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John Gorup

We will remember 2016 as the year Salesforce unveiled their artificial intelligence (AI) engine, Salesforce Einstein. Salesforce Einstein will use advanced machine learning, deep learning, predictive analytics, natural language processing and smart data discovery to infuse AI in the Salesforce platform. This is not just a list of technologies sewn together or Dreamforce hype. This represents the beginning of a major shift in how organizations run. When we understand the implications of AI, and think of how it will affect CRM, the hype is well-earned.

So what is AI?

At this point, AI may sound like something in a science fiction movie. But AI is very real, and will soon change every aspect of life. Perhaps the best way to think of how technology will change the future is to think of how it changed the past. To that end, futurist  Kevin Kelly compares the impact we’ll see from AI to how the invention of the internal combustion engine impacted life.

dream car

Here’s how it works. One way to look at what the internal combustion engine provides is “synthetic artificial power.” For farmers, “natural power” was the strength of their own body in pushing a plow or harvesting crops. The domestication of the horse created a big improvement in “natural power,” since horses could pull a plow much easier than a human could. But when the tractor came along, it had the power of hundreds of horses in one convenient machine. This, of course, changed everything. As Kelly explains to Russ Roberts in the Econtalk podcast, “We invented something called ‘synthetic artificial power.’ And we harnessed fossil fuels, and carbon fuels, to give additional power that we couldn’t do. And all that we see is basically a result of this artificial power.”

The same phenomenon will happen with AI, except it is mental power, rather than physical power, it is harnessing. As Kelly continues, “in addition to having 250 horses driving you down the road, you are going to have 250 minds — which we are going to get from AI.”

Why Salesforce Einstein will shape the future CRM.

Using Kelly’s metaphor, we can begin imagining how AI will change CRM. Imagine a sales rep having the equivalent of hundreds of diligent research assistants on her smartphone. The AI will predict which opportunities she is most likely to close, and what actions she should take to close them. Likewise, Imagine customer service reps solving customer issues before they even happen. Imagine marketing teams setting up campaigns, and letting the AI personalize the customer journey for each contact. Salesforce Einstein will make these kind of scenarios happen because it combines AI services and the data in your system to guide user behavior.

AI and the Worker Experience.

When tractors were invented, they replaced the horse (not the farmer.) Likewise, AI will not replace workers, but empower users to focus on customer success in ways they could never do before. Giving workers apps that help them be more efficient in their work will free them up to explore new strategies and activities. The net result will be an acceleration of what we call the Virtuous Cycle — the phenomenon where a better worker experience leads to a better customer experience.

Appirio has been a Salesforce partner for ten years. In that time we have seen Salesforce bring a consumer-like experience to what was once a tired business function. Salesforce Einstein promises to be the next great leap in CRM. Of course, like most innovations we’ll see Salesforce Einstein over the course of subsequent releases. In the meantime, it’s best to prepare for the future by looking into your own organization and imagining how this new technology can change the way you do business.

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