Microsoft today released a major new update for Parature, the software maker's self-service customer relationship management (CRM) offering. Featuring "over 30 high-priority customer capabilities," the Parature Spring '15 update is "the largest release in Parature history," according to Bill Patterson, senior director of customer self-service solutions at Microsoft.
Microsoft completed the acquisition of Parature, a Herndon, Va., cloud-based customer service software company, in February 2014. Parature specializes in customer service knowledge management and software that delivers contextual, self-service Web and social customer care experiences that enable mobile and tech-savvy consumers to find the information, help or support they need.
"Organizations are looking for business solutions that can strengthen their ability to connect with customers on their own terms, using whatever device and whatever channel they prefer," said Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, last year while announcing the deal.
Now, Microsoft is bringing those capabilities to a wider, more global audience.
The new release is available in 10 languages and in 50 markets. Parature also now offers localized support. "Just like the Internet is not limited to the United States, neither is customer service," Patterson told eWEEK.
In terms of functionality, the Spring '15 update offers support for more social channels. Joining Twitter and Facebook are YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn, said Patterson.
Why LinkedIn, ostensibly the least consumer-oriented social network of the bunch? "Folks need help working with B2B [business-to-business] brands," said Patterson, referring to the challenges of marketing to professionals in the mobile and social era.
Microsoft also embarked on both user interface and under-the-hood enhancements aimed at improving agent productivity, with particular attention paid to working with bulk data and search, revealed Patterson. In testing, the tweaks have helped yield a noticeable 25 percent increase in application performance, he claimed.
Parature is also now focused on "delivering intelligence above the service queue, above the service funnel if you will." Agents typically get a myopic sense of a ticket or case, often leading to duplicated efforts, a barrage of already-answered questions and frustrated customers, he explained.
The new version of Parature delivers insights based on previously logged searches and interactions, assuring that customers and agents are on the same page, so to speak, and enabling them to work faster toward a resolution. Under this new model, customer service agents "no longer start the conversation cold," said Patterson. Microsoft has set out to "change the empathy dynamics," he added.
Microsoft is also putting more power into the hands of the product's own customers. In the past, they were required "to call Parature to make certain configurations," Patterson said. With the new release, Microsoft "empowered our customers with point-and-click administration."
In addition, Parature's application programming interfaces (APIs) have been overhauled, "so that they're modern and open," he said. The result is improved integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, other platforms including Salesforce, and customers' own mobile apps and Websites.
Finally, the new release represents "a rapid engineering cadence" that aligns with Microsoft's new accelerated pace of software releases. "The expectation is more rapid innovation and more meaningful innovation sooner," Patterson said, hinting that another update is months, not a year, away.