RightNow launches February 2008 release

Context-sensitive drop-down menus and topic monitoring are two key upgrades that differentiate RightNow's offering from Salesforce.com

RightNow Technologies, a SaaS (Software as a Service)-based CRM vendor, launched its February '08 release this week offering an approach to SaaS customization that is 180-degrees different from that of archrival Salesforce.com.

Targeted at consumer-facing companies that use CSRs (customer service representatives), the February release offers two major new components: A contextual workspace for CSRs that changes the makeup of a screen with the issue under discussion, and a topic monitoring technology that interprets customer comments using keywords.

The contextual approach configures the information available in drop-down menus by associating the menus with the context of a customer call.

"There's no grayed out areas in the drop-down menu," said David Vap, vice president of product at RightNow.

If the consumer call is about getting an RMA (Return Material Authorization), the CSR clicks on RMA, and the screen reconfigures itself to present only the relevant information for that business process.

The context-sensitive menus were part of a deal to license Microsoft Fluent technology.

RightNow has a number of vertical offerings or templates as starting points for a CSR screen. However, the contextual capabilities of the February '08 release will allow either a business analyst or an IT specialist to customize screens in a business rules environment, according to Vap. It is within this contextual workspace that users will find a completely different approach from Salesforce.com when it comes to customizing screens and menus. "Users don't have to write code to customize templates. It is a business rule environment," said David Vap, vice president of product. According to Vap, RightNow is offering an application platform, while Salesforce offers a development platform.

"You can do more in the Salesforce offering because it is a programming language, but we offer a configuration or application platform that focuses on business rules that are appropriate just for the class of application we offer, which is CRM.

Topic monitoring is the second major upgrade in the February release.

This feature analyzes the free form text and looks for common or repeated themes using keywords and words that occur together often, such as defect and a product name.

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