Microsoft Brings CRM Capabilities to Small Businesses

Posted on November 15, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Office 365 with 8 Comments

Microsoft Brings CRM Capabilities to Small Businesses

Today, Microsoft announced a new Office 365 service called Outlook Customer Manager. It brings CRM capabilities to small businesses.

“We are expanding the value of Office 365 to include not only essential productivity and collaboration tools, but also new services to help you run your business,” the Outlook team revealed in a new post to the Office Blogs. “The launch of Bookings earlier this year introduced a new way to schedule appointments with your customers. Today, we are adding a new tool to help you manage your customer relationships more effectively.”

Outlook Customer Manager is heading to customers with Office 365 Business Premium accounts. This is the version of Office 365 aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, and the addition of this feature doesn’t change the plan pricing in any way. But if you want to receive it right away, you will need to opt into the First Release program; others will receive it in the coming months, Microsoft says. (And Office 365 E3 and E5 subscribers will get it in the future as well.)

So what is this thing?

Outlook Customer Manager is basically a lightweight CRM (customer relations management) solution aimed at those businesses that aren’t big or complex enough to need a full-featured solution such as Dynamics 365. It’s implemented as a cloud-hosted Office 365 service that surfaces as a pane in Outlook 2016 where you can see all of the interactions you’ve had with each of your customers.


“Outlook Customer Manager automatically organizes customer information—such as emails, meetings, calls, notes, files, tasks, deals and deadlines—in a timeline next to your inbox,” Microsoft explains. “The information in the timeline is automatically gathered from the email, calendar and call log data from your Office 365 environment, minimizing the need to manually enter data about your customer interactions. With all your customer information gathered in one place, you can spend less time entering data, or searching for it in various places, and more time with customers.”

Outlook Customer Manager also presents a Focused list view so you can see all your most important customers and deals, keep track of items that require follow-up, identify new opportunities and commitments, and prioritize your time.


There’s also a dedicated Outlook Customer Manager app for iOS, with other mobile platforms coming onboard in the future. This app provides the same information you see in Outlook 2016 and lets you check recent communications right before meeting with a customer, write a quick note after a meeting, scan a business card, and more.


Outlook Customer Manager looks like another great example of Microsoft democratizing technology that is usually expensive and complex and bringing it to the masses.

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  1. 0 | Reply
    xapache Alpha Member #1506 - 2 months ago

    This is EXACTLY what my company has been needing.  We were just about to plunk down a mountain of cash on Dynamics CRM.  Good thing we didn't...

    Curious to see how this will work for us.

  2. 0 | Reply
    Narg Alpha Member #420 - 2 months ago

    Good to see Microsoft provide something to replace Business Contact Manager.  This is probably perfect for many businesses, and only increases the value of Office 365.  Though, I'm sure there are some business that need far more, and those types should probably be looking to develop their own in-house solution.  (like I've done before...)

  3. 0 | Reply
    djncanada Alpha Member #2026 - 2 months ago

    Excellent idea, poor execution.


    Office 365 Support have no idea about this product and how to download the Outlook add in.

    i am on the "first release", nothing in my subscription.

    The support person after consultation with next level support thought I was asking about Business Contact Manager, it was Office 2010 era.

    How can Microsoft sell themselves as a productivity company when it looks like they are a farm team announcing and rolling out new products and services.

    Do they not dog food their own products?


    Now my rant is over, questions:


    • will this service work with MS Planner, if yes awesome?
    • what is timeline, maybe someone from MS will open up to either Brad, Paul or Mary Jo?
    • will it have links to Wunderlist?
  4. 0 | Reply
    Waethorn Alpha Member #2235 - 2 months ago

    So is this another do-over that lacks functionality of the thing that it's replacing: Business Contact Manager?

    1. 0 | Reply
      IanYates82 Alpha Member #1573 - 2 months ago
      In reply to Waethorn:

      I too was reminded of the old "Small Business Contact Manager".  Still, we have used full CRM in the past and it was too big for us.  The problem for MS is that we needed helpdesk stuff too so we've gone and found another solution :(

    2. 0 | Reply
      Waethorn Alpha Member #2235 - 2 months ago
      In reply to IanYates82:

      I've been using some Zoho products lately.  They have a lot of choices available that you can mix and match together.  I prefer Zoho Books over Quickbooks Online.  Zoho Assist is cheaper than most other help desk solutions too, and it works with everything.  LogMeInRescue, which Microsoft themselves use, is just way too expensive.