While futuristic fantasies like HBO’s Westworld remain a ways off, we’re nonetheless living in a world increasingly shaped by artificial intelligence. From the algorithms Google uses to determine the most relevant search results to the technology driving voice assistants like Alexa and Siri, big businesses are using AI in the background of our everyday lives—whether we’re aware of it or not.
AI isn’t just touching our consumer lives; it’s helping small businesses interact with their customers in new and exciting ways as well. A key example of this is CRM solution provider Salesforce, which recently launched Einstein, a set of advanced AI capabilities that fully integrate into each of Salesforce’s products. Einstein’s customizable models learn from every interaction to deliver valuable insights and predictions to even the smallest companies.
“Einstein is taking AI, which might sound a little out of reach to most small businesses, and making it accessible to everyone,” says Jamie Domenici, vice president of small-and-medium business marketing at San Francisco–based Salesforce.
Here, Domenici explains how small businesses can tap into the power of AI and shares where she thinks the technology is headed.
How are small-business owners approaching AI right now?
The first thing that we find is that people at small businesses are thinking, “Yeah, that’s probably not for me. It sounds too complicated and expensive.” In fact, we conducted a survey of small businesses, and 61% said they aren’t ready for AI. They believe it’s too complex for what they need. That’s usually where the conversations start, but then I dig a little deeper.
The truth is most folks just don’t understand what AI really is, and that’s where Einstein comes into play. The technology is now embedded in every single product we have, in a very natural way. It’s not another thing that small businesses have to try and figure out; it’s right where they are and right where they work. They’re empowered by the technology to make smarter, faster, and more productive decisions.
So once you dig into that next level, are people more receptive to using AI?
Nine times out of 10, after we’ve explained what the technology is capable of, people say, “Oh, I need that.” They realize that AI has the ability to alleviate some pains that they didn’t know there were even solutions for.
Just look at the move from client-server to the cloud. That changed the way small businesses work, by giving people the ability to work from anywhere, at any time. And then there was mobile and social—all these things gave us the ability to become smarter about how we’re working and connect with our customers in new ways. AI is no different. We’re filling that gap of explaining how it actually goes to work for you.
How can small businesses in particular benefit from the technology?
Time is so valuable. Small businesses need to spend the little time they have speaking with the right people. Let’s say you’re growing a business and trying to build demand for your product. You go to South by Southwest, and you come away with 500 sales leads on which to follow up.
The thing is, you don’t have 500 employees to call and connect with all of them individually—you only have one or two. Rummaging through those leads takes a lot of time, and the hot leads usually get caught somewhere in the middle of the pile. But now you can use AI algorithms to prioritize the highest-value leads—we call it Einstein Lead Scoring—and only spend time and resources on the ones likely to pay off.
Similarly, you can use Einstein Opportunity Insights to get recommended next-best actions based on customer sentiment, competitor involvement, and overall prospect engagement. So now you can make sure to engage with the right customer, at the right time. It’s that same technology working in the background. Einstein can help you prioritize and maximize your resources. It’s almost like having a data scientist that sits on your payroll—someone who you don’t actually have to pay!
It seems like this is just the beginning. What does the next stage with AI look like?
The sky is the limit. I say that kind of jokingly, but I think it’s true. I’m amazed by all the innovations we’re delivering on, but something specific I’m really excited about—and excited to see how it plays within our small-business community as well—is Einstein Vision.
How does this work? Well, let’s say you’re a solar roofing company. You make your quotes based on roof type—a pitched roof or a flat roof. You could actually use Einstein Vision to have your CRM system connect to Google Street View and “look” at the roof in question, make a determination, and then automatically update your system, putting you one step ahead of your competitors.
I think that’s the future, continuing to make it easier for people to do their jobs and connect with their customers by aggregating information that’s already available into their systems.
This article was created for and commissioned by Salesforce.