The deal will enable Parature, a provider of cloud-based social and customer engagement solutions, to bring products like its customer portal and self-service knowledgebase to the much larger Microsoft audience.
Extending Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Customer relationship management systems like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are becoming increasingly diverse, and Microsoft is the latest company to expand its offerings by acquisition.
Engaging customers across multiple channels, managing sales and marketing leads, and offering customer support are all part of many enterprise level CRM systems. However, no company has managed to build a complete ecosystem yet. That's why companies like Salesforce and Microsoft buy companies like ExactTarget and Parature, respectively.
Parature was already a Microsoft partner, so this purchase builds on an existing relationship that likely involves many concurrent customers.
Details of the deal have not yet been released, but we know Parature currently partners with Microsoft to provide its social service knowledgebase and portal, live chat and social customer service tools to Dynamics CRM customers. These kinds of self help tools are becoming increasingly important as people shift from laptop and desktop computers to mobile devices, especially tablets.
Possible Social Play
But Parature's Dynamics CRM partnership is only part of the company's technology story. Odds are Microsoft is also interested in Parature's Social Customer Service system, which includes a social media application integrated with Twitter to monitor tweets, a Facebook Portal and a Social Monitor solution.
In November, Frost & Sullivan recognized Parature with its 2013 North American Award for Customer Value Enhancement for its social customer service suite, noting in a statement:
Social media in the contact center industry has traditionally not attracted substantial numbers of customers. But Parature, in contrast, has seen its products' sales roster grow from approximately 65 organizations in late 2011 to approximately 300 in 2013. Parature currently supports 100 Facebook pages and receives 25 million customer page views per month."
The social monitoring tool allows contact center agents to find social media customer service messages by listening for combinations of the #CompanyName, @CompanyName or brand mention with keyword triggers. These triggers could include words such as help or need assistance, for example.
The technology enables companies to flag priority social media messages or even influential customers. This allows for an expanded level of personalization, a key customer experience factor. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a growing part of the Microsoft ecosystem, and this deal shows just how important the company thinks it is.
Tools like Yammer, Lync and Skype are now available within Dynamics CRM, and Parature tools seem to be headed in the same direction. Managing customers and leads along with a bevy of social, email, mobile and even video connections could be rounded out with Parature's live chat and knowledgebase tools.
It will obviously take time to integrate these technologies. Nevertheless, we see this as a move against the likes of Salesforce and its Social Hub module, at least in part. Social Hub offers similar capabilities as the Parature tool kit. But because Microsoft Dynamics is almost half the price of Salesforce, it could prove to be a highly competitive offering.
More information, including terms and details of the agreement, are expected tomorrow. In the meantime, here is a bit of trivia: Parature’s name is an abbreviation of the phrase “Paradigm of the Future.”