With fancy 21st-century parlance like interactive self-service assets and natural user interface (NUI), Microsoft is doubling down, betting the voice (both human and computer-generated) plus cloud-scale data analytics, hosting a "predictive experience" generator will be the basis of next generation customer service, accessible from any telephone. Microsoft announced it will "join forces" (take an equity stake) in 24/7 Inc. an automated communications company based in Campbell, Calif.

What the Deal Provides

The move is seen by some as exposing a "new competitive terrain for customer service" as the boundaries for an accurate (non-frustrating) automated interface continue to push the envelope of what the technology can deliver.  In this deal, Microsoft provides its voice interactive technology, and 24/7 has the predictive analysis component. 

“By bringing Microsoft’s interactive self-service technology together with 24/7 Inc.’s predictive consumer experience technology into one unified cloud platform, we will deliver solutions and services that truly enable businesses to differentiate through customer service,” PV Kannan, CEO of 24/7 Inc. said.

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24/7 Voice-Assisted Customer Service

Terms of the Deal

Microsoft said it will merge its clients, employees (about 400 of them) and technologies into 24/7 Inc.'s PX solutions. The deal also includes extensive R&D sharing (partnership) that includes "...a shared technology road map and long term IP licensing agreement that provides broad coverage under Microsoft’s patent portfolio for speech-related technologies." 

Much of the speech and natural language technology comes from Microsoft's US$ 800 million acquisition of TellMe Networks in March 2007. At that time, TellMe was processing over 2 billion phone calls per year.

But 24/7 is no newbie in this space. The twelve-year-old company manages more than 2.5 billion speech and online interactions per year with over 9000 employees, and customers that include 40 top brands like Avis Budget Group, United Airlines, plus banks and other retailers, worldwide.

Perhaps the long-term effects will come later, as these technologies get integrated with key Microsoft assets such as Windows Phone, Bing and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.