Microsoft is flexing its customer experience muscles. Last night it announced the spring release of Parature will come with more than 30 new “high priority” customer capabilities. They're designed to help businesses streamline and improve their customer experience strategies.
The release follows the acquisition of Parature by Microsoft last February for a reported $100 million. The purchase price is a relative pittance in comparison to many current tech deals — especially since the value it will bring to Microsoft’s customer relationship management (CRM) portfolio is incalculable.
Growing Dynamics CRM
In terms of customer experience, Microsoft has always made it abundantly clear that its Dynamics CRM offering is its principal focus and that it would be developing it to help businesses strengthen their ability to connect with customers on any device or channel.
Parature adds to this by offering extremely sensitive social channel listening that will deliver deeper customer insights and provide customer agents with the ability to identify, diagnose and resolve issues that customers are having as soon as those issues arise.
Available through Microsoft Online Services it is being made available in 50 markets immediately and in ten languages, although this is likely to increase as the year goes on. While there are numerous different capabilities being offered here, grouped together the functionality areas include:
- Knowledge Management
- Support Ticketing
- Self-Service Portal
- Mobile accessibility
- Social listening
- Pre-packaged integrations
It also includes multilingual and translation capabilities as well as knowledge integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, meaning that both Parature and Dynamics CRM will be able to act together and complement each other.
Microsoft’s CXM Strategy
The release is also interesting for other reasons. It points to a Microsoft that is really pumping up its customer experience portfolio, not just here but right across the board. Let’s go back to last year and CEO Satya Nadella’s "Cloud First, Mobile First" strategy. With this release, he is extending this strategy to the customer experience space.
In a blog about the Spring ’15 release, Bob Stutz, vice president of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, noted that this is Parature’s biggest upgrade ever and marks a milestone in Microsoft’s efforts “to deliver more expansive multi-channel service engagement solutions.” That said, there is more to this than a simple customer experience upgrade. Stutz explained:
This release is also about making Parature more readily available to existing Microsoft customers through global expansion, licensing programs (Enterprise Agreement or direct purchase through Microsoft Online Commerce) and Parature service offerings such as enhanced customer service and technical support offerings through Microsoft."
So this is also about expanding Microsoft’s presence in the CXM space and tying its customer experience portfolio together by aligning it with the Dynamics CRM bi-annual release cycle.
Stutz also hints at the shape of things to come by pointing out that there will be a lot more upgrades in the coming year that will respond to the growing importance of customer experience as a differentiator for brands and organizations.
One other final point worth noting appears in the introduction to the preview release guide. There, Microsoft also clarifies its own perception of itself by associating its platform and productivity strategy with the enterprise “need to become customer obsessed.”
Microsoft, the preview reads, stands in a unique position to provide a complete solution that engages the customer from brand promise to post-sales service and support.