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Predictive sales tools in Dynamics 365 empower sales reps

Dynamics 365, like all Microsoft products, is expected to receive an AI upgrade as CEO Satya Nadella touts the 'democratizing of AI' for its services.

ATLANTA -- The job of a sales rep has evolved well beyond cold calls and predetermined next steps. Selling is now...

a complex stream of decision-making, and it's become vital to be able to provide insights into not only customers, but also what steps to take next.

It's with these factors in mind that Microsoft continues to upgrade Dynamics 365 CRM system to be a smarter, more capable tool for sales reps. The need for a predictive sales tool within a sales rep's suite of applications is a trend that continues to grow within the customer relationship management industry. For example, Salesforce's recent unveiling of Einstein is promising to bring "AI to everyone," empowering sales reps with smarter next steps and predictive thinking.

Microsoft aims at 'democratizing AI'

Not content to let Salesforce, its part-time partner, part-time competitor, gain all the AI buzz, Microsoft is bringing AI features to its suite of applications, including Dynamics 365. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella described the predictive capabilities as "democratizing AI" at the opening-night keynote of this week's Microsoft Ignite conference, with the goal of "empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more."

Having customers be able to ask Cortana or Siri product questions and receive answers or text in their questions and get correct automated responses -- we then can be more proactive about our next step.
Nate Dykenstechnical lead for customer care, Amway

Some smaller but capable new features for Dynamics 365 were described at a case study at Ignite by Kishan Chetan, principal product manager for Dynamics 365 customer engagement. Chetan ran through predictive sales tools and insight features that will be released later this year and in 2017, including relationship insight, which a sales rep can use to analyze how the customer is receiving information and interacting the most. A new feature called Intentions will alert sales reps when prospective leads or customers look for information, and whether it should be sales, marketing or service reps that should follow up next.

Field service upgrades, including automating some business-flow processes and making its features more robust, intrigued Nate Dykens, technical lead for customer care at Ada, Mich.-based Amway, an international health and beauty supply company that has third-party suppliers sell its products and then follows up with maintenance and warranty processes with its customers.

Amway smooths deployment process

Dykens said Amway migrated to cloud-based Dynamics 365 about 14 months ago, with the main goal of making global deployment of customer service practices much quicker.

"By implementing our processes faster around the world with Dynamics 365, we can do global reporting and make decisions much quicker," Dykens said. "We're trying to smooth out our deployment process."

With a lot of Amway's work done after the sale of a product, with maintenance, upgrades and warranties, hearing from the customer quickly and knowing what next steps to take -- and even proactively fixing an issue -- is a game-changer for a company like Amway.

"We've been trying to move more toward self-help for customers so we can offload that work from our service reps," Dykens said. "Having customers be able to ask Cortana or Siri product questions and receive answers or text in their questions and get correct automated responses -- we then can be more proactive about our next step."

New feature could aid customer engagement

A new feature like Intentions could alert an Amway service rep that a customer has been looking at extending a warranty for their product, and using predictive sales tools, contact the customer with warranty options.

"You'll be able to generate leads using social engagement," Chetan said. "Things like cold calling don't work anymore. Customers do a lot of research before they go to the seller."

By engaging with customers at the right time with the correct information available, predictive sales tools like those already in Dynamics 365 and soon to be featured can be the difference for sales, marketing and service reps.

"The selling job is a lot more complex for sales people," Chetan said. "You have to have the right content to sell."

Next Steps

What to expect from Dynamics 365 in 2016

Using predictive analytics as a sales tool

Microsoft can use LinkedIn for its CRM data

Dig Deeper on Microsoft CRM

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