On Wednesday, Salesforce announced the next generation of its Service Cloud Einstein, which combines the company's CRM with three services that tap artificial intelligence (AI) and guided processes to help companies improve customer service through automation. Companies can use Einstein Bots for Service, now generally available, to automate routine service requests, according to a press release. The bots can respond to a customer request immediately, and gather basic information from the customer to free up an agent's time, as well as hand off customers to the right agent when needed. The bots use machine learning and natural language processing to improve after every customer interaction, the release noted. Lightning Flow for Service, also generally available, helps businesses deliver guided service processes, which take customers through self-service interactions, according to the release. The service also guides how an agent works through fulfilling requests and resolving issues, removing some of the guesswork from interactions with customers. IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research). Then, Einstein Next Best Action—currently in beta —uses rules-based and predictive models to provide customer service agents with smart, contextual recommendations for customers, the release said. These actions can alert agents to these recommendations directly within the Service Cloud console, leading to faster case resolution as well as upsell opportunities, according to the release. Together, these three services can enhance the customer experience, the release said. It offered the example of a customer who loses their credit card and goes to the company website for help. An Einstein Bot will initiate a chat session, and gather initial details about the customer and what happened. Then, the bot will pass the chat thread on to a human agent to speed up the card replacement process. A Lightning Flow workflow then takes the agent and the customer through a step-by-step process to resolve the issue. Finally, Einstein Next Best Action will examine the conversation and the customer's history, and suggest that the agent inform the customer that they qualify for free travel insurance. The agent can do so, closing the loop, and can then move on to the next case. Salesforce launched its Einstein AI platform back in 2016, with the goal of infusing AI throughout its clouds. Continuing to leverage AI in this suite of products can only help Salesforce hold onto its lead in the CRM space, as more enterprises look to use the technology to improve processes. "Almost every company looking to compete on customer service is looking at how they can leverage AI, but for even large companies it's often a question of resources," Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research at Nucleus Research, said in the release. "With this release, Salesforce further accelerates time to value for companies that want to better understand and service customers by scaling Salesforce's expertise, depth and breadth of data, and AI models that are laser focused and trained for customer interaction."
Salesforce is making its automated Einstein bots generally available for conversations with customers on websites and apps today. Einstein bots and a series of conversational AI services were first introduced for a pilot program last year at Dreamforce. Process automation tool Lightning Flow, which also debuted at Dreamforce last year, is also being made generally available today. Einstein bots are launching without a voice input option or ability to share photos or videos, features increasingly common on other bot platforms. In the future, Einstein bots may be available for additional channels, such as SMS messages or Apples Business Chat, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat. Salesforces bots are being made available years after companies like Facebook Messenger became smitten with the idea of reshaping interactions between customers and businesses. Others now in the space include WhatsApp Business, Androids RCS messaging, Twitter, Microsofts Bing Business Bot Service, and more traditional players like LivePerson or 7.ai. Einstein customer service bots can incorporate intelligence from the Salesforce CRM system and can be programmed to carry out automated conversations or hand off a conversation to a human agent. Building these chatbots does not require coding, and they are able to handle natural language interactions, as well as buttons or blurbs of text customers can tap or click. Conversations can be managed with Salesforces Live Agent chat software or Service Cloud console. In a handoff, the language recommended to a customer service agent can take into account where the conversation is taking place. It is both context-aware and channel-aware, so this is a chat channel — this is not a phone, this is not email, its not an interaction on Twitter. This is chat, and that drives the guidance you may give to the agent. You may want to show different flows or variances of these flows in different channels, Salesforce VP Marco Casalaina told VentureBeat in a phone interview. Salesforce Service Cloud console with Lightning Flow and Next Best Action on the left and right. Einstein Agent and Einstein Answers, which also debuted at Dreamforce, are still pilot programs. Another pilot program underway for Next Best Action provides recommendations in real time during conversations, based on a combination of rules from human managers and predictive machine intelligence. In addition to being able to guide the actions of customer service agents with bots, Lighting Flows and Next Best Action can be embedded into areas like a website or forums for customer self-service. With Next Best Action — based on data from a customer and from other customers with similar attributes — Einstein may recommend that a bot or agent take a specific action, like suggesting an upsell or offering a discount or fee waiver to retain a customer. MyEinstein allows the use of out-of-box Einstein solutions or custom AI models. There is no standard prediction that we could make for attrition, because everybody defines attrition differently. And so thats an inherently custom prediction that our customers can now make, Casalaina said. The Einstein platform for AI from Salesforce first made its debut in September 2016. Earlier this year, it surpassed 1 billion predictions a day. In total, Einstein now offers 30 AI services, a number that may increase later this year as Dreamforce is scheduled to take place Sept. 25-28 in San Francisco.