Microsoft strikes deal with 24/7, promises to 'redefine' customer service

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Microsoft strikes deal with 24/7, promises to 'redefine' customer service
A partnership between Microsoft and customer service company 24/7 may not exactly sound like the most exciting proposition on the face of things, but the two are making some fairly lofty promises, and Microsoft seems to be making a serious investment in the initiative. As ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley reports, part of the deal will see Microsoft send at least some of the 400 employees it brought on in its 2007 acquisition of TellMe Networks to 24/7, and it will also license some of its speech-related IP to the company (in addition to taking an equity stake in it). The goal there being to combine natural user interfaces with a cloud-based customer service platform, which Microsoft promises will "redefine what customer service looks like." To that end, it gives the example of a credit card company getting in touch with you to report suspicious behavior; rather than a phone call, you could get a notification with all the pertinent details sent directly to your phone, which could anticipate a number of potential actions and let you respond by voice (or touch, presumably). Unfortunately, while the two are talking plenty about the future of customer service, there's not a lot of word as to when that might arrive.
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Microsoft and 24/7 Inc. Join Forces to Deliver the Future of Customer Service for Large Businesses

Microsoft and 24/7 Inc. announce agreement to combine the power of "Big Data" and natural user interfaces into a new enterprise cloud platform for customer service.

CAMPBELL, Calif. and REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Microsoft Corp. and 24/7 Inc. today announced an agreement to jointly bring the power of natural user interfaces (NUIs) and data analytics at cloud scale (Big Data) to enable the future of customer service for businesses. The agreement includes Microsoft merging its interactive self-service assets (clients, people and technologies) into 24/7 Inc. The agreement also includes an R&D partnership, long-term IP licensing and Microsoft taking an equity stake in 24/7 Inc.

Microsoft has pioneered the use of NUIs, including gestures and speech, across a broad range of devices, and the broad adoption of NUIs by consumers has changed the way people interact with technology, companies and one another. 24/7 Inc. is a leading innovator in harnessing the power of Big Data for customer service, using Internet-scale data and advanced analytics to help businesses predict customer preferences and deliver proactive, efficient and intuitive consumer experiences. With this agreement, Microsoft and 24/7 are combining technologies that span interactive self-service across mobile, Web and voice channels, Big Data analytics, and speech and conversational interfaces to create a next-generation cloud platform for customer service. The combined Predictive Experience (PX) platform will manage more than 2.5 billion speech and online self-service interactions annually, enabling large businesses to derive and apply insight and intelligence across these customer service interactions and delivery channels. With this combination, 24/7 Inc. will be positioned to generate total revenues of more than $250 million annually by delivering solutions and services that enable large businesses to anticipate consumer needs, simplify the consumer experience and learn from every consumer interaction.

"Microsoft is an industry leader in NUI and established natural, intuitive consumer experiences on mobile and entertainment devices," said Zig Serafin, general manager, Online Services Division at Microsoft. "From speech to touch to gestures, consumers expect and demand more natural and intuitive ways to interact with technology. This same demand will change how consumers interact with businesses, and it creates an inflection point for how people will expect businesses to provide customer service. "

Consumers today not only expect businesses to deliver service in more natural and intuitive ways but also expect these same businesses to be able to reach out and interact intelligently with them across a wide variety of channels, including on mobile devices, through social media, on the Web and even through the living room TV. This consumer expectation has created a key need for businesses to gather, analyze and gain insight by using Big Data to proactively anticipate and predict customer needs.

"The ability to exceed customer service expectations through Big Data analytics across all service channels offers unique value for businesses," said PV Kannan, CEO of 24/7 Inc. "By bringing Microsoft's interactive self-service technology together with 24/7 Inc.'s predictive consumer experience technology into one unified cloud platform, we will deliver solutions and services that truly enable businesses to differentiate through customer service."

Enterprises already working with Microsoft and 24/7 Inc. are applauding the solution and believe it will accelerate their ability to deliver more natural and intuitive customer service experiences, and this agreement will enable 24/7 Inc. to accelerate delivery of solutions and services for the future of customer service.

"24/7 Inc. and Microsoft are helping Avis deliver customer experiences in the way that customers want to be served," said Thomas M. Gartland, president, North America, Avis Budget Group. "We applaud the agreement between the companies that will harness the power of Big Data, apply advanced analytics to that data, and bring more intuitive experiences to customers. We see the future of customer service and are working together to lead the way."

"Today, consumers are engaging with businesses in more channels than ever with the proliferation of mobile devices and social media. As a result, their expectations of customer service are changing," said Daniel Hong, lead analyst of Customer Interaction at Ovum. "Enterprises that embrace these trends will uncover opportunities to deepen their relationships with customers and optimize their investments in customer-enabling technologies (such as self-service) across channels. We feel the PX platform, along with the partnership between 24/7 Inc. and Microsoft, creates opportunities for businesses to better anticipate their customers' needs, simplify their consumer experiences, and learn from every consumer interaction."

"United has been working closely but independently with 24/7 Inc. and Microsoft to improve customer service," said Martin Hand, senior vice president Customer Experience, United Airlines. "We believe this agreement will better position them to help us innovate across our service channels by leveraging Big Data and natural user interfaces. We look forward to working together to achieve our customer service goals

Additional Details

Microsoft will merge its interactive self-service assets (clients, people and technologies) into 24/7 Inc.'s PX solutions.

24/7 Inc. and Microsoft will forge an R&D partnership moving forward, and 24/7 Inc. will utilize Microsoft Tellme speech and natural language technologies for natural user experiences in customer service. 24/7 Inc. will also be integrating its solutions with Windows Phone, Bing and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Microsoft and 24/7 Inc. have also agreed to a shared technology road map and a long-term IP licensing agreement that provides broad coverage under Microsoft's patent portfolio for speech-related technologies.

Microsoft will take an equity stake in 24/7 Inc.

About 24/7 Inc.

24/7 Inc., ( ), the intuitive consumer experience company, provides software and services that make life simple for consumers to connect with large companies to get things done. 24/7's software helps companies anticipate what consumers want, simplify interactions, and learn from those interactions so that future experiences get better all the time. 24/7 is based in Campbell, California.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft MSFT +0.71% is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

SOURCE Microsoft Corp.
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