Get ready for a customer-service overhaul in the next Dynamics CRM

New tools will tap machine learning and focus on increasingly digital modes of interaction

Microsoft's Dynamics CRM 2016 software is just around the corner, and on Thursday the company revealed new detail about what it will include from a customer-service perspective.

Two months ago, Microsoft unveiled new aspects of the customer relationship management software relating to productivity. Now it's introducing enhancements to help agents deliver better customer service.

The updated Dynamics CRM will include new capabilities in three core areas: agent experience, machine-learning intelligence and social engagement.

"As organizations struggle with competitiveness around price and product, one of the things they're looking at as an opportunity for differentiation is customer experience," said Bill Patterson, general manager for Microsoft Dynamics.

At the same time, many organizations aren't equipped for the kinds of digital interaction that consumers increasingly expect, Patterson said.

"It's a huge divide for the customer-service team," he said. "They're under tremendous pressure, but the tools they're using weren't built for this generation of customers."

A new interactive service hub in Dynamics CRM 2016 aims to address at least some of those shortcomings. Real-time dashboards provide a single view of an agent's workload, with the flexibility to choose the order of case resolution. Interactive charts show work items and allow agents to "slice and dice" data about those items.

Agents also get access to Skype and Yammer, so they can chat with customers and peers for service resolution and collaboration.

The new Dynamics CRM will also tap Azure Machine Learning with an eye toward capturing agents' expertise and building on that knowledge each time the tool is used.

Customer-service teams face an average churn rate of 27 percent every year, Patterson said, so "you lose out on expertise over time." That, in turn, affects the quality of customer service, he said.

Using machine learning, Dynamics CRM will help to preserve that knowledge and compute answers for agents in real time, then enhance them over time. For agents, that can mean significant productivity gains, he said.

Finally, the new CRM software will help companies capture and leverage customer feedback through surveys to shape customer engagements with mobile and touch-enabled tools.

Customer-service agents can analyze feedback from a specific customer to respond to them individually, while the company can also look at aggregated feedback to achieve a better overall understanding of customer sentiment.

The software also leverages social channels. Azure Machine Learning can instantly track and analyze relevant sentiment via Microsoft Social Engagement so agents can interact directly with customers on social channels such as Twitter and Facebook, converting issues into cases when necessary.

Microsoft's recent acquisition of Adxstudio will help to power some of those capabilities.

Dynamics CRM 2016 is due by the end of the year. Microsoft will offer a new programmatic license for the technology as an add-on to Office 365. Pricing will be $50 per user, per month, for Office 365 Plan E3, E5 and Business Premium licensees.

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Katherine Noyes

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