Microsoft Outlook Customer Manager Helps SMBs Track Tasks, Contacts

Microsoft released its new Outlook Customer Manager feature that helps small business ensure that tasks and deadlines don't fall through the cracks.

Outlook Customer Manager 2

Microsoft today took the wraps off Outlook Customer Manager, a new software tool for Office 365 small business customers that enables them to keep track of their customer communications and engagement activities directly within the email client.

While viewing an email from a customer, Outlook Customer Manager collects emails, calls, meetings, Office files, deadlines, tasks and other related content into a timeline. It appears as an additional pane in the Outlook interface, right alongside the inbox.

The new tool is being billed as a major time-saver, helping busy entrepreneurs reclaim hours lost to digging up customer information as they go about their workweek.

"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," wrote the Microsoft Outlook team in a Nov. 14 blog post. "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."

To help users keep track of their deadlines, commitments and other aspects of healthy customer relationships, Outlook Customer Manager automatically surfaces reminders. Users can also consult the tool's Focused List, akin to Outlook's own Focused Inbox, to keep track of their VIP customers. Information can be shared among colleagues, allowing teams to work together to meet a customer's needs.

Finally, Outlook Customer Manager is also available as an iOS app, providing access to customer communications, appointments and tasks on the go. Microsoft is working on bringing the app to other mobile operating systems.

Outlook Customer Manager is available now, although it is currently rolling out to Office 365 Business Premium customers participating in the First Release early access program. Widespread availability will occur in the coming months. Microsoft is also working on adding the tool to Office 365 E3 and E5 plans sometime in the future.

Microsoft has been bulking up its small business software ecosystem in recent months.

This summer, the company launched Skype Meetings at no cost to small businesses. Available to users with a business email address, Skype Meetings offers a remote meeting experience with screen sharing, PowerPoint presentation capabilities and video calls with up to 10 participants, a number that drop to three people after an initial 60-day trial period.

In July, the company launched an online appointment management product called Bookings. Also available to Office 365 Business Premium customers, Bookings allows appointment-based small businesses like salons to offer self-service scheduling to their customers. The offering works in tandem with Outlook, Outlook.com and Google Calendar to help both businesses and their customers align their schedules.

Last month, Microsoft debuted a major, cloud-inspired update to its enterprise resource planning (ERP) software platform for small and midsized businesses. Dynamics NAV 2016 includes native integration with Dynamics CRM Online, an all-cloud Azure SQL Database installation option and new business analytics capabilities powered by Microsoft's cloud business intelligence software, Power BI.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...