RightNow, a challenger to Salesforce.com in the market for hosted CRM applications, agreed to purchase enterprise social software concern HiveLive for $6 million in cash.
RightNow's SAAS (software as a service) applications include a multichannel agent desktop that connects businesses to customers via phone, chat, feedback, Web self-service and e-mail. The company also offers marketing and sales applications to improve customer interactions.
But what RightNow didn't have was a social component to round out the way businesses and customers interact. This is important because consumers are increasingly turning to social network sites and online communities to seek advice about products or services for purchase. Salesforce.com and Oracle, which also offers CRM as SAAS, added social software applications in 2008.
RightNow will use the HiveLive platform, which is also delivered as SAAS, as the social bridge to its multichannel contact center offering. With it, companies will be able to create customer support and idea generation communities that include forums, blogs, question-and-answer dialogues and media. Ideally, the HiveLive assets will enable RightNow's customers to build better rapport with their customers and end users.
When HiveLive came out of stealth mode in November 2007, HiveLive CEO and co-founder John Kembel told eWEEK the notion of community building would be integral to CRM. Apparently, RightNow agreed, choosing it over other options in the market, which include Mzinga, Awareness, Jive Software and other social software startups.
Kembel will join RightNow as general manager of social solutions, with HiveLive's staff joining at the HiveLive headquarters in Boulder, Colo. RightNow expects to close the transaction next week.
RightNow CEO Greg Gianforte said on a conference call that offering company-built communities represents a significant market opportunity on par with Web self-service and contact centers.
"It's become clear that the number of customer conversations taking place outside a company's walls is increasing. ... The volume of social interaction now actually exceeds e-mail," Gianforte said. "Organizations have spent billions of dollars building trusted brands, and we think the market will be significant as they make investments to protect these brands."
There is truth in that, and there may be no hotter place for CRM experts to look for sales leads or just to check the pulse of the consumer mindset than on microblogging service Twitter, which is expanding its comfort zone with businesses. Businesses such as Dell and Pepsi use Twitter to connect with customers and promote products.
Salesforce.com just turned on integration with Twitter today, opening its business customers up to the fire hose of social context Twitter offers.