This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Microsoft Ignite 2021 conference coverage

Microsoft Customer Experience Platform debuts

Microsoft introduces a number of CX tools, including the Customer Experience Platform, voice and SMS integrations, and technology for stores to connect physical and digital spaces.

Microsoft's Customer Experience Platform is generally available today -- but don't look for it as a piece of cloud software that can be bought with a SKU.

Rather, the "customer experience platform" is a series of integrations between Dynamics 365 Marketing and its Customer Insights customer data platform (CDP), modules that can be added to Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM.

"The customer experience platform is only a term, it's not on a product list anywhere," said Tony White, founder of Ars Logica, an analyst and consultant firm. "It's only a description of those two components together, so those two things are, collectively, the 'customer experience platform.'"

The customer experience platform is only a term, it's not on a product list anywhere.
Tony WhiteFounder, Ars Logica

White noted that it appears Microsoft is appealing to its own customers with the Microsoft Customer Experience Platform, not going after rivals such as Salesforce and Oracle. That's because to deploy the experience platform effectively, users will also likely need to tap into features of Microsoft Power Apps, Power Automate and Power BI to customize the platform to their business needs -- deep skills that are hallmarks of IT operations built on Microsoft applications.

Salesforce did something similar in 2018, bundling the Salesforce CDP with MuleSoft integrations at first called Customer 360 and Customer 360 Truth. Salesforce ultimately renamed Community Cloud as Experience Cloud and created a landing spot for those integrations, where users could set up customer self-service, partner and sales account portals.

The Microsoft CDP -- along with Microsoft's customer journey orchestration services -- comprise key technologies that enable automated personalization of AI-suggested content, offers and product recommendations. Other CX vendors such as Salesforce and Adobe offer them as well.

Neha Bajwa, Microsoft senior director of product marketing, said that journey orchestration will connect to Dynamics 365 Sales and Dynamics 365 Customer Service as well. She added that large customers in retail, consumer packaged goods and healthcare have been early adopters of the Microsoft Customer Experience Platform.

More CX from Microsoft

A new consent management feature of the CDP is in preview. Microsoft said that its CDP, using Azure Purview data governance services, will be able to manage customer-driven consent policies for data sharing across known and pseudonymous aliases to protect data as mandated by privacy laws.

White said that Dynamics 365 Marketing was already known for having advanced consent management, including double opt-in for email -- which adds a confirmation email step to ensure a customer wants to be added to a list -- and consent-focused templates for email and landing pages. Adding a CDP connection will expand privacy and security controls for customer data across a user's Dynamics 365 modules.

The consent management features will also connect to the Microsoft Advertising platform, Bajwa said.

"We want to give organizations the ability to honor the customer's consent, the customer's preference," Bajwa said, "and let the customer decide how they want to be interacted [with], on what channel, at what time."

Microsoft also made available new CDP features for B2B sellers, whose accounts often involve selling teams making deals with whole buying teams. The Microsoft CDP can now combine customer data from disparate sources -- such as CRM, email, websites, point-of-sale, partner systems and social networks -- and perform identity resolution to generate unified profiles of both individuals and accounts.

Microsoft made all the announcements in conjunction with its Ignite user conference.

In other Microsoft CX news:

  • Voice features previewed last year are now generally available;
  • The Dynamics 365 Connected Store has been renamed Connected Spaces and will be in preview Dec. 1; it offers software tools and AI analytics to better manage retail spaces and traffic; and
  • In preview are SMS text channel workflows enabled via Azure Communication Services; marketing, sales and service teams will be able to both send and receive high volumes of messages. Examples of where this can be used include two-factor authentication processes, promotional campaigns and appointment reminders.

Don Fluckinger covers enterprise content management, CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce, customer service and enabling technologies for TechTarget.

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