Hey Einstein, Brian Solis is talking to you. And you're talking back

Brian Solis, one of the leading influencers in the business technology world, opines on Salesforce, Einstein and Voice. Listen to hear and talk to him. Or talk to Salesforce Einstein.

Hey all, Happy New Year! As you probably can guess, I'm heads down and deep into the CRM Watchlist 2020 submissions so rather than leave you out in the cold (and depending on where you are it IS cold) I thought that I'd start the new year just right with the pitch perfect Brian Solis kicking it off with a guest post.

I'm pretty sure that you know who Brian Solis is. And if you don't, then it's on you.  But just in case, I figured that I would give you an introduction to the guy who qualifies as a legend in parts of the business world.  As jokey as I get, no joke here.

Brian is not only a dear friend, but he is the man who you can point to and say: Brian revolutionized the PR industry by bringing social into it. Of course, as a result of him doing that, he gained his own celebrity and thus Hollywood got attracted to him.  Check out the forewords to his earlier books and you will see they are by Ashton Kutcher and Katy Couric. That reflects the kind of impact he had on an entire industry. Hollywood provides the moths to the lights.

But he is SO much more than that. Brian is an expert in not just customer experience, but design and user interfaces and the user experience. He's an expert in making your personal digital life something that isn't toxic but instead is valuable by knowing when to dial it down, dial it up, reduce the stress and increase the effectiveness of your digital life. He is also a thought leader who focuses on digital transformation and annually, while still with Prophet/Altimeter, did a survey that was an industry standard when it came to valid work on the state of digital transformation (most recent edition here) - without any of the typically included hype or misdirection and misinterpretation of the term.  The work was/is the real deal.

The intersection of all of this has led Brian to a deep understanding of the enterprise technology market - especially the CRMish, CX, customer engagement world and the vendors within. 

The other thing? The man has a big big heart and is loved by those who know him. 

So what better way for me to kick off the new year than with one of Brian's cogent observations on something in the enterprise tech world that encompasses all of his expertise in one place. Salesforce, Einstein and voice.

So, Happy New Year, all of you folks out there, and take it away, Mr. Solis.


"Alexa, what are the most important trends in customer calls with our sales reps?"

"Brian, according to real-time analysis of this customer call, here are the following recommendations and next best actions to help." - Siri

Voice is part of our everyday life. Whether it's Alexa, OK Google, or Siri, how we communicate with devices and information is not only becoming conversational, it's changing our behaviors and expectations as a result. Now, asking questions, searching for information, interacting with apps and services, and making decisions is much more intuitive, productive and natural. It was just a matter a time until conversational interfaces would permeate the enterprise.

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Brian Solis

In 2019, I was introduced to Aera Technology and the concept of the Self-Driving Enterprise. In an interview with CEO Frederic Laluyaux, I learned how Aera connects disparate (and aging) ERP systems to introduce a next generation cognitive layer that connects data, insights and people in an on-demand operational model. Aera provides Google-like indexing capabilities with an Alexa-style interface. At one point in our conversation Laluyaux picked up his iPhone and asked, "What's my forecast?"  Instantly, a professional, yet friendly voice responded, "On track at $1.2B with an additional $134M revenue opportunity. Do you want the regional breakdown?" 

By connecting disparate data, and through voice and AI, Aera is essentially creating a digital brain for the enterprise. It becomes the repository for knowledge and IP, one that serves as a cognitive operating system and enhances human decision-making. It'll only get smarter and more efficient over time.

Shortly after meeting with Aera, I attended Dreamforce 2019. At the event, Salesforce announced that it was bringing AI-powered voice capabilities to every customer and employee experience across the Salesforce Customer 360 Platform. Like Amazon Echo's "Alexa," the voice prompt, "Hey Einstein," became the call sign of the event, with Einstein-powered voice apps, skills and intelligence literally giving a voice to its entire ecosystem.

While Aera is automating the back office and leading the industry in creating a "Self-Driving Enterprise," Salesforce is championing the automation of CRM and the front office. And with the incredible footprint and momentum Salesforce has in the industry, it will bring a level of attention to voice automation that will accelerate evolution and adoption.

Between Aera, Salesforce and the rest of the enterprise vendors who follow, it's clear that 2020 will be the year that enterprise data gets a voice.

Hey Einstein: How do we deliver better user experiences and ultimately CX through voice?

At Dreamforce 2019, Salesforce announced three new pillars of Einstein Voice, its enterprise voice platform. Each layer is aimed at ushering in a voice-enabled enterprise that leads to radical improvements in optimizing data input, user engagement and insights:

Einstein Voice Skills empowers admins and developers to build custom, voice-powered Salesforce apps tailored to any role or industry, giving every employee a personalized CRM guide.

Service Cloud Voice integrates telephony into a unified agent console, enabling Einstein to offer recommendations and next best actions in real-time to improve service experiences.

Einstein Call Coaching helps managers spot trends within conversational data and provide sales reps with the best practices and insights needed to optimize every customer call.

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Prototype Einstein Smart Speaker

Marc Benioff

Salesforce Partners with Amazon to Bring Alexa-functionality to Einstein Voice

To help Einstein find its voice, Salesforce announced a partnership with Amazon to embed Einstein Voice functionality into Alexa devices. The company debuted a prototype Einstein smart speaker to showcase the new capabilities on stage. The company clarified that the smart speaker itself wasn't coming to market, but it sure was clever and honestly, quite adorable. 

In a demo during the mainstage keynote (see video above at  1:45:58), Salesforce Co-Founder Parker Harris asked the Einstein smart speaker, "Hey Einstein, what can you do?"

Einstein replied, with a curious British accent, "You can ask me for many of the amazing Einstein features like 'give me my account insights' or 'Einstein predict my quarterly forecast.' Note, that my capabilities are always growing."

The idea here is that Einstein will apply natural language processing to everyday workflow, across the entire Salesforce ecosystem, i.e. service, marketing, sales etc. Adding an AI-powered voice layer will help teams gather more valuable insights that drive smarter work and more personalized user and customer experiences.

Einstein Gets His Skills

Salesforce introduced Einstein Voice Skills for developers to immediately create custom voice apps, capabilities and experiences without needing any knowledge of voice technology. Beyond the skills for extracting insights from data, there will also be skills to improve data input and integration, the bane of any CRM system. As they say, the better the data, the better the insights and predictions.

The ease of incorporating new Einstein Voice Skills was demonstrated live on stage by Qingqing Liu, Principal Mobile Architect at Salesforce. Here's a quick demo (see video above at 1:48:14).

Einstein Call Coaching Connects Leaders to Conversational Trends

Beyond Einstein Voice Skills, Einstein Call Coaching will also offer executives new ways to extract insights on business processes, service cases, CSAT performance and more.

For instance, AI-powered natural language processing is coming to Sales Cloud to help give managers visibility into conversational data, i.e. what competitors are repeatedly coming up in calls? What are some of the most common questions asked? How are representatives responding? What products are customers asking most about? How are the best reps performing?

Beyond expediting access to this important information, leaders gain real-time insights necessary to expedite on trend strategy development, program execution and resulting measurement.

Einstein in the Service Center Will Automate Authentic Human Conversations

Improving employee experiences through voice and AI is just the beginning. Einstein Voice is also set to radically improve customer experience as well.

In the opening keynote, Harris along with chairman and co-CEO Marc Benioff demonstrated how AI-powered voice was set to transform CRM. Richard Socher, chief scientist at Salesforce, joined Harris and Benioff on stage where he was asked, "Can our customer's customer call and talk to Einstein?"

Socher responded with an affirmative, "Einstein will sit in the service center."

He then proceeded to share a real-world example of a common experience that could be fully automated by Einstein and its new Service Cloud Voice integration.

Socher called a fictitious car rental company after hours in an attempt to extend his rental period.  The system answered with a personalized greeting, "Hi Richard, I'm the digital assistant for Adventure Car Rentals. I'm here to help outside of business hours."

Socher then went on to demonstrate how the system could naturally interact with customers based on common scenarios while using customer data in real-time to personalize next best actions at every step. At one point, the system identified that his current class of vehicle wasn't available for the extended days, but it matched Socher's loyalty information with relevant inventory to upgrade him on the spot. Once everything was agreed upon, the system finalized the details and confirmed on all sides…all without human intervention. (see video above at 1:41:26)

Service Cloud Voice Coaches Representatives in the Moment

In reality, today's interactive voice response platforms (IVRs) leave customers feeling disenchanted and frustrated. Chat bots are still largely basic. Self-help knowledge bases are inhuman.

Voice and AI are starting to get to the heart of the matter…real-time, contextual, outcome-focused customer experiences. Add to this the ability to anticipate or predict customer needs, voice-powered automation offers the ability to combine personalization and humanization, especially when it counts.

This is where Service Cloud Voice can play a significant role while the rest of the cognitive enterprise takes shape. It integrates smart insights into critical moments of customer engagement. During customer calls, Salesforce's AI-powered NLP can assess real-time transcripts to help customer service agents serve up recommended responses, knowledge articles and next best actions in the moment. This connects customers to desired outcomes quicker and with greater accuracy giving customers a better support experience and leaving them satisfied.

Voice is the Now Frontier in the Future of Work and CRM

While this is a glimpse of the future of CRM, it is a future that's already starting to materialize.

AI-powered voice automation is changing the game for user and customer experiences. It's also changing how the workforce works and how customers interact with brands.

Voice and AI are fueling an IO renaissance, allowing for every employee and customer touchpoint to be reimagined. Adding voice and imagination to the mix, frees up cognitive resources to invent new work and customer experiences. CIOs, CDOs and CxOs must align technology and business value moving forward. They'll need help from vendors to separate hype from innovation and best practices.

As the real Einstein once said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."