Tool offers self-help to site users

RightNow Technologies Inc. will release an improved tool today to help agencies

strengthen service to their online customers.

The latest version of the company's Web-based customer service system,

RightNow Web 4.0, can head off the need for Internet users to send an e-mail

inquiry to an agency.

"We see e-mail more as a failure than a victory," said Tom Abshire,

director of product management for RightNow.

The Social Security Administration, U.S. Customs Service, Bureau of

Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and many other agencies already use a version

of the RightNow system. Although no public-sector agencies beta tested Version

4.0, the first government customers will be upgrading to it "within a few

weeks," Abshire said.

RightNow Web 4.0 combines customer self-help, including frequently asked

questions, e-mail management, live chat, customer feedback surveys, knowledge

and workflow management, and reporting capabilities in its end-to-end solution.

The new release features:

* Enhanced search capabilities.

* A security model to provide staff members with specific permissions.

* A redesigned user interface for easier navigation.

"Customers are at the center of our knowledge base," Abshire said. "Customers

drive both the content and the structure. Most of our customers start with

20 or 30 answers and then let inquiries drive the rest. Within months they

can be up to 1,500 questions and answers depending on the volume of the

information they're dealing with."

The service is available for on-premises installation or can be hosted

by the Bozeman, Mont.-based company. Many government customers choose the

hosted option, Abshire said. "If we host it, we guarantee it will be up

and running in 15 days. It's a great deal for the government," he said.

The General Services Administration price for RightNow Web 4.0 is $30,000

for a one-year license. The hosted option costs an additional $8,000 to

$10,000, Abshire said.

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