New Salesforce Service Cloud Einstein Brings AI to Contact Centers

Salesforce says it's using artificial intelligence to help contact centers respond more efficiently to customers.

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The role of the contact center and a company's service operation is changing. Once considered more of a cost center, potentially dragging profits down, more companies today see the connection to the customer as an opportunity to improve brand loyalty and sell more stuff.

"The contact center supervisor or manager today faces a huge dilemma of how to deal with the customer's rising expectations," Bobby Amezaga, senior director of cloud marketing at Salesforce.com, told eWEEK. "The supervisor is supposed to create an umbrella of efficiency, but there is also pressure to reduce costs while still providing a better customer experience."

Over the past several years, Salesforce has improved its Service Cloud offering, adding such features as a mobile web browser, social media and video chat. On Feb. 13, the company introduced Service Cloud Einstein—touted as the first "intelligent customer service platform."

The new release has three main components.

Intelligent Supervisor uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help managers see issues that are trending, such as a spike in calls related to a new product. An alert might show an increase in service calls for a specific type of home security system. A supervisor can drill further into the data where she might see all the cases involve security systems made during a three-month period at a specific factory. The company can then proactively alert other impacted customers and perhaps even send mobile employees to fix all of the potentially impacted systems before it becomes a larger service issue.

Predictive Case Management automatically escalates and classifies cases using machine learning. High-priority cases get routed to the next available agent, who quickly gets details of the case before talking to the customer.

The Intelligent Mobile Service (available for iOS, with Android support still in development) is designed to optimize scheduling, real-time access to inventory and work orders.

In a demo, Salesforce showed how Service Cloud Einstein can be proactive, suggesting, for example, an article that provides detailed information on how a product works be sent to a customer who has messaged the contact center.

For field service agents, the mobile app is designed so it can be used with one hand, and it is easy to flip to different areas such as a list of appointments or a map to a customer location.

The mobile app also works offline so you can, for example, capture a bar code, call up customer records, and edit and make changes that will be recorded once the device is reconnected online.

"New technologies are changing the game as we see the contact service center go more into intelligent automation," 451 Research analyst Sheryl Kingstone told eWEEK. "Salesforce Einstein adds a layer of machine learning that can improve operational performance by getting the right case to the right person automatically. It also deals with customers on a self-service basis for routine inquiries, and that helps the agent who can focus on the cases that require more direct support. Studies have shown customers want to use self-service, so Salesforce is playing right into that."

Kingstone said Salesforce competitors such as Oracle and SAP have big investments in machine learning, but she says the customer relationship management (CRM) leader is making it more broadly available.

"What Salesforce is doing is taking the complexity out of machine learning and embedding it in the application so you don't have to be a data scientist to develop something that works," she said.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...