Microsoft Debuts Dynamics CRM and Parature Apple Watch App



At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference earlier this week, Microsoft and custom CRM solution provider Webfortis launched a codeveloped Apple Watch app to aid agents on the move. The Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Parature app will enable customer service representatives to not only view accounts from their wrist but also make updates and open new service tickets, and it will provide some integration with content management systems to offer access to relevant articles and resources. 

 "[The purpose of a wearable app] is to add meaning to an interaction in an abbreviated setting," says Sam Thepvongs, practice manager at Webfortis. "We're seeing a number of use cases. For someone in a guest services function, for example, the app could help make sure that high-value customers are happy," adds Bill Patterson, senior director of customer self-service solutions at Microsoft Parature. "That way, if a customer has a question while the guest services agent is away from the computer, that agent could access frequently asked questions [or other relevant content] and provide an answer while they are engaged [with the customer].... It's all about creating a more humanized engagement," Patterson says.

While wearable apps have slowly began to permeate the sales space, vendors have been slow to develop apps for customer service professionals. The potential for adoption, however, is present. According to Software Advice, Gartner's software advisory firm, one out of two CRM professionals says using smartphone and tablet apps boosts their efficiency and productivity, and 82 percent say that mobile access improves the quality of CRM data. Though wearable device apps provide different functionality than phone and tablet apps, the popularity of smartphone and tablet apps suggests that seamless, on-the-go access to the CRM environment is in high demand. The challenge for vendors now is to develop apps that deliver something unique. 

"The potential for smart watches (and other wearables) in the enterprise goes beyond just being an additional screen. While most of the current marketing is around 'information at a glance,' the real power will come when wearables become additional input and control devices into business workflows," Alan Lepofsky, principal analyst at Constellation Research, wrote in an email. "For example, rather than just having the Apple Watch display CRM information, imagine if it could leverage the location you are in, and even the people around you, then automatically assemble the relevant details for your meeting," he added. 

Despite anticipation and buzz from both tech experts and potential users, the Apple Watch hasn't seen the kind of success that Apple expected from its first major wearable device. "In the long series of blockbuster and bust products, it looks like the current version of the Apple Watch is falling on the bust side. Enterprise adoption of the watch has been slow, too, despite Apple doing a good job getting ISVs to build products easily and early," says Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research. 

As more vendors develop apps for the Apple Watch, analysts expect that adoption among enterprise users may increase, which will eventually drive app improvements and new versions of the Apple Watch. This may be exactly the push that Apple needs to amp up Apple Watch sales after a tumultuous launch. "A killer app for the enterprise has not come up yet. It is more the 'look, we are innovative,' app that is happening right now," Mueller explains. "We expect better use cases to come later, with the next version and a better understanding of what can be done with wrist-based wearables."

Though it's still early in the game, Microsoft earned praise for experimenting with an Apple Watch app. For the time being, only a few CRM vendors, like Salesforce, have dabbled in building wearable apps, and Microsoft's effort to keep up with the broader trend is noteworthy, analysts agree. "For us, it's not really about any specific device. It's about the broad ecosystem of thingsthat are becoming actors in the business process. Cars are connected, watches are connected.... Microsoft wants to be the fabric that bring it all together," Patterson says.  

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