Microsoft’s AI Copilot for Sales and Service now generally available

Microsoft Copilot, the company’s AI assistant first unveiled almost a year ago powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4, is steadily infiltrating all of the various product lines of one of the world’s most valuable tech companies, and it won’t stop until it’s reached “every role and function,” according to a post on the social network X (formerly Twitter) by CEO Satya Nadella.

This week, Microsoft announced the general availability of two new, sector-specific versions of Copilot:

  1. Copilot for Sales — a product first announced in November 2023 at Microsoft’s Ignite event, is meant to connect the Copilot AI conversational assistant to two leading customer relationship management (CRM) systems used extensively by sales teams around the world, Salesforce’s Sales Cloud and Microsoft’s own Dynamics 365 Sales CRM.
  2. Copilot for Service — a product also previewed at Ignite and then released in initial preview in Devember, is designed to aid call centers and customer service personnel

Until now, both products had been only offered in preview availability to select Microsoft customers such as Avanade, the business solutions and software provider joint venture formed by Accenture and Microsoft nearly 24 years ago.

Already, the preview versions have been well received, according to Microsoft.

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How Copilot for Sales is helping teams save time

In a company blog post by Emily He, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of business applications marketing, Avanade was said to be using Copilot for Sales for “capabilities like updating Dynamics 365 Sales records from Outlook, summarizing email threads, generating email drafts, and summarizing meetings with conversation intelligence. These AI capabilities have helped Avanade employees show their clients that they are top of mind, while helping them work more productively.

Microsoft also linked back to an older blog post from November 2023 in which various Avanade employees extoll the virtues of Copilot for Sales, including summarizing long email threads that they estimated saved employees half hour to an hour per week. They also stated its accessibility features were helpful for neurodiverse employees, though didn’t say exactly how.

Copilot for Sales costs $50 per user per month paid annually, according to Microsoft’s pricing information — though existing Copilot for Microsoft 365 users can get the sales-specific version atop it $20 per user per month. Meanwhile, Dynamics 365 Sales Premium must pay an extra $30 per user per month for access to Copilot for Sales.

Copilot for Service ‘unlocks an organization’s trusted knowledge’

One of the first and so far, bumpiest implementations of generative AI for enterprises has been for customer service interactions. Remember the recent examples of car dealerships using ChatGPT for customer service chatbots only to have customers begin tricking them into massive discounts and also running entirely unrelated operations?

Still, it makes total sense why enterprise decision-makers and business leaders would be tempted to use GenAI for this purpose: we’ve had customer service chatbots already for many years prior to the generative AI era, mostly based on the same kind of decision tree mechanics as phone banks, and customers seem to accept them — though many begrudgingly and sometimes as merely a barrier to getting in touch with a human agent.

Well, along comes Microsoft now with Copilot for Service, intending to offer a more reliable and less hilariously vulnerable AI tool for customer service.

Copilot for Service is designed to operate more on the back-end rather than a front-end tool, aiding human customer service and response personnel by giving them access to information from multiple disparate sources across their organization without them having to go peck and hunt it down and switch between different apps, databases, wikis, manuals, or in some cases, “hundreds of knowledge articles,” online.

(Something like this would have been very helpful to me when I worked on content at Xerox, which has many helpful articles for customers to about how to troubleshoot printer and copier issues, for example).

Or as He puts in her blog post:

“Often, an organization’s knowledge is distributed across disparate systems—customer records and case histories in one or multiple CRM systems, along with information scattered across knowledge base articles, public websites, offline files, and more. As a result, agents are tasked with navigating multiple apps to not only access critical insights, but also then manage their engagement with customers, collaborate with internal teams, and take action...

Without costly development time, organizations can simply point to their data and, in a few minutes, unlock generative AI-powered conversations across their knowledge bases. And for agents, they can tap into this knowledge with a copilot embedded directly in their desktop software of choice such as Salesforce, as well as the other tools they already use every day like Outlook and Teams.”

Fittingly then, Copilot for Sales’ general availability today includes integrations with common customer support tools and apps including Salesforce, ServiceNow, and Zendesk, which the Copilot can sift through for data relevant to the customer service rep’s specific conversation, product or service issue, or other task.

Microsoft is also promising to release “additional features in Microsoft 365 apps beginning later this month that will integrate data from CRM systems like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service and Salesforce Service Cloud,” such as email summarization and generation, scheduling meetings, and summarize customer cases.

Like Copilot for Sales, Copilot for Service is already being used in preview by selected customers such as tax service firm RSM, where an employee had this to say about how it was working out: “Six months ago, we launched a pilot focused on leveraging Microsoft Copilot for Service and Microsoft Copilot Studio, which provides a framework to build AI-enabled business processes. We have been working to execute against use cases for our own business with a focus on practical AI, and we are thrilled to now be in a position to bring this productivity enhancing technology to help clients implement AI for their businesses.”

Like Copilot for Sales, Copilot for Service is available for $50 per user per month when paid annually, or $20 per user per month for existing Copilot for Microsoft 365 users.

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