Salesforce is getting more serious with its plays within the market of customer experience (CX) services powered by generative AI (GenAI).
Salesforce recently acquired Airkit.AI, a Silicon Valley-based startup which develops virtual customer service agents using generative AI.
Airkit’s technology is expected to complement Einstein GPT, Salesforce’s own low-code AI platform for CRM, launched in March.
CX providers have used AI technology for years, mostly for massive data analysis. Generative AI is different, though. It is expected to be a major disruptor in the industry because it enables companies to create custom AI solutions in a relatively quick and easy fashion without need for software engineers.
Salesforce’s executives seem sold on the future of AI within customer service. Bill Paterson, the company’s EVP, commented that “the future of customer engagement will be powered by a new set of AI-driven” customer experiences.
The effects of generative AI in CX are showing already. Suumit Shah, Co-Founder of Indian e-commerce platform Dukann, laid off 90% of his customer support staff after adopting a generative AI platform, arguing that the machine outperformed human agents.
We had to layoff 90% of our support team because of this AI chatbot.
Tough? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely.
Time to first response went from 1m 44s to INSTANT!
Resolution time went from 2h 13m to 3m 12s
Customer support costs reduced by ~85%
Here's how's we did it 🧵
— Suumit Shah (@suumitshah) July 10, 2023
In addition to answering communications, chatbots can greet customers, route calls to the right customer service agent and dispatch field technicians to customers’ homes.
“All you have to do is tell it what you need help with, and it will take care of the rest. No need to find your tracking number, provide your email or explain the details of your purchase. It already has all that information and knows exactly what to do,” Salesforce Marketing Manger, Meagan Meyers, wrote in a company blog post.
“Imagine this from the customer’s perspective: you want to return a pair of shoes and you need some help. You start an online chat with an agent, but then wait 30 minutes for a response. With customer service AI, you get a personalized response in seconds,” Meyers added.
Playing for Keeps
Salesforce has for months been showing signs of its commitment to GenAI technology. In June, it announced that it would double its VC funds dedicated to GenAI projects, pushing the volume of capital from US$250 million to US$500 million.
“We are already seeing AI change the way the world works, and we’re excited to build on the momentum of our Generative AI Fund,” stated Paul Drews, Managing Partner of Salesforce Ventures, in a press release.
Join @ClaraShih and Abhay @Parasnis, CEO of @TypefaceAI — the newest investment in @SalesforceVC's $500M Generative AI Fund — as they explore LLMs for generating images for brands and navigating copyright issues on #AskMoreOfAI.
— Salesforce (@salesforce) August 31, 2023
Although there is a lot of hype surrounding GenAI technology, there’s enough positive testimonies for companies to be enthusiastic. Chatbots have matured significantly in recent years, with some now being able to very accurately mimic human voices, as well as personalize service, push costs down and increase agent productivity.
A study by McKinsey found that bots can help companies save up to 20% on customer service costs. Another study by the National Bureau of Economics Research found that bots can increase agent productivity by 14%.
McKinsey also found that generative AI can lower agent attrition rates by 25%. A study in the Philippines found that AI is easing the workload of customer service agents, rather than replacing them.