Microsoft Opens Up Customer Care Framework - InformationWeek

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Microsoft Opens Up Customer Care Framework

The latest version's WWF addition improves third-party application support but is best matched with Microsoft SharePoint Server.

Microsoft on Wednesday launched the latest version of it Customer Care Framework, which includes better technology for connecting the customer-support software to third-party applications.

CCF is built to be the desktop presentation layer for the many systems a customer service rep may have to access, such as customer relationship management, billing, payment, ordering, trouble ticketing, or more. Among the improvements in CCF 2008 that makes accessing these applications easier is the addition of the Windows Workflow Foundation.

WWF is the programming model, engine and tools that Microsoft offers for building workflow-enabled applications on Windows. The component ships with CCF 2008, and provides the technology needed to configure the software so it can guide customer service reps through the applications they need to access during a call.

For example, to open a new account, a rep may have to input information into a CRM, ordering and billing system. Using the WWF toolkit, IT staff can integrate the CCF with the presentation layers of those applications.

The CCF upgrade also has what Microsoft calls an "interaction server" that can take information submitted by customers through an automated telephone system, self-service portal, fax, instant messaging, email or chat room, and link that data to customer records. As a result, when reps access the submitted data electronically, they automatically get the related records.

CCF can be connected to third-party self-service portals, but it's pre-configured to work with Microsoft's own product: Office SharePoint Server 2007.

In the security area, Microsoft has integrated a single sign-on service in CCF 2008 for connecting to third-party applications, and has included the hooks for connecting the software to directories other than Microsoft's Active Directory.

In upgrading CCF, Microsoft is following a strategy of playing nice with non-Microsoft software in a given environment, Vish Thirumurthy, group product manager for CCF, said. "We consider this to be a very large step forward for CCF."

Microsoft has 70 CCF customers, with deployments ranging from 100 to 15,000 seats, Thirumurthy said. While the technology was available in other forms, Microsoft introduced the CCF brand in 2005.

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