Salesforce Goes AI For CRM On A Slow Sunday

Salesforce took the wraps off a new product called Einstein yesterday, using a variety of human beings to explain the glories and ramifications of AI for CRM to reporters who are themselves, no doubt, looking over their shoulders at bots that can sift through reams of information, boil it all down to its 700-word essence and turn a clever phrase to grab your attention.

“If you have hundreds or thousands of sales prospects on a list, how do you tell the potential winners from the duds? Salesforce says its Marketing Cloud’s Predictive Scoring will prioritize which prospects are most likely to actually write a check over the tire kickers,” writes Barb Darrow for Fortune.

“Every sales person wants to sell more, they want more qualified leads, not window shoppers,” says Richard Socher, chief scientist at Salesforce, writes Darrow. “We combine CRM information with e-mail and calendar data. We can detect if a competitor is mentioned on an email thread.”



Artificial Intelligence techniques are already used in an array of products we’re all familiar with, of course. “The tools help facial recognition on Facebook and Google uses them to pick the right pictures from its Photos app,” writes Bloomberg’s Brian Womack. 

But you ain’t seen nothing yet.

“There is an absolute revolution occurring in artificial intelligence. This is democratizing AI so that every company can benefit from these techniques,” says general manager John Ball. 

“The promise of AI is growing as it benefits from an explosion of digital data and increasingly powerful computing through the cloud, Ball said. Salesforce is well-positioned because its clients are constantly generating information that machines can analyze and learn from,” Womack writes.

“AI is out of reach for the vast majority of companies because it's really hard,” Ball posited at a press conference last week.

“With Einstein, Salesforce aims to change all that. Billing the technology as ‘AI for everyone,’ it's putting Einstein's capabilities into all its clouds, bringing machine learning, deep learning, predictive analytics, and natural language processing into each piece of its customer relationship management platform,” reports IDG News Services’ Katherine Noyes for PC World.

“The strongest aspect of Einstein is that it is deeply embedded in the platform, it's just working automatically,” says Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who founded the company in 1999, writesUSA Today’s Marco della Cava.

“Among the decidedly more consequential examples of Einstein's usefulness is one that involves medical care,” della Cava writes.  “[Salesforce’s chief scientist Richard] Socher explains that radiology companies using Salesforce Einstein can surface for hospitals X-rays showing the most dire conditions based on abnormalities detected by the computer. ‘There, you're talking about the difference between life or death for someone, he says.”

The company employs about 175 data scientists under Socher, the founder of MetaMind, which Salesforce acquired last year.

“The company said Einstein is based on technology and talent purchased in nine acquisitions,” reports Rachael King for the Wall Street Journal, including relationship-intelligence company RelateIQ, sales-intelligence startup Implisit Insights, data discovery firm BeyondCore, predictive-scheduling firm Tempo and MetaMind, which focused on deep learning. 

“We spent about $700 million in the past three years buying the best AI teams and data scientists in the industry,” Alex Dayon, president and chief-product officer at Salesforce, says, King reports.

So what, exactly, can Salesforce do for you?

“A feature called Predictive Lead Scoring, where a machine learning model analyzes industry and engagement data, is designed to help sales reps focus on the most promising lead,” writes Rob Martin for PC. “You can also use predictive scoring in other areas of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, such as gauging prospective customer response to an email marketing campaign. In that scenario, Einstein could return results based on common customer behaviors and deliver advice like automated send-time optimization based on when subscribers have been historically most engaged. Another CRM AI feature called Opportunity Insights analyzes customer interactions such as inbound emails to alert sales reps to which way a deal is trending.”

It’s always a great idea to roll out news such as this on a Sunday. Bronx politician John Dearie used to get front-of-the-paper coverage with the most inconsequential proclamations a generation ago; Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is a master of the craft today.

“Say what you will about Salesforce, the company is always looking ahead,” Ron Miller’s tells us up front in TechCrunch. He goes on to point out that the timing of the Einstein announcement “just ahead of rival Oracle’s Open World keynote address, is probably not a coincidence.”

It’s also a bit ahead of the curve with solutions that most of its customers may not yet be ready to implement, Miller suggests at the end of his piece, “but in typical Salesforce fashion, it wants to be there whenever customers are ready.”

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