• March 27, 2017
  • By Brent Leary, cofounder and partner, CRM Essentials

AI (Artificial Intelligence) Needs to Drive AI (Automated Insights)

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Everywhere you look, people are talking about artificial intelligence (AI), and with good reason. CRM industry heavyweights are snapping up machine learning/deep learning technologies and integrating them into their platforms as quickly as possible. Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and others have formed partnerships on AI to conduct research, provide thought leadership, and share insights.

Even though AI has been around for decades, this new focus is being driven in part by the potential impact the technology can have on customer relationships. Feeding AI technologies an ever-increasing amount of data, coming from every direction, is central to modern customer engagement. But to capitalize on AI’s potential to uncover nuggets that help engagement efforts, another AI needs to be part of the equation—automated insights.

It’s safe to say that as data sets grow and the time to create positive impressions shrinks, having compelling insights at your disposal becomes more critical to customer engagement success. Jim Sinai, vice president of marketing at Salesforce Einstein, notes how retailers are trying to build a better experience online and ultimately bridge the online and in-store experiences. “What the Salesforce Commerce Cloud with Einstein is actually helping people do is find opportunities to do product recommendations to visitors both for the web experience and the in-store experience and figure out how to bring that connected retail experience together.”

Having those insights delivered to consumers at “the moment of truth” leads to big results, Sinai says. When customers use Commerce Cloud recommendations, “we’re seeing a lift between 6 and 15 percent in average revenue per visitor.”


AI-enhanced platforms are necessary to uncover those insights; we humans cannot process millions of customer records and come up with a possible game-changing insight in a split second. And while AI’s role grows in importance, systems that make it easy for people to integrate insights into interactions can be just as crucial.

Sales reps have had a love-hate relationship with sales force automation (SFA)/CRM applications—meaning they love to hate them. They’ve felt the value they get out of them is not equal to the effort they invest in them. According to a recent study I conducted with Introhive, a cloud-based platform that brings relationship intelligence into CRM systems, 60 percent of the 500 people surveyed use their SFA apps daily, with 68 percent saying that manually inputting data is their most frequent SFA-related task. Seven of 10 respondents spend at least 10 percent of a workweek inputting data; 31 percent spend at least a quarter of their time doing so.

Only 43 percent deemed their SFA apps very helpful to meeting goals. Yet of those who said they spent at least 10 percent of their app time looking for insights to build relationships, 71 percent said their SFA apps were very helpful. This is critical; 45 percent said face-to-face relationship building is their most important task. When asked what would make SFA apps more useful, 58 percent said the ability to have data from other sources automatically imported, 47 percent said the ability to have insights automatically surfaced, and 46 percent said the ability to have insights automatically formatted for easy communication with customers.


Companies like Amazon have shown us that turning large amounts of data into real-time insights presented at the right time can make a difference in a shopper converting. The more information companies have at their disposal, the more personalized the insight—and its delivery—to the consumer. And the more automation is introduced into the equation, the easier it will be to scale efforts and reach more potential customers efficiently. It also increases the opportunity to connect more deeply with current customers.

But customers aren’t the only ones who can benefit. The potential for artificial intelligence and automated insights to make sales professionals more efficient and effective when using CRM/SFA is also becoming apparent, allowing reps to spend more time doing what they do best: build relationships with customers. Whether they’re delivering insights directly to consumers to improve online conversions, or to B2B sales professionals needing a nugget to move a relationship forward, two AIs are better than one.

Brent Leary is cofounder of CRM Essentials, an Atlanta-based advisory firm focused on small and midsize businesses. He is also the author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Businesses.

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