Support and service representatives use customer relationship management (CRM) software and email more than any other tools to communicate with people on the job, according to Salesforce. However, those two tools rarely work together, so reps often find themselves jumping from one app to the other and back again while handling customer issues.
By enabling companies to build Salesforce capabilities directly into Microsoft's Outlook email program, Lightning for Outlook helps customer service professionals save time and effort, according to Salesforce. The Lightning user interface is also designed to provide reps with greater insights into their interactions with customers across both apps.
Salesforce said its new offering with Microsoft lets businesses use Lightning Components, reusable building blocks of code, to embed new and customized CRM integrations into Outlook email. For example, a sales rep writing an email to a customer will be able to update a price quote using Salesforce SteelBrick CPQ without having to leave Outlook.
Lightning for Outlook will also make it possible for customer service professionals to search for, view and update Salesforce records for email contacts directly from Outlook, and automatically sync contacts and calendar events between the two apps.
Salesforce Lightning for Outlook is available now for Outlook users on Windows or Mac, as well as on the Web. A future update, set to roll out soon, will also add support for such integration on Outlook Mobile, Salesforce said.
The typical sales representative in a business spends more than 70 percent of the work week sending or responding to email messages, according to Salesforce. By adding Salesforce functionality directly into Outlook email, companies can help their sales and service reps work more productively, the company said.
"The world is becoming more interconnected than ever before, yet most technology solutions are isolated from one another so users are spending their valuable time toggling between complex apps and manually updating data," IDC customer experience analyst Mary Wardley said in a statement released by Salesforce. Bringing together isolated apps helps offer "joint solutions built with the end user in mind," she added.
Salesforce and Microsoft first announced their global partnership in May 2014. The deal, whose financial terms were not revealed, was aimed at creating new joint offerings designed to benefit customers of both companies.
"With customer data at the point of customer contact, reps can more easily stay close to their customers," Ryan Aytay, Salesforce's executive vice president of strategic product alliances, wrote Tuesday in a blog post. "They easily see whom to contact when and how to painlessly update records for seamless handoffs. By accessing Salesforce directly from Outlook, there's no more jumping between programs, no extra clicks, no hassle -- just the modern sales workflow, the way it was meant to be."