Microsoft buys Parature, Verint buys KANA: A trend?

Two competitors in the customer service applications market are being acquired.

According to Alex Williams at Techcrunch, Microsoft has acquired Parature to integrate the company’s customer support knowledge base technology into Microsoft Dynamics as a counter to Salesforce. The prices was supposedly $100 million, but the acquisition and price have not been confirmed by Microsoft or Parature.

Meanwhile, Verint, the business intelligence player, has announced the near-term acquisition of KANA, the customer support and social metrics company, and add its 900 customer companies to Verint’s 10,000.

Sometimes having two deals like this happen so close together is random, but I think there is a trend here. And it’s one that was articulated by Duke Chung, the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Parature in a recent HBR post. The trend? The confluence of customer support and an internet of things:

Duke Chung, Customer Service in the Age of the Internet of Things

Today, innovative customer service means being able to contact a company on multiple platforms — not just by phone, but via email, web, Twitter, Facebook, and mobile devices. However according to ABI Research, by 2020 more than 20 billion additional devices will be wirelessly connected to physical things — TVs, washing machines, thermostats, refrigerators, even cars.

Good customer service in this age of the Internet of Things will take one step further and take place right on the device itself — screens to tap to search knowledge bases for answers, chat live with a rep, or schedule a service appointment. Imagine a service rep talking you through changing your tire, or a virtual agent who advises you to adjust specific settings on your refrigerator so that it runs at greatest efficiency.

With this kind of customer service evolution happening over the next few years, big changes will be in store for support departments across major industries.

Chung goes on to catalog those changes: more robust knowledge bases [which is why Microsoft bought Parature], invest in a strong data analytics platform [ditto], and hire and train smarter customer support agents [he cites Zappo’s, Warby Parker, and Nike as examples]. More importantly, in a world of smart refrigerators, light switches, thermostats, and slow cookers (yes, Belkin debuted one at CES this week), customer support access will need to be embedded in the devices, and well-designed to keep customer support costs down.