer could start a support call via phone, Tweet a response on their laptop, move to a tablet and finish with an email. This makes it harder for any app to keep track of the conversation as it shifts from device to device, but it the way things are going. "Any agent will need to drop into any conversation on any channel, either when they initiate it or when a customer initiates a call," said Gianforte. He mentioned that they have to have better "device awareness, which means that consumers are constantly connected and will move fluidly between devices." Any customer-facing app will have to become device aware.
One of RightNow's customers, Blurb.com (which we have written about here), mentioned this exact experience that happened last year, and it is certainly happening more frequently.
As part of the keynote, we also saw this engaging video. While a bit Minority-Report-esque and a bit far-fetched, it was interesting to see what could be possible. If you can get past the cheesy first moments or so, it paints a "call to arms" as Gianforte says for our industry. "The status quo isn't going to cut it."
Second, as part of this flexibility, there will be APIs for every device. "This means that apps will know everything about everybody and all data will be available for every app," he said.
Third, customer call center agents will not just work from home, but be located everywhere. "They will be spread all over the world. And the most loyal customers must be able to act as agents, too," he said.
In their video, they showed an avatar of an automated agent interacting with a customer trying to change his flight. "Our automated agents have to be so good that customers won't even know they aren't talking to a real person," he said. (Good luck with that. I would settle for a voice response system that could act on most of my queries, rather than behaving like a tempestuous six year old.)
Next, he mentioned that "it is time to take personalization beyond shopping and into service: consumers want real intimacy with their trusted brands. " Part of this is understanding why a customer is calling: "We need to know if a customer intends to purchase, complain, or want service for every single interaction. We need to become pro-active and have hyper-personalized interactions." Part of this is putting in place real time predictive analytics that can prompt for the best agent action and customer intent.
All of this is part of redefining what customer service means in the near future. "Service is marketing, service is sales, service builds your brand," he said. "Customer care is no longer just about problem resolution."
As part of this new mantra for service, Mike Morris, the CRM lead for Newell Rubbermaid and a RightNow customer, gave a testimonial where he spoke about how they tied in various systems together so that they could better service their customers. The return authorization ticket, customer contact record, and repair record are all entered at the time a customer calls, and their customers can now submit online their returns 24 hours a day without having to wait for their call center to open or answer the phone.
Finally, he cautioned to "get on Facebook and Tweet with your customers." Seems obvious, but worth stating. RightNow has an exciting vision for customer care, and for many of us it can't happen soon enough.