Salesforce Debuts New ‘Einstein’ A.I. Voice Assistant Features for the Workplace

November 19, 2019, 1:00 PM UTC
Salesforce Is Trying To Give 'Einstein' A Voice.
Salesforce Is Trying To Give 'Einstein' A Voice.Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images
Erik McGregor—LightRocket via Getty Images

Salesforce is hoping that business workers will start asking the company’s Einstein-branded software to project sales forecasts, instead of manually fiddling with the software to do so.

The enterprise software giant revealed on Tuesday several new features intended to make its Einstein product more akin to a business-focused version of voice-activated software, like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant. Salesforce debuted the new software as part of the company’s annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, Calif.

Salesforce’s push into voice-interactive software underscores how tech giants like Amazon, Apple, and Google all believe voice-activated digital assistants represent the next wave of how people interact with computers and other devices.

But while voice technology has caught on with consumers who are increasingly asking their internet-connected speakers like the Amazon Echo to tell them the weather or play songs, it hasn’t taken off in corporate offices. 

One reason business workers aren’t using voice-technology as often as consumers is because “smart speakers have not had the adoption inside businesses as they have had in the home,” said Salesforce president and chief product officer Bret Taylor during a press briefing on Monday.  

“I don’t think we’re going to sit and pretend there’s a smart speaker in every business today,” Taylor said. 

That’s why Salesforce, Amazon, Microsoft, and other companies debuted the Voice Interoperability Initiative in September as a way to ensure that multiple voice-activated digital assistants work well with each other. Via the initiative, Saleforce’s Einstein assistant can now work with Amazon Alexa, which Taylor and other Salesforce executives explained will make it possible to use Einstein via the online retail giant’s Echo speakers. The hope is that this initiative leads to more compelling uses of voice-assistants and smart speakers in corporate offices, among other benefits.

To dream up more corporate-uses of voice technology, Salesforce is adding a feature, to debut in February 2020 as part of a testing or beta period, that will let business developers build “skills” for the Einstein assistant. It’s similar to how third-party developers can build skills for Amazon’s Alexa, but instead of creating commands that set appliance timers, Salesforce is hoping corporate coders can create Einstein apps that focus on business tasks. Tasks like this could include giving Einstein the ability to automatically update certain fields in sales databases when asked to do so. 

Salesforce also plans to debut its Service Cloud Voice product to aid customer service employees, like call center workers, who can use the tool to retrieve information or guidance when talking to customers on the phone. That service, which will debut as a test or pilot version in February 2020, comes amid competition from many companies like Google, Amazon, and Twilio, all of which recently released contact center software with A.I. features that perform feats like automatically transcribing calls.  

Another Einstein feature that Salesforce plans to debut to the wider public in June 2020 will analyze sales call transcripts so that sales managers can learn information including the number of times workers mention the name of a competitor.

It’s unclear whether Salesforce’s efforts will convince more businesses to use voice-activated digital assistants at work. One reporter during the media briefing remarked about the lack of compelling uses of the interface at work, and said that it often appears like “technology looking for a solution.”

But Taylor maintained he’s optimistic about the use of voice technologies on the job, describing the method as “an intuitive way to get data from complex sources.” 

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