The move is in part a response to the rapid spread of smart speakers in the consumer world, but also reflects a growing trend for business applications to support conversational input, whether by voice or through messaging apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams.
Einstein Voice allows people to talk to Salesforce CRM, either as internal users of the application, or as external customers of an organization that uses the platform.
Take a note, Einstein Voice
For internal users, a new Einstein Voice Assistant is being added to Salesforce, giving them the option to perform certain tasks conversationally. For example, a salesperson will be able to dictate a note directly into Salesforce on their mobile phone, and the software will not only transcribe their notes but also understand what needs to happen next, such as updating a customer record, notifying colleagues, or initiating a follow-up action.
Users will also be able to control Salesforce dashboards with voice commands, which is likely to be most useful in meetings, although some users may find it just as convenient when applying make-up or shaving. Finally, admins will be able to set up daily briefings that a smart speaker then delivers to users, giving them the latests stats on sales, prospects, priority cases or marketing insights.
Customer service via smart speakers
For external users, Einstein Voice Bots will make it easier for Salesforce customers to add a voice interface so that their customers can interact with them using smart speakers or other conversational channels. Salesforce admins will be able to build voice-powered bots using a point-and-click toolkit and deploy them straight away on the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Smart speakers will soon become an important channel for consumers to interact with companies, believes Ally Witherspoon, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Einstein:
We believe that smart speakers and voice bots will be the next service channel. Because smart speakers are so ubiquitous, customers will just come to expect customer service from the smart speakers that they already get so much value from.
The announcements come a few days before the start of the company's big Dreamforce event next week, and have been timed to coincide with the anniversary of Einstein's introduction, two years ago today. The new functionality packages up capabilities that already exist in the Einstein platform, but brings them into the application layer ready-to-use.
Better trained than Alexa
As with other Einstein capabilities, the AI continually learns as it is used, so over time will get better at recognizing names, products and phrases that are specific to each individual Salesforce instance. This learning ability, combined with its CRM-specific environment, means that Einstein Voice will understand and respond in conversation much more accurately than general-purpose voice assistants such as Alexa.
Einstein Voice is activated for a user's account and does not recognize individual voices, so users must be careful not to leave a dashboard session open where others might take over control without their supervision, for example when they leave a conference room. However if voice-level security is important they have the option of logging in via a smart speaker system that recognizes individual voices, such as Alexa.
After Microsoft made its own AI for CRM announcements yesterday, Salesforce must be pleased to have a crowd-pleaser to talk about today. Even though it's already been possible for some time to build a voice interface to Salesforce using third-party add-ons, bringing this natively into the platform is going to considerably widen take-up where it's useful.
Some will say this is a gimmick, but Salesforce seems to have been careful to limit the functionality to areas where you can easily see the use cases. Particularly in the sales environment, being able to make notes and have them interpreted by a smart assistant delivers a clear productivity win. You can also see the benefit when navigating dashboards in a conference room, or getting a daily update while driving for example. Other areas of the application where the use cases would be less obvious, such as the admin console, are not being voice-enabled.
It's one more step towards harnessing the convenience of intelligent automation, and as such a fitting tribute on the two-year anniversary of Salesforce Einstein.