In case you missed the big news last week, Microsoft has acquired a company called Parature. Similar to the two marketing related service providers MS has bought earlier, Marketing Pilot and Netbreeze, this latest acquisition is intended for expanding the footprint of Dynamics CRM on the customer service side.
It’s been no secret that this was the next area where Microsoft was looking to build up some new capabilities for Dynamics CRM. Thinking about the existing feature set for customer service scenarios in the product, we basically haven’t had any significant enhancements to the service module since CRM 3.0. Sure, the recent platform enhancements on the process automation and UI side can be leveraged in customer service as well, but in terms of specific out-of-the-box functionality that would be aimed at helpdesk scenarios, it’s been pretty quiet so far. Case management and queues for email routing have been very useful features for many organizations using Dynamics CRM. Service scheduling and knowledge base articles… well, not so much.
The world around CRM software has changed quite a bit from 2005 when CRM 3.0 came out. Not only have online service portals and support content websites become incredibly affordable for any company to set up via cloud based services like Zendesk, but the customers of those companies have also been given a whole range of independent social channels to reach out to one another. These days the customers are in charge of the conversation, which means that if you don’t offer a forum for them to submit feedback and questions, they’ll just set one up for your brand on GetSatisfaction on their own. Regardless of how many 1-to-1 contact points you offer them, they’ll still go and share their frustration over on public channels like Twitter.
This is obviously not a world where back-office applications like traditional CRM systems that mainly offer features to your employees instead of the end customers provide a very comprehensive solution for customer service management. Sure, integrating with the customer account details, managing the support ticket process and collecting information about past interactions are all essential components of customer service in the new world, too, but they are becoming relatively less and less significant factors in the processes needed for delivering great customer experiences. When the customers no longer pick up the phone to call you when they have a problem but rather use it to search for answers on their own, call center automation software isn’t the area you should primarily be looking to invest in.
Integrating the customer facing components of modern online customer service solutions to the internal CRM systems has been the way to build systems that are up for the challenge presented by the age of the social customer. While system integration is a natural part of any CRM implementation project, requiring each organization to come up with their own solution of how to put the pieces together isn’t perhaps the most effective way forward. For example, Parature had already launched their integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online back in 2009, but how many people were actually aware of it? I might have stumbled across Parature a few times before, but they certainly didn’t occupy a space on my top-of-the-mind list for possible solutions to suggest to companies using Dynamics CRM. Merging these services into Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM offering is certainly going to expose them to a potential customer audience of a completely different scale. [Read more…]