Microsoft Begins Outlook Customer Manager Rollout for Small Businesses

Outlook Customer Manager helps prevent users from dropping the ball when customer emails hit their inboxes.

Outlook Customer Manager

On the heels of the Microsoft To-Do app release, which is slated to replace Wunderlist, the software giant this week announced several new updates and enhancements to the Office 365 suite. Among them is the worldwide rollout of the upgraded Outlook Customer Manager, a software tool that enables Office 365 small business users to keep track of their customer communications and engagement efforts without leaving the email client.

Essentially, Outlook Customer Manager helps users of the email client ensure that tasks and deadlines don't fall through the cracks by automatically surfacing reminders based on the contents of customer emails. If a customer makes a request, either for information or a meeting, it automatically creates a reminder in the Today pane.

Microsoft released the tool in November for Windows desktops and now all eligible customers (Office 365 Business Premium) can access it in Outlook for iOS and Outlook on the Web once the update reaches them. Microsoft says it will take a few weeks for the software, which is available in 39 languages, to reach all customers.

Along with new, iPhone- and browser-friendly releases, Microsoft has enlisted its Bing search engine to help users avoid out-of-date customer company information or fill gaps in their contact lists without having to manually enter new details.

"To save you time, Outlook Customer Manager now suggests company information surfaced from Bing," wrote Vivek Kumar, product marketing manager for the Outlook group at Microsoft, in a blog post. "If you accept a suggestion, the business address, website and other information found online are automatically added to the company's profile in Outlook Customer Manager." Currently, the feature only works for users that have selected Outlook's English-US language setting, he added.

Another integration, this time with Cortana, enables users to delegate the scheduling of meetings to Microsoft's virtual assistant. Building on Microsoft's Calendar.help project, which combines the calendaring, conversational computing and AI technologies, the new "Ask Cortana to schedule" option automatically finds optimal times and arranges meetings with minimal intervention on behalf of the user.

Outlook Customer Manager also now works with Flow, Microsoft's workflow automation service, allowing users to complete multi-step tasks involving multiple software as a service (SaaS) applications. In an example offered by Kumar, a user can use Flow to link MailChimp, a third-party email marketing platform, to Outlook Customer Manager so that email newsletter subscribers are added as new contacts.

Other updates to the Office 365 suite of productivity software for April include the addition of the Office 365 Groups collaboration feature to Word, PowerPoint and Excel. PowerPoint for the iPad gains Designer, a feature borrowed from the desktop that uses the company's intelligent cloud to analyze the contents of a slide and recommend professional-looking layout options.

To help tighten security, Microsoft has enabled its Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection Safe Links technology in Word, Excel and PowerPoint, helping users avoid clicking on links that lead to potentially malicious sites. April also marks the release of Office 365 Threat Intelligence and Advanced Data Governance, which help organizations thwart threats like ransomware and adhere to their compliance obligations, respectively.

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...