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Office 365 Business Users Get 'Customer Manager' Tool

Small-business users of Microsoft's Office 365 Business Premium offering will soon have access to a new customer relationship feature.

The new Outlook Customer Manager solution is currently available to some "first release" testers, but Microsoft is planning a more general product release worldwide "in the coming months," according to its announcement this week. The new solution won't cost extra for Office 365 Business Premium subscribers, and Microsoft is also planning to add it to Office 365 E3 and E5 subscriptions at some point, but no timeline was indicated.

Outlook Customer Manager, when it arrives, will show up under the Home tab in Outlook 2016 for Windows. Nothing needs to be installed on the back end to get it to work, but the new offering does depend on using Microsoft's datacenters to store the information that gets surfaced by the application within Outlook. It organizes information from "emails, meetings, calls, notes, files, tasks, deals and deadlines" within Outlook in a timeline format. The solution produces reminders within Outlook on the tasks that need to get done.

There's also a "focused list" view that shows business deal information in a table format:

[Click on image for larger view.] Outlook Customer Manager's list view. (Source: Microsoft blog post.)

The information brought together by Outlook Customer Manager can be viewed on iOS-based mobile devices. Microsoft is planning apps support on other mobile device platforms "over time." The mobile app lets users scan business cards to store the information. It also provides access to customer information while on the go.

The information tracked in Outlook Customer Manager can be shared with coworkers, if wanted. The product's name suggests it's a somewhat lightweight version of a customer relationship management solution, but that's just the next step, according to Microsoft's description.

"And 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," the announcement suggested.

The addition of Outlook Customer Manager is the latest addition to the Office 365 Business Premium plan that's specifically focused on aiding small businesses. In July, Microsoft added a new Bookings appointment portal feature for Office 365 Business Premium subscribers that lets customers set up appointments with small businesses. Bookings is designed to work with Outlook, Outlook.com Google Calendar, and it also can connect with Facebook.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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