What is Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights?

Dynamics 365 has been released, and I’ve been spending a lot of time looking into the different product modules. One of the “odd ones out” is Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights. At the time of this posting, Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights is still in public preview, but there’s enough knowledge out there regarding what it is, how it works, and the value it provides, that I can feel good doing a write up on it. (I’ll try to remember to come back to this post and revise it in the future!)

Customer Insights Consolidates Data From Disparate Sources

Simply put, Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights is a master database of your customers and their interactions with your brand. It can be configured to link to data from an extremely wide variety of sources. It produces a “360 degree” view of your customers.

In most companies, customer data is notoriously scattered between different systems. You might have a CRM system, a web analytics platform, an email marketing automation solution, and a customer rewards program – each managed by software from different vendors. That’s not to mention all the ways in which your customers interact with your business in places like social media, in-store visits, online reviews, and much more.

What if there were a way to consolidate these systems and truly see every touch-point between your brand and an individual customer? This is the goal of Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights.

Take a look at this snippet from an article entitled “Microsoft teams up with Adobe to create an industry standard for marketing, sales and services data

In creating a new data model, Adobe and Microsoft are joined by AppDynamics, Acxiom, Dun & Bradstreet, Qualtrics, Zendesk, [24]7, and MasterCard. Together they will work towards creating applications with a new common language.

What we have here is a group of industry leaders in Identity Resolution, Marketing Software, CRM, Web/Product Analytics, Surveys, Customer Service Software, Contextual Data, and Payments Processing all coming together to standardize how information should flow between systems. Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights appears to be one of the outcomes of this partnership. Its role is to suck in all that data and provide you with a platform for extracting insights.

At this point, I should reinforce that Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights doesn’t aim to be the platform through which all your customer interactions take place. It’s not a CRM or a Marketing Automation solution. Instead, Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights merely receives data from your transactional systems and links those transactions/interactions to a specific customer profile.

Any data source that contains customer interactions is compatible with Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights! To achieve this, Microsoft has done three things:

  1. Created a standardized data model in partnership with other major players
  2. Allowed you to manually dictate the relationships between data sources ingested by Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights
  3. Developed a next-generation combination of heuristics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence techniques (“predictive match“).

These three processes work together, linking your various transactions to master customer profiles with a high degree of confidence. The end result is that you have a highly consolidated database of your customers and a “360 degree” view of their every touchpoint.

Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights is starting by integrating Microsoft products into its offering. There are connectors for Microsoft Exchange (so it can ingest emails and meetings with customers), Microsoft Social Listening, other Microsoft Dynamics 365 modules, and Azure Data Storage.

In addition, Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights is able to ingest 3rd party data sources such as LinkedIn, InsideView, and more. Your insights go beyond brand interactions: customer profiles can also contain contextual data from these services.

Analyzing All That Data

Once you start to pull together your customer data, the benefits become very interesting. A proper implementation will allow you to do 3 things:

1. Identify the behaviors of your top customers across many different channels

With the huge swaths of data available, machine learning can help you to model the ideal customer. You’ll see what sorts of touchpoints contribute to the development of your most – or least – loyal and profitable customers.

2. Track KPIs across your entire customer base

Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights allows you to roll your data up into broader KPIs. You can set and track targets for all of your connected touchpoints.

3. See a timeline of an individual customers’ interactions with your brand

Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights is able to provide you with a customers’ history and preferences, plus make individual recommendations for interacting with that customer.

Purchasing Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights

Dynamics 365 isn’t the type of software you license on a “per-user” basis. You pay monthly for Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights, and the amount you pay depends on your usage:

As you can see, each unit allows you to work with up to 100,000 customer profiles, and has restrictions on KPIs, Customer Segments, Predictive Match Policies, and customer models.

Conclusion

Dynamics 365 for Customer Service is definitely a “next-generation” application of big data and machine learning. It will be intriguing to see how it develops going forward. I’m particularly interested in the effectiveness of Microsoft’s “predictive match” algorithm, whether or not Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights will become easier to configure, and how Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights will overlap with the reporting and customer profile functionality in Dynamics 365 for Sales.

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