Microsoft has closed a wide agreement with the consumer experience firm 24/7 Inc., the company announced today in a blog post. According to the companies, the purpose of this deal is to invent “the future of customer service.”
In practical terms, it means that Microsoft and 24/7 Inc. will join forces to make cloud-based customer service much more intuitive. This change will be powered by big data, but also by what are known as natural user interfaces – which go from speech to touch and gesture.
While 24/7 Inc. brings in its knowledge of leveraging analytics to improve customer experience, Microsoft will integrate its self-service technology into 24/7’s approach. The agreement also includes a R&D partnership, long-term IP licensing and Microsoft taking an equity stake in 24/7 Inc.
As Zdnet reports, the partnership will also result in a transfer from Microsoft to 24/7. Not only did the company licensed some of its speech-related technology to 24/7 Inc., but the latter will also reportedly hire around 400 Microsoft employees who were working on TellMe speech technologies (see our comparison with Siri).
It’s hard to deny customer service needs a serious fix, and it’s certainly interesting to see a giant like Microsoft willing to use technology. For the customer, it could hopefully mean a seamless experience across multiple channels, from social media to mobile. As for the use of natural user interfaces, it is also quite promising, especially for the disabled.
However, Microsoft and 24/7 inc. don’t hide that their move isn’t disinterested; customer service is a huge market, and the figures at stake are quite impressive. According to the companies, their combined Predictive Experience (PX) platform will manage more than 2.5 billion speech and online self-service interactions annually.
The companies also hope this will translate into notable revenues for 24/7 Inc., which expects to generate more than $250 million annually from its customer service solutions. While Microsoft’s exact equity share of the company wasn’t made public, chances are it will also get a substantial amount of this revenue.