Salesforce Brings Einstein-Driven ‘Next Best Action’ to Sales Agents

Salesforce.com has updated Service Cloud Einstein with advanced bots for handling routine customer inquiries and guided services, such as Next Best Action, to help customer service agents identify products and services customers may be ready to purchase.

Salesforce Sales Cloud Einstein

Salesforce.com on July 11 introduced Einstein Next Best Action, the latest addition to its array of cloud services that use artificial intelligence to help salespeople sell more by identifying potential customer needs.

Salesforce had already announced and been piloting some of these cloud services, including Einstein Bots for Service, which are customized service chatbots that use natural language processing to understand and automatically respond to customer requests in a chat session.

Einstein Bots for Service was released in full production to customers on July 11 while Salesforce is releasing Einstein Next Best Action service for beta tests by customers.

The introduction of these news services comes at a time when a growing number of software companies are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance their products and to boost sales by anticipating what their customers want.

“Think about how you used a paper map in the old days and now services like Google Maps and Waze know where you are going and will reroute you the most efficient way using AI,” Bobby Amezaga, senior director for Salesforce Service Cloud Product Marketing, told eWEEK. “Today the customer expects service agents to know everything and we want to empower them with easy to use tools.”

Big data is the real power behind Service Cloud and for that matter Salesforce’s Customer Relationship Management platform. Companies are collecting more information on customers and potential customers than ever before, from transactions, to visits to websites and activity on social media.

Service Cloud helps contact center personnel harness that data. Einstein Next Best Action uses rules-based and predictive models to provide agents with intelligent, contextual recommendations and special offers for customers.

The service could, for example, tell the agent the next best action to take with a customer who is online looking to renew or cancel a credit card based on their purchasing history and other information. It could be an offer to waive the annual fee or get a card with more features in exchange for renewing.

Einstein Bots for Service handles routine service requests online, such as replacing a lost credit card, store hours, and how to return an item, freeing up sales representatives to focus more on unique customer service requests and other issues.

If the request gets too complicated the bot hands off to a human agent with an up-to-date record of the customer’s interactions so the agent is up to speed and the customer isn’t asked to repeat information.

In a demonstration of the service for eWEEK, Marco Casalaina, Salesforce.com vice president of product management, said the company designed the system so that the bots’ responses are always briefly delayed to appear more natural. “We put a few milliseconds delay in their so people don’t get freaked out,” said Casalaina, vice president of product management for Einstein on the Service Cloud.

The Einstein Bots use machine learning and natural language to respond to queries and over time “learns” the most efficient or effective ways to respond to queries.

Amezaga said the new services can help sales, but that isn’t the only reason customers are interested in deploying them. “Customer service is a cost generator and reputation enhancer,” he said.

Salesforce also announced the availability of Lightning Flow for Service which gives companies the ability to create wizards or online guided services that customers can use in a self-service context such as returning a purchase, for example. Companies can also create wizards that help sales agents through specific workflows and customer interactions.

Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wettemann said big companies with data scientists and a lot of resources can create similar services to what Salesforce is doing with Einstein, but it’s far more expensive and time-consuming to produce.

“I think what we see with Einstein in the service space is that Salesforce is putting these capabilities in the hands of companies that wouldn’t otherwise have the resources to do it,” Wettemann told eWEEK. “The Einstein AI is already trained for service data and Salesforce is able to deliver something useful out of the box leveraging the customer’s own data.

“The whole key with adoption of new technology like this is to get it in the hands of people who can use it and test it in manageable chunks,” she continued. “Will company X use Einstein to make its most critical sales predictions today? Maybe not. But it lets a business or sales analyst see that they can do 15 things Einstein has been tested for, get their feet wet and start to see benefits.”

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...