This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Microsoft Ignite 2023 conference coverage

Microsoft releases Sales Copilot, teases Insights tools

The tech giant released generative AI-supported functions for sellers to generate text and summaries, and unveiled new Dynamics 365 Customer Insights tools for marketers.

Microsoft on Tuesday released Sales Copilot, a generative AI-supported tool that lets sellers generate text for emails and automate CRM tasks. The tech giant also unveiled new tools for its CDP, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, to orchestrate customer journeys.

Sales Copilot is generally available now as a standalone subscription and included as part of customers' existing Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise and Premium licenses at no extra cost, according to Microsoft. The new Dynamics 365 Customer Insights tools will be available in preview in August and generally available on Sept. 1.

Microsoft introduced the new products to audiences at Microsoft Inspire, the vendor's annual conference for partners, held virtually July 18-19.

Sales Copilot can be accessed from Microsoft Outlook, Teams and Dynamics 365 Sales, as well as other CRM systems such as Salesforce. Its capabilities available now include automating CRM tasks and generating email and meeting summaries.

Sales Copilot can also create opportunity summaries; write emails with data from Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Graph; generate customer summaries using information in Outlook, Teams or Dynamics 365 Sales; and provide real-time suggestions in Teams as prompted by naming competitors or brands. These features will be available later this month, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft also unveiled two new Copilot tools for marketers in Dynamics 365 Customer Insights. Users will be able to generate steps in customer journey orchestration by typing commands in 500 characters or less. They will also be able to describe their desired aesthetic to Copilot to design emails, forms and registration pages to match a brand's motif.

The overrun AI battlefield

Microsoft is among many large software vendors to incorporate generative AI into tools for sales, CX and CRM. Offerings from competitors include Salesforce's Sales GPT, SAP Digital Assistant and Zendesk AI, to name a few.

This crowded AI field is pushing many vendors to create tools at a pace unseen before, raising the median quality of all offerings to a higher level and leading to better customer experience overall, Futurum Research analyst Daniel Newman said.

Microsoft is certainly well positioned with this launch.
Daniel NewmanAnalyst, Futurum Research

"It is going to be a tremendous wave of innovation that will enable companies to work more efficiently and deliver better customer service and experience," Newman said. "Microsoft is certainly well positioned with this launch, and I expect to see strong adoption and use cases to drive awareness and growth of generative tools within the Dynamics portfolio."

Microsoft Sales Copilot includes Microsoft Viva Sales, which was launched in 2022 and uses Microsoft 365 and Teams to input data into any CRM system. Predrag Jakovljevic, an analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers, said he sees this as an advantage for Microsoft.

"Viva, which is now part of Sales Copilot, has been around for quite a while, which means more maturity than the others," Jakovljevic said.

Microsoft apps are widely used by enterprises, and the ability to drop Sales Copilot into the existing workflow will be attractive to many, according to Valoir Research analyst Rebecca Wettemann.

"A key potential differentiator for Microsoft here is with the Teams integration and being able to have generative AI 'participate' in and contribute to sales calls in real time," Wettemann said.

Learning to trust AI

However, data security concerns could deter some from opting for tools supported by generative AI. Companies might fear that their private and proprietary data will get mixed up with others' data or be exposed to public large language models (LLMs) for training, Wettemann said.

"Salespeople will only use it if they trust it -- which is a key hurdle for all CRM vendors to address when introducing AI into their solutions," she said.

Microsoft's partnership with OpenAI gave it early access to experiment with OpenAI's GPT and other LLMs to make sure they work with its enterprise data, according to Emily He, corporate vice president of business applications at Microsoft. But this training data is kept in a different system from customer data, she said.

"Whatever enterprise data we house on behalf of our customers, they are kept completely separate," she said. "We never use our customers' data to train large language models."

In the realm of AI and data privacy, Microsoft also unveiled Bing Chat Enterprise, which is the same as Bing Chat -- its generative AI-supported chatbot to help with search requests on Bing -- but with added protection for enterprises' data. Data in Bing Chat Enterprise will not be saved or shared outside the organization, according to Microsoft.

Bing Chat Enterprise gives CIOs and CISOs an option to safely use generative AI capabilities in a way that obeys data, privacy and safety requirements, Forrester Research analyst Rowan Curran said. It is also convenient for companies that already use Microsoft's productivity tools, he added.

"Bing Chat Enterprise presents a way to provide users with a more secure way to gain access to the text generation and research capabilities they want from genAI," Curran said. "This offering is essentially giving enterprises a secure online search via the Bing Chat experience."

Bing Chat Enterprise is rolling out in preview today and is included at no additional cost in Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Business Standard and Business Premium. In the future, it will be available as a standalone offering for $5 per user, per month.

Mary Reines is a news writer covering customer experience and unified communications for TechTarget Editorial. Before TechTarget, Reines was arts editor at the Marblehead Reporter.

Dig Deeper on Marketing and sales

Content Management
Unified Communications
Data Management
Enterprise AI