Artificial intelligence (AI) had a coming out party of sorts in 2016. Even though it has been in development for decades, this year, with the perfect combination of cheap computing power and access to increasing amounts of data, it seems AI’s time has come.
Its first foray in business has been directed at making salespeople more efficient at every level of the sales workflow. If you think about it, it makes sense to start with the part of the company that drives revenue. Certainly the vendors recognize that, says Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research, who is working on the impact of AI on work.
* Conversica, a company that has built a virtual sales assistant on top of artificial intelligence underpinnings, land a $34 million investment. The tool takes advantage of natural language processing, an inference engine and natural language generation — fairly sophisticated AI technology — to undertake initial email contact with sales leads.
* Tact, a company started by a CRM industry veteran, raised $15 million to apply intelligence to the planning and execution part of a salesperson’s day. Using AI, it aims to help sales staff work in a more logical and efficient way, rather than be slaves to their CRM tools.
Tact can be summoned from any of salespeople’s favorite connected devices, whether an iOS and Android phone, Amazon Alexa, or other smart platforms. Tact’s AI capabilities turn devices into conversational assistants. With the ease of one scan, swipe, text or voice-command, Tact integrates all of your most important databases like LinkedIn, Salesforce and phone contacts. Stop wasting time switching screens or logging into different apps.
Tact surfaces customer history when most needed, whether in a customer call, email, or meeting. This arms the seller with rich customer profiles, reminding them of their past interactions with whomever they are engaging with. The platform is easy to configure, automatically bringing in all CRM customizations, common objects and records, custom fields, record types and layouts
Salesforce Einstein isn’t so much a product as a technology umbrella under which all of Salesforce’s artificial intelligence pieces live. Being a Salesforce announcement, it is of course broad and includes lots of individual components, but the gist here is that Salesforce wants to use every aspect of its platform to take the complexity out of AI, giving Salesforce CRM an intelligence blast, while exposing the AI APIs to let customers build intelligent apps on the Salesforce platform.
The company pulled together 175 data scientists to help create Salesforce Einstein, while leveraging acquisitions such as MetaMind, PredictionIO and RelateIQ. In fact, MetaMind founder Richard Socher, holds the title of Chief Data Scientist at Salesforce now. Salesforce Einstein will touch every one of its products in some way eventually
Among the AI pieces it is including in the platform are advanced machine learning, deep learning, predictive analytics, natural language processing and smart data discovery.
AI will enable sales reps to increase productivity thanks to predictive capabilities across everything they do. They will have more time to focus on their prospects and to create opportunities. Einstein sends automatic reminder tasks (recommended Follow-Ups) to the user in order to follow back up with customers who haven’t responded to emails. Sales reps never have to worry about losing touch with important prospects.
A new predictive customer service will improve the customer satisfaction reducing the time to successfully close a case.
- Case classification algorithm: based on user histories and trends, a case can be routed with instructions to agents on how to address the issue
- Recommended responses: based on case context and history, Salesforce provides recommended answers, ensuring customers can quickly get the right way to their questions
- Predictive close time: it helps your support team route, escalate and prioritize work by predicting the time needed to resolve an issue
Marketing and Analytics Cloud
Thanks to analytics tools that predict the optimal timing, channel, content and audience for any marketing message, marketers can leverage:
- Predictive scoring: gauge when a customer will engage with an email, unsubscribe from an email list, or make a web purchase
- Predictive audiences: cluster customers based on Predictive Scoring in order to drive customers to the next level of engagement or conversion
- Automated send-time optimization: maximize email marketing ROI by automatically delivering their messages exactly when subscribers are most likely to engage
- Language insights: detect and classify what language a post was authored in, giving marketers the ability to harness all conversations about a particular topic
In addition, Analytics Cloud Einstein will help users answer these core questions: what happened, why it happened, what will happen, and what I should do thanks to these exciting features:
- Intelligent wave apps: it will uncover future patterns for every business process, pointing out which key findings are important to examine, why they are significant and what to do next
- Smart data discovery: it will help users find and explain insights from millions of data combinations
- Automated storytelling: it will automate and prioritize the next insight users need to know with smart charts and widgets, as well as narrate it with natural language support
Customer experience has been enhanced thanks to:
Topics recommendation: suggested posts, articles, and topic pages to the customer
Automated service escalation: Automatic case creation for customer posts that don’t receive a timely response or that contain specific words (i.e. “broken”)
With the Commerce Cloud platform, Salesforce can provide shopping recommendations, relevant products, and customized search:
- Product Recommendations: Unique, personalized recommendations throughout the shopper journey, based on previous interactions with the e-commerce or the shop
- Predictive Email: tailored content with products of interest for individual emails
Although Einstein is still in a start-up phase, we can already guess the benefits:
- No need to hire Data Scientist: a homemade AI software requires an equip of data scientist. They are professional figures difficult to find on the market and very expensive. Einstein itself will be the Data Scientist
- No need to design your own predictive models: Einstein will do it for you, providing the model that most fits your needs
- Your CRM will be increasingly accurate: Data is the main fuel for the AI. It means your CRM will learn and will be more accurate every time it receives new Data
- It will simplify your daily work: it will not perform the work on your behalf, but it will propose possible solutions and alternatives, speeding up your daily work. It’s like when Google notifies you the total time to go to your job place. It does not really know you are going there, but it predicts based on your daily movements
- Your customer will be enthusiastic (for consultants): it’s the future! How can’t you customer be enthusiastic?
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.