RightNow customers concerned, curious about future with Oracle

Oracle's planned acquisition of RightNow for $1.5 billion has attendees of the RightNow customer summit wondering what the future will hold.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Customers of RightNow Technologies, en route to the company's annual user conference, were shocked to learn that they would soon become customers of Oracle Corp., following yesterday's announcement that Oracle would acquire the Bozeman, Mont.-based CRM company for approximately $1.5 billion.

“I have dealt with Oracle and I have been trying to get away from them for 15 years,” said one hospitality company executive attending the conference who asked not to be named. “I wish [RightNow] luck that they can sustain their culture.”

Indeed, many wondered if RightNow's customer-centric culture would become a casualty of an Oracle acquisition. Oracle's reputation is that of a profit-centric company, despite executive claims that “supporting customers is critical to us.”

Mostly, customers were wary to say much more, noting it was too soon to tell what changes the acquisition would bring.

But Lisa Larson, director of customer care at drugstore.com in Bellevue, Wash., said she thinks it could be a good partnership, as long as key RightNow executives stay on.

“I would worry if they changed the people,” said Larson, who has been a RightNow customer since 2003. “If I have a problem, I pick up the phone and they fix it for me. These are the people I trust.”

That stands in contrast to Oracle customers who report having trouble getting Oracle support tickets answered if they don't have a deal in front of a sales rep.

Maryellen Abreu, director of global customer care of the home products group at iRobot Corp., based in Bedford, Mass., shared a similar sentiment.

“For RightNow, it is all about customer-centricity, and I hope Oracle will do the same -- and understands that,” Abreu said. “It isn’t just about software. It’s about understanding the importance of the customer experience.”

Reaction from analysts and industry observers was also mixed.

Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Stoughton, Mass.-based Beagle Research Group LLC, was on his way to the RightNow conference when he heard the news of the acquisition, which came as a total surprise.

“I think it was a good acquisition and a great price that RightNow could not refuse,” Pombriant said.

Oracle is buying RightNow for $43 per share, a nearly 20% premium over the stock's closing price on Friday.

Pombriant sees some room for optimism when it comes to the blending of the two corporate cultures.

“I think the two companies will be a little less of an issue because RightNow will be focused on the [Oracle] CRM On Demand side,” he said. “I think the question is how will RightNow get along with [senior vice president of Oracle CRM OnDemand] Anthony Lye’s group and I think that will be fine.”

However, Kate Leggett, research vice president with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., thinks the mismatch between Oracle and RightNow will put customers and employees at risk. The acquisition, she said, makes sense. Oracle is seeking to expand its cloud footprint in the wake of its recent announcements at OpenWorld, and RightNow, with the backing of a multi-billion dollar company, can now compete against the likes of Microsoft and Salesforce.com. But questions remain over the future product roadmap.

“Oracle has many overlapping and competing assets for CRM and customer service as well as for point solutions, for example email, chat, knowledge management,” Leggett wrote in an email. “Oracle must position RightNow as a unique offering in their current solution portfolio, which clearly steers customers to the right solution for their particular business need. For example, if I am a customer needing knowledge management, do I buy InQuira from Oracle or RightNow from Oracle?”

For now, Oracle will likely focus on integrations between RightNow and Oracle’s existing CRM and business applications but ultimately, it will need to choose which product lines it wants to invest in going forward, according to Leggett.

RightNow CEO Greg Gianforte is scheduled to give the RightNow Summit’s keynote address on Tuesday.

 

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