By: Richard Adhikari
Microsoft on Thursday announced a number of artificial intelligence, mixed reality and customer insights tools for Microsoft Dynamics 365 at its Microsoft Business Forward event in Paris.
There is “a lot of hype around AI and MR,” noted Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research at Nucleus Research, “but these are real applications delivering value to customers today.”
Microsoft also announced it will publicly preview a new Microsoft Forms Pro this spring.
There is “a consistent theme in all these offerings — providing high degree of flexibility to enable citizen developers and power users while still maintaining technology governance and compliance,” remarked Nicole France, principal analyst at Constellation Research.
“Microsoft’s advantage is its decades of investment in R&D across its portfolio, which it’s bringing to bear on its business applications portfolio,” Wettemann told CRM Buyer. “This is highlighted in the MR space, where it’s ahead of the rest of the industry.”
The AI solutions “are designed to surface next best action and create digital feedback loops over time,” said Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research.
Mixed reality enables new business models, he told CRM Buyer. “Think of the ability to do field service with IoT, where you are guided to the broken equipment and can find all the parts in a heads-up display with MR. You can then request real-time help with a subject matter expert or engineer at headquarters or at the manufacturer.”
The main competitors to Microsoft Dynamics 365 are Salesforce, Adobe, SAP and Oracle, Wang said. They are building similar capabilities in AI across the board, but Microsoft is ahead in MR.
The AI Solutions
AI solutions Microsoft announced:
- Dynamics 365 Customer Insights — now available for preview and scheduled for general availability in April;
- Dynamics 365 Virtual Agent for Customer Service, a cloud service launching in public preview in April; and
- Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection, a cloud-based solution. A public preview will be released in April.
“The AI tools are particularly useful because … they can be used by a wide range of employees who have primary responsibility for, in this case, customer interaction and customer service,” Constellation’s France told CRM Buyer. “They don’t require deep development expertise to be used effectively.”
Dynamics 365 Virtual Agent for Customer Service lets business users easily create and manage AI-powered virtual agents that resolve routine problems and requests.
Virtual Agent “is a great example of how business users can configure and launch their own agent apps in a no-code environment, driving greater flexibility and productivity, and being less of a burden and backlog for IT,” Nucleus’ Wettemann pointed out.
Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection will help e-commerce businesses cut fraud losses, increase bank acceptance rates, and improve the online shopping experience
“Digital businesses need to understand that every revenue-generating call to action that consumers experience — things like account creation, login, buy, share and review — corresponds to risks associated with fraud,” Kevin Lee, trust and safety architect at Sift, told CRM Buyer.
In a January survey of 500 professionals representing North American online retail industries with more than 500 employees, Sift uncovered the following:
- 63 percent battled fake accounts;
- 64 percent faced payment fraud;
- 55 percent were plagued by fake or spammy content; and
- 42 percent dealt with account takeovers.
- 64 percent had not fully achieved the goal of staying ahead of fraud patterns;
- 65 percent were experiencing more fraud at their sites;
- 69 percent spent more on fraud last year than the year before; and
- 95 percent planned to add more tools or hire more people to manage fraud over the next 12 months.
Fraud hampers business growth, Sift found, in a number of ways:
- 73 percent of survey respondents said their companies could not fully achieve their goal of launching new products without increasing risk;
- 71 percent said the same about moving into new markets;
- 57 percent said revenue-driving goals and fraud prevention goals were not fully aligned; and
- 86 percent of executives were involved in fraud prevention.
“By having access to tools that enable digital trust and safety at scale, Microsoft Dynamics 365 customers would see less fraud and more revenue while unlocking better customer experiences,” Lee said.
The mixed reality solutions Microsoft announced:
- Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, used by remote experts with HoloLens for equipment verification and incident response, has been extended to Android mobile devices in preview; and
- Dynamics 365 Product Visualize is coming to iOS in preview. It lets sellers show products to customers directly within their Dynamics 365 for Sales workflow, and spatial and configuration notes are all saved directly within the associated sales opportunity.
Dynamics 365 Remote Assist will include mobile annotations, group calling, deeper integration with Dynamics 365 for Field Service, and improved accessibility features for the HoloLens app.
Technicians will be able to use either HoloLens or an Android mobile device to collaborate with remote experts and troubleshoot issues in context.
“These new mixed reality offerings make it possible to extend field service and sales teams, again, without the need for specialized expertise,” Constellation’s France observed.
“Remote Assist allows field service agents and even customers to solve complex problems on their own,” she said. “Product Visualize connects a 3D visualization of a complex product directly to configuration and product catalogs, shortening the process from design to quote.”
The Advantages of Forms Pro
Microsoft Forms Pro is easy to set up and configure. It triggers surveys around specific events; collects feedback across channels; lets businesses embed surveys across apps, the Web and mobile devices; identifies sentiments automatically; and lets users analyze customer feedback.
It will “make feedback management easier, and save time when working on common forms,” Constellation’s Wang said.
Forms Pro “is a great addition to Microsoft’s CRM and Talent portfolios,”Wettemann suggested, “and is likely to be useful in other areas of the business as well.”