Microsoft chief calls for customer centricity

Comments follow enhancements to the software giant's CRM and marketing technology platforms designed to level the playing field with competitors such as Salesforce.com and Oracle

Microsoft’s head of Business Solutions has stressed the importance of adopting a customer-centric view if organisations wish to deliver better and more meaningful interactions with customers.

Speaking at Microsoft Dynamics Convergence conference in the US, Microsoft executive vice-president of Business Solutions, Kirill Tatarinov, called on businesses to put customers first if they wish to continue to truly engage with end users.

“Technology has changed the social fabric, transforming how we engage, connect and interact with one another,” Tatarinov said. “In this era of the customer, experience is the new currency.”

As a result, organisations must nurture this relationship and to truly understand the customer end-to-end, Tatarinov said. "It is amazing to me that in this era of the customer there's still so little knowledge around the world about the customers that organizations serve," he added.

The comments complement a series of moves made by Microsoft to become more entrenched in the hearts and minds of CMOs. Last month, Microsoft announced a number of enhancements to its CRM technology to address the needs of marketers, a move designed to level the playing field with competing marketing platform players such as Salesforce.com, SAP and Oracle.

The next release of Dynamics CRM will be available in the second quarter of the year and feature new capabilities for marketing automation, social media monitoring and customer service gained through the acquisitions of MarketingPilot, NetBreeze and Parature.

The new version introduces Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, formerly MarketingPilot, which is designed as the base platform to help businesses drive and manage their marketing campaigns. New features include a visual campaign designer, as well as lead management and scoring capabilities and more scalable email marketing functionality. The platform will be offered in 10 languages across 35 markets.

Microsoft Social Listening will be included in CRM online subscriptions for the first time, but will cost on-premises CRM customers US$20 per user per month. In addition, Microsoft is rolling out a new CRM Online Enterprise license that rolls up all of its capabilities for $200 per user per month.

Other enhancements include a new Unified Service Desk, allowing call centre agents to handle multiple interactions simultaneously. As well as the capabilities acquired through the purchase of Parature on 31 January, Microsoft’s latest CRM offering includes a choice in deploying customer service capabilities such as self-service via support portals, Facebook and Twitter, Web chat and video capabilities through the one shared knowledge base.

Microsoft's CRM acquisitions allow it to now go head-to-head with Salesforce.com, SAP and Oracle, analyst Frank Scavo, president of IT research firm Computer Economics, said.

That wasn't always the case. In the past few years, one of Scavo's consulting clients gave up Dynamics CRM and went to Salesforce.com because Dynamics couldn't handle their customer service requirements, he said. Another client didn't put Dynamics on the short list when selecting a product because it lacked marketing, he added.

This week, Microsoft also announced enhancements to its Dynamics AX ERP (enterprise resource planning) software to make it a more viable option for large enterprises. Dynamics AX 2012 R3, the latest version of Microsoft's high-end ERP offering, will be available May 1 both in on-premises form and on the Windows Azure cloud infrastructure service, Microsoft announced Tuesday.

- featuring reporting by Chris Kanaracus.

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