BIG SKY, MT — RightNow Technologies (Nasdaq: RNOW), a provider of customer-service software, today launched an ambitious new platform to open up the way customer service applications are built “in the cloud.”
With the new “Cloud CX Platform,” RightNow is honing its focus around improving customer experiences across the Web. With so much marketing hype and confusion built around “cloud computing,” this is an important expansion of RightNow’s CX (Customer Experience) product that the company hopes will help differentiate itself in the larger cloud services market — basically any software than can be sold as a service (Saas).
“This is our largest product announcement to date,” said Greg Gianforte, CEO of RightNow, at the launch event here this morning. “We’re exposing our cloud platform to our customers.”
The easiest way to think of RightNow’s new “CX Cloud Platform” is that it gives companies more leeway to develop custom interfaces, data feeds, and applications for interacting with customers over the Web. At the same time, it functions as SaaS, a cloud-based application that can be acquired on-demand.
The product release will include a number of developer tools and applications. Some of the new development tools are Custom Objects, a capability to create new applications, interaction channels, and components in the customer-service applications; Connect, which accesses standards-based API capabilities to integrate with desktop applications, backend systems, telephony systems, and the web; and Experience Design, which allows business analysts and designers to customize the interface of RightNow CX, using visual design tools and standard web languages.
This is important, for example, for a company selling products on the Web that wants to integrate the customer service interface with accounting, sales-force automation, customer support databases, and technical product info — and do it over the wire of the cloud.
RightNow, which is seen as a leader by many analysts in the customer-service space, hopes that this will further differentiate it from competitors such as Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM), which is coming to the cloud from the sales-force automation side, or larger companies such as Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), which is selling a more general cloud application platform, Azure.
While seen as a niche within cloud computing, customer service and “CX” certainly provides a huge opportunity for growth for RightNow, which currently has about $160M in annual revenue, could certainly grow its share of the market to $1B+, if analyst estimates are even close to correct.
Gartner estimate that the SaaS market will grow to $8.5 billion in 2010, up 14% from 2009. Within this larger SaaS market, Gartner estimates Customer Relationship Management (CRM), the market that RightNow addresses, is about 25% of that size but growing faster than the overall Saas market.
RightNow backed up the release — many of whose components will be available in November of 2010 — with customers who endorsed the concept of a cloud-based customized customer service applications.
“This platform will take us to the next level, allowing integration around CX (Customer Experience),” said Rick
Nucci, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Boomi, a systems integrator based in Philadelphia. “Being able to reach into other systerms and data allows limitless expansion.”
Danamichele Brennen, CTO of Jackson Hewitt, one of the largest tax preparers in North America, says the flexibility of the RightNow platform was important for the firm in dealing with rapid change in accounting procedures and tax law.
“Customer satisfaction scores exceeded our expecations 10-fold” said Brennen of the RightNow platform.
RightNow shares were trading down 1.5% on a day in which the Nasdaq was falling. In midday trading shares were at $15.82, down .24 (-1.49%).