Microsoft buys Parature for customer self-service software

More details of Microsoft's plans for Parature will come at March's Convergence conference

Microsoft is rounding out its Dynamics CRM (customer relationship management) product by acquiring Parature, maker of cloud-based software companies can use to create self-service portals for customers.

Terms of the deal, which is expected to close within 30 days, were not disclosed. Parature's roughly 100 employees will be brought into Microsoft, said Fred Studer, general manager of Dynamics product marketing.

Microsoft had already partnered with Parature but decided it was time to acquire the company, in the belief that self-service is becoming a preferred way for customers to get help with products and services, according to Studer. "We think most customers would prefer self-service than calling an old-school call center and talking to a customer service agent," he said.

Parature's software, which also includes a recently upgraded knowledge base, can be reskinned to match a company's logos and design schemes. Customers include Ask.com, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and IBM and Parature's software serves 70 million users, according to Microsoft.

More details of how Parature will fit into Dynamics will be disclosed soon, Studer said.

The acquisition follows Microsoft's purchases of marketing software vendor MarketingPilot and social media monitoring provider Netbreeze. All three deals reflect Microsoft's effort to create a set of CRM-related technologies that cover scenarios from making an initial sale to servicing customers post-purchase and sparking repeat business. SAP, Oracle and Salesforce.com are pursuing similar strategies.

Buying Parature "fills in a key gap" for Dynamics CRM, analyst Ray Wang of Constellation Research wrote in a blog post: "Microsoft CRM currently has a customer care offering that delivers core customer service with case management, universal queuing and routing, and light scheduling and field service. Parature provides key self-service knowledge base software, core customer service, live chat, mobile access, survey and feedback capabilities, social monitoring, and Facebook portal capabilities to the Microsoft service offering."

The knowledge base is Parature's "crown jewel" and "one of the most modern in the industry," Wang added.

CRM is the fastest-growing member of the Dynamics family, which includes several ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications as well, but buying Parature was a smart move, according to Wang.

"In head-to-head deals, the Dynamics CRM unit is giving Salesforce.com the most competition," he wrote. "The acquisition of Parature shows that Microsoft is willing to make strategic bets to accelerate time to market of key offerings such as customer care. Parature accelerates Microsoft's efforts in customer care by 24 months."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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