Redmond is flexing its social customer Relevant Products/Services service muscles. Microsoft Relevant Products/Services on Tuesday unveiled a set of Dynamics CRM Relevant Products/Services capabilities, including social listening, aimed at helping organizations match their customers to the right products and services, engage with them in the right way at the right time, and nurture their relationships.

Microsoft trumpeted the new release, which is expected to make its market debut in the second quarter of 2014, as delivering on its rapid innovation promise. Indeed, the new Dynamics CRM release adds new functionality to help marketers be smarter and efficiently drive and manage marketing campaigns.

New tools also promise to help businesses engage with and care for customers in a personalized manner on virtually any device, anywhere and to ultimately sell more effectively. And in one of the most anticipated features yet, Microsoft has added social listening to the mix to serve up deeper customer insights.

Changing the CRM Game?

“Businesses want solutions that give them market insights and the ability to deliver amazing customer experiences,” said Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. “The new Microsoft Dynamics CRM update democratizes social listening, adds new marketing capabilities for more impact and enables businesses to deliver outstanding customer service. With this new release, we are essentially changing the CRM game.”

Microsoft is betting chief marketing officers want a marketing solution that helps them plan and execute strong marketing campaigns, gives them insights into the impacts of their marketing activities, and provides them with the ability to optimize the marketing mix to deliver the most impact to their businesses. Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, formerly MarketingPilot, aims to fill the bill by adding marketing automation functionality to Dynamics CRM that promises to deliver insights that will help marketers be smarter and more effectively engage with their customers.

One of the new capabilities is the Unified Service Desk, an application designed for call centers that allows agents to handle multiple interactions simultaneously, increasing efficiency by automating repetitive tasks and displaying scripts to help agents provide more personalized and effective service. Dynamics CRM now also offers customers s choice in deploying customer service capabilities ranging from self-service via support portals, Facebook and Twitter to Web chat and video capabilities.

Stealing Salesforce Relevant Products/Services’s Thunder

Microsoft Social Listening adds the capabilities for people to analyze and act on market intelligence Relevant Products/Services from social conversations, including measuring sentiment across a wide array of social channels. It also allows users to track products, brands, competitors and campaigns globally and in real time to gain true understanding of their customers and their businesses across the social Web.

Microsoft believes that social capabilities are core to customer relationship management, so they should not be limited to an elite few at high costs. Microsoft Social Listening will be offered as part of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online professional licenses at no additional charge. On-premises customers can get Microsoft Social Listening for an incremental cost.

We caught up with Brad Shimmin, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, to get his take on the Dynamics CRM upgrades. He told us Microsoft is taking multi-channel delivery very seriously these days -- and he expects that approach to pay off in the long run, especially considering some of the new capabilities like social listening.

“I’m pretty bullish on this in terms of how the additions are taking what has been an OK product and making it a little bit more competitive with the more established base of call center Relevant Products/Services and customer care solutions,” Shimmin said. “They are stealing some thunder, at least temporarily, from Salesforce.com.”