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Microsoft Starts Rollout of Outlook Customer Manager for Office 365

Business Premium subscribers of Office 365 began receiving the new Outlook Customer Manager feature on Monday, according to a Microsoft announcement.

In preview since November, the free add-in feature for Outlook e-mail clients will be commercially released to subscribers over "the next few weeks," Microsoft said. Outlook Customer Manager is designed to surface sales and deals information for small businesses. It automatically organizes information from "e-mails, calendar Skype for Business and the Office Graph" within the Outlook 2016 client, according to a Microsoft support document description.

Customer Manager can also be used with Microsoft Flow, a services mashup tool, to automate actions. Microsoft has already released a few Flow templates that can be used with Customer Manager to automate processes. For instance, an Outlook contact can be created from a SharePoint List using Microsoft Flow.

It's possible to use Customer Manager with mobile devices. The add-in for iOS-based clients will be available from the Apple Store "in the coming weeks," Microsoft indicated. It's also coming for Windows devices, as well as the Outlook on the Web client for browsers. When available, the feature will just show up on the Home tab of the Outlook client. On Windows, the Customer Manager icon shows up on the far right side.

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

Customer Manager pulls information from "emails, meetings, calls, notes, files, tasks, deals and deadlines," according to Microsoft's announcement. It will suggest setting up company profile information using Bing search technology, although this particular capability is only available to U.S. English users right now. Customer Manager can be used with Calendar.help, a Cortana-based automatic meeting scheduler, but the scheduler currently is at the preview stage.

Microsoft is planning to add capabilities to Customer Manager over time. One effort underway will be a display that will show "a detailed view of all your customers and deals," Microsoft promised.

Customer Manager is the latest small business tool added to the Office 365 Business Premium plan. Microsoft recently added a new Bookings service for appointment scheduling to that plan.

Customer Manager apparently is the successor to Microsoft's Business Contact Manager for Outlook product, which "has not been available or supported for some time now," according to a TechNet partner blog post. Back in November, Microsoft had suggested that Customer Manager also would be coming to Office 365 E3 and E5 subscription plans, but no details were mentioned in Monday's announcement.

Microsoft plans to field questions from the public about Outlook Customer Manager in an Ask Microsoft Anything online session scheduled for May 9, starting at 9:00 a.m. PST.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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