Microsoft today is launching Outlook Customer Manager, a tool designed to help companies keep track of relationships with current and future customers — without going beyond Outlook.
The tool is available for free to companies that pay for Office 365 Business Premium subscriptions. Companies enrolled in the First Release track will get first access, and it will become available more widely over the next few months. (Microsoft is looking to give the feature to Office 365 Enterprise E3 and E5 customers, too.) Once it’s been turned on, an icon for the tool will show up in the home tab of Outlook 2016 for Windows. There is no plan to bring the tool to Outlook.com.
A dedicated iOS app is available now for eligible customers — it will come to the App Store later — and the tool will become available later on other mobile platforms, Microsoft says.
On Outlook 2016 for Windows, to the right of emails, the Outlook Customer Manager will show end users relevant files for the people they’re interacting with, along with notes, tasks, and a timeline containing an automatically generated log of interactions. That’s all data that already lives in Office 365, but now it’s been brought together for easier access. The data can even be made available to end users’ colleagues.
The tool lets end users browse through a spreadsheet-style collection of all deals, and a Focused feature shows the most important projects at the top.
If this sounds a bit like customer-relationship management (CRM) software, well, it sort of is and sort of isn’t.
“As your business needs grow, you can move to Dynamics 365 to take advantage of enhanced customer information, process efficiency and consistency, and deeper financial and customer insights,” Microsoft says in a blog post.
Of course, the context to keep in mind here is Salesforce’s recent moves. After buying RelateIQ, Salesforce last year introduced SalesforceIQ, which brings sales data into the email client in a way that’s similar to what Outlook Customer Manager is now doing. Heck, in March, Salesforce went a step further and brought the tool to Outlook.
While the two companies do compete in the CRM business, they have had a partnership that has yielded multiple products. But Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn — and especially the bidding war leading up to it — seems to have garnered some attention. And Microsoft’s decision to launch something like SalesforceIQ could be interpreted as Microsoft reminding Salesforce that it can do just fine going it alone — even if this could just be seen as Microsoft doing another thing to make sure its CRM offerings are competitive with the best that’s out there.
“Because your data stays in Office 365, you don’t waste valuable time setting up connectors to other software or services, or managing separate products,” Microsoft wrote.