• November 16, 2007
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Microsoft's New Desktop Arrives

The Colossus of Redmond earlier this week introduced Microsoft Customer Care Framework 2008 (CCF 2008), the latest iteration of the company's agent desktop unification tool. The 2008 version updates CCF's ability to simplify tasks and workflow processes, integrate customer interaction channels, and accelerate the time to market, according to the company. CCF 2008, true to its name, is a framework -- a set of tools developers can use to create an integrated environment for users. "It's targeted at improving efficiency in customer care, by enabling service providers in any business to integrate multiple channels, including contact center and self-service portals," says Vish Thirumurthy, group product manager for Customer Care with the Microsoft Industry Solutions Group. "CCF works with all the customer's applications and unifies their presentation. You gain a composite app without building a composite app." CCF 2008 links a customer service agent's desktop to CRM, billing, payment, ordering, trouble-ticketing, and knowledge-management systems. The following new features are included in the latest version:
  • Customer self-service portal. Now built on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. Allows customers to manage accounts, check order status, order goods or services, or address other concerns on their own when most convenient for them;
  • Windows Workflow Foundation. Helps guide agents to interact with different applications and summon the appropriate follow-up actions;
  • Enterprise single sign-on. Allows agents to access the necessary business systems at startup with a single login;
  • Interaction server. Integrates a wide range of communication channels -- including the customer self-service portal, telephone, email, fax, instant messaging, chat, and interactive voice response -- to help improve the consistency of customer service interactions;
  • Hosted application toolkit. Reduces the effort required to integrate applications in CCF via automation between hosted applications;
  • Installer tools. Automated installation tools hook the right pieces together and help build the customer care system to fit a company's needs; and
  • Security extensions. Provides three authentication scenarios that help provide security protocols across domains.
"Organizations today need to respond quickly and efficiently to the diverse needs of their customers," said Mary Wardley, vice president of enterprise applications and CRM software at IDC, in a statement. "At the same time, companies need quick access to all relevant customer information to assist with sales, marketing, and servicing their customers. Customer Care Framework helps address these needs by providing a unified view of the customer." Microsoft partners are already deploying enhanced desktop integrations based on CCF 2008; one such partner is OpenSpan, based in Atlanta. The OpenSpan Platform for Microsoft CCF 2008 provides a wider range of applications -- including Java, custom-built, and legacy applications -- with the ability to participate in CCF 2008 solutions, according to the company. "With some of the most demanding desktops in any enterprise, customer care operators need to access a myriad of [sic] data and applications over the course of a single customer call," said Francis Carden, CEO of OpenSpan, in a statement. "The OpenSpan Platform for CCF 2008 helps enterprises respond to the burgeoning demand for rapid integration of disparate applications on the desktop. Along with our partners, we will continue to answer the market's demand for improved integration and automation on the enterprise desktop, helping businesses extend pre-existing applications and build new composite applications to more quickly respond to business needs." Related articles: Viewpoint: Transforming the Customer Experience Next-generation customer care solutions. Microsoft Centralizes the Connection An upgraded framework -- CCF 2005 -- boosts contact center efficiency and service levels by simplifying the agent desktop while delivering multichannel and self-service options. Microsoft Streamlines the Call Center A new desktop environment--likely "productized" from a custom tool, according to one analyst -- integrates desktop applications for call center workers. Is It Time for Real Time? Recent debuts of real-time enterprise tools by Microsoft and AOL could help jump-start presence management in the contact center. Feature: Making a Clear Connection Integrating your multichannel operations can seem like a near-impossible feat, but it doesn't have to be. Follow these strategies to ease your integration process and maximize your multichannel potential.
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