When properly analyzed and leveraged, big data enhances customer engagement through targeted, personalized and contextual marketing. The data also provides significant business intelligence that can help organizations achieve a variety of goals, including understanding their public image, increasing production efficiency or enhancing customer service. The primary problem with big data has always been the difficulty in correlating the information collected to obtain actionable insights. There is simply too much data for human analysts to find worthwhile information without the proper tools. Microsoft contends that humans need not be replaced in the process of extracting meaningful intelligence from big data, but they should be empowered to maximize the benefits that the data can provide. Adding support for Cortana and artificial intelligence to Dynamics 365 CRM is one way that Microsoft is attempting to give humans better tools for finding and using insights hidden in big data.
About Cortana and AI
Cortana is the AI-powered digital assistant first appearing on Windows phones in 2014 before expanding to computers running Windows 10. Cortana is designed to learn a user's habits and anticipate his or her needs. For example, if a user routinely asks Cortana to check the morning traffic, Cortana will begin to offer the information without prompting. Cortana's inclusion in Dynamics 365 CRM means that sales and marketing have more tools at their disposal than ever before. Cortana can maintain the user's schedule, set up reminders, display customer lists, search for accounts and activities, create new records or search for contacts. The more that Cortana learns about a user, the more detailed the responses become. For example, Cortana can provide updated gate assignments for a scheduled flight, offer intelligence collected about the buyer that a salesperson is meeting or provide marketing insights based on social media sites.
Other tools in Dynamics 365 utilize Cortana's AI without directly referring to the assistant. Microsoft has stated that its goals are to eliminate silos between marketing and sales while consolidating applications through unified navigation and user experience. Users are shown all apps for which they have access, eliminating data silos while maintaining the user's familiarity with dashboards and navigation tools. Some of the features that are of interest to sales and marketing professionals are:
- Customer insights provide marketing and sales with a comprehensive picture of the company's customers. By consolidating information from multiple sources, generating individual customer profiles and analyzing KPIs, companies can gain insights into their campaigns and activities, measure success and even receive suggestions on ways to improve engagement.
- Relationship insights are especially beneficial for the sales team. Using machine learning, sentiment analysis, natural language processing and data retrieved from Dynamics, sales professionals can receive detailed reports on the status of their relationships with their customers.
- Actionable solutions powered by AI can help in a variety of ways. For example, insights might reveal that it is a good time to pursue a customer for another sale or that action needs to be taken immediately to retain an account.
Despite the many features offered in the current version of Dynamics 365, it is safe to assume that AI technology has not yet achieved its full potential. Microsoft is currently positioned to lead the efforts to leverage AI for business applications and has repeatedly stated that it wants to provide seamless apps inside Dynamics 365 as well as Office 365 and other products. Whether from Microsoft or another company, however, it is clear that AI technology is here to stay and will continue to provide innovative ways for businesses to use the data they collect to drive customer engagement and company growth.