Salesforce wants to let people do more talking and less typing. Last year, the company introduced a voice interface for its customer relationship management software that lets you talk through a variety of common tasks, like updating notes after a client meeting. Users who are conscientious about logging their activity “don’t want to go back to their computer,” says Salesforce president Bret Taylor. “They might want to do that from their car, from their smart speaker, even a microphone within their car.”
At today’s Dreamforce mega-convention in San Francisco, Salesforce is unveiling an expansion of its voice platform resembling Amazon’s Alexa in two ways. It can run on a range of devices, from smartphones (via a new mobile app) to a variety of smart speakers (including Amazon Echo. And it lets users create “skills”—in this case, crafting custom conversations with the software for specific tasks.
Saleforce showed the system to the press with an adorable (but, sadly, not for sale) smart speaker in the shape of Albert Einstein, whose surname and visage the company borrowed for its AI platform. Instead of saying something like “Alexa, what’s the weather forecast?” execs in a boardroom can ask “Hey Einstein, will Tony hit his sales targets this quarter?” Einstein Voice comes with a bevy of preprogrammed skills, like asking for sales forecasts in a board meeting, or updating salespeople about a client as they drive to an appointment.
The software lets people create their own skills for any task with a point-and-click interface, no coding required. “The requirements of a marketer are very different than the requirements of someone who runs a call center, which are very different than a CEO’s,” says Taylor. “The folks who are setting up all your business systems can create the right conversations for the right people.”