As the Bob Dylan song “The Times They Are A-Changing” hums in the background, I can’t help but think how true that statement rings for the contact center & CRM domain. It was last October when Jujhar Singh, Corporate VP of Microsoft’s R&D organization for Dynamics CRM, announced the strategic partnership between Microsoft and CaféX to change how businesses engage customers online.
In his keynote at CRMUG, Jujhar unveiled CaféX Live Assist as Microsoft’s preferred omni-channel solution for Dynamics 365. Now, just a few months later, thanks to tireless collaboration between teams at both companies, we couldn’t be more excited to announce the public availability of this solution worldwide.
This news is not just social media buzz. It signifies a business relationship designed to disrupt how digital customer engagement is delivered in the marketplace today.
Here are five reasons why we see this partnership as a game changer:
- Best of both worlds: What makes this partnership different is that, unlike typical independent software vendor (ISV) relationships, there is co-development between CaféX and Microsoft at the engineering level, featuring a joint roadmap with the most immersive integration to keep the two platforms in sync automatically. This is huge! When users are created or deleted on the Dynamics side, changes are automatically reflected in the CaféX system running on Azure. With single-sign on, IT administrators can initiate Live Assist trials right from within Office 365 to provision Live Assist instances within minutes.
The combined offering gives users the best of both worlds. CRM vendors have been focused on getting the CRM side right. Real-time communications companies like CaféX, with its extensive intellectual property and proven case studies, have specialized in in-app voice, video, chat and other live engagement functions. Now, Dynamics users have access to both best-in-class customer experience technology platforms within a unified framework.
- Way beyond chat and multi-channel: Recently, at a partner training boot camp, it was fun to watch the reaction of class participants as they started seeing the power of the platform. There were comments like: “You mean you can engage with content and create personalized engagement campaigns on the fly while preserving context across channels – wow”. Others said: “This is way beyond just a chat platform” and “Agents don’t have to leave the Dynamics console”. You get the drift. The ability to mix and match interactions, such as co-browsing while simultaneously on a PSTN phone call with a customer, or starting with a live chat before shifting effortlessly to a co-browse session, or adding other modalities depending on what the customer wants or the situation warrants, is very compelling to businesses, especially when the full context of the engagement is preserved within Dynamics 365. Companies can quickly drive outcomes tailored to specific business scenarios.
- Agent productivity acceleration: A contact center agent typically is bouncing around from console to console - between CRM, chat, contact center and other desktop applications. I call it the “alt-tab” syndrome. To make matters worse, if the enterprise has deployed co-browse as a customer touchpoint, that could be yet another console to worry about. It is obviously far more efficient if the agent has one console to operate in, with all the right tools at one’s disposal to share documents with customers, help them complete forms, co-browse the company’s website or troubleshoot issues over video chat – all without leaving the CRM console. I asked the CIO of a leading insurance firm that serves the United States armed forces what the company’s rationale was for implementing our co-browse technology. His answer was something I wasn’t expecting. He said “empathy”. With Live Assist co-browsing, life insurance agents can show greater empathy to consumers (who typically have lost their loved ones in this scenario) by helping them navigate thru paper work and forms, alleviating the administrative burden for them. That’s how innovative companies are thinking outside the box, placing themselves in their customers’ shoes.
- Intelligent services: The buzz word of the day is “bots”. We live in the age of Alexa, Siri, Watson, Cortana, and so on. While the concept of artificial intelligence within the customer engagement domain isn’t new, there have been many recent advancements. Microsoft has been investing heavily in this area, with the addition of products such as Azure Machine Learning, Cortana Analytics Suite and Cognitive Services to its bot framework. Live Assist will also integrate with these AI services. The initial focus will be on deflecting non-strategic customer engagements to bots while also providing an escalation path from intelligent self-service to a live human when appropriate, with full context passed to the agent. More to come on this topic very soon.
- Exciting times ahead: Yes, times are a-changing – but it’s change for the good! I am inspired by the commitment between the two companies to innovate and push the customer engagement envelope to the next level. What’s exciting is that we are merely scratching the surface here. The depth of innovation planned is awe-inspiring. With the GA announcement today, I couldn’t be more thrilled for our customers, our partners and for the CRM industry as a whole.
If you are an organization using or considering Dynamics 365, and are wondering how best to drive business outcomes via a chat campaign, co-browse or other digital customer engagement channels – reach out to CaféX here. A simple video shows how to get started. If you are a partner and would like access to our partner resource portal, sign up here. You can also drop us a note at MSLiveAssistSales@cafex.com to let us know how we can help you.