Editor’s Note: On October 24, 2011, Oracle Corporation announced it had agreed to buy RightNow Technologies for $1.5 billion. The company has been absorbed into Oracle and is now known as Oracle RightNow. Greg Gianforte is now listed as “Founder.”
One of those companies that really “gets” customer relations and helps their customers deliver it is RightNow Technologies. They deliver customer relations management (CRM) products for companies around the world including Sprint, Hallmark, British Airways and Cabela’s so those companies can deliver better customer experiences to their customers and clients. Founded in 1997, RightNow is headquartered in Bozeman, Montana, employs more than 700 people, and serves over 1,900 organizations worldwide.
CEO and Founder, Greg Gianforte says that obviously large companies that have lots of customers are prime candidates for their suite of products, but regardless of the size of the company, “delivering an outstanding customer experience can be the single most powerful way for a company to set themselves apart from the competition.”
Attracting and keeping customers is the function of every company; the goal is making money. “Companies can receive a real productivity dividend by implementing Right Now strategies, because they are spending less time answering customer questions. Customers can self-serve their own search for knowledge,” Gianforte added.
Customer relationship management (CRM) often refers to ideas, software, tools and techniques that help organizations effectively manage relationships with their customers. Typical CRM systems are designed from the inside-out, focusing primarily on internal operational efficiencies, such as helping a sales rep manage his accounts. RightNow’s CRM approach is fundamentally different. Their applications are designed from the outside-in, around the consumer’s experience. Servicing, Marketing, and Selling are all functions in support of the consumer’s goals – regardless of which communication channel they chose.
A serial entrepreneur, Gianforte is the author of BOOTSTRAPPING YOUR BUSINESS: Start and Grow a Successful Company with Almost No Money. He founded Bootstrap Montana, a program to help entrepreneurs learn the principles of bootstrapping and provides micro-loans to rural Montana entrepreneurs.
RightNow is doing Real Well. Revenue for the nine months ended September 30, 2008 was $104.4 million, compared to $81.4 million for the comparable period in 2007, reflecting a 28% growth in revenue. Their message is getting through.
Gianforte couldn’t have done this by himself. You need people. But first, he had a theory he wanted to prove about the location of a business. “Does the internet really remove geography as a constraint on where you locate a business?” Having been in Montana for 13 years, 10 with Right Now, I think he’s answered the question.
“A rural college town is a better place to run a business than Silicon Valley, Route 128 in Boston or the New York area. In a metropolitan area, people typically spend between 1 – 2 hours traveling each way to work. In Bozeman, everybody lives within 10 minutes of the office.” That extra 3 – 4 hours a day can be spent at work, at home with family or enjoying this beautiful area. “It’s good for the employee and it’s good for the business,” Gianforte said.
Right Now supports Montana State University in part because they can, and also they end up hiring their top computer programmers and engineers from there. “About 45% of our Bozeman-based employees are Montana State University graduates. Most of those students grew up on a ranch in the Rocky Mountain North area. When its harvest time and the tractor’s broke, these kids don’t go out and form a committee, or hire a consultant. They just fix the tractor” Gianforte added.
Some companies will always find money to differentiate their product. Even more need to invest in protecting their number one asset; the customer relationship.
It seems that there are plenty of opportunities to fix a lot of tractors RightNow.