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.

pane

“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.

focused

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.

mobile

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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