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  • May 29, 2020
  • By Brian Solis, global innovation evangelist, Salesforce

Voice + AI Represents the Next Chapter in CRM’s Evolution

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Voice prompts like “OK Google” and “Hey Siri” are now part of the consumer vernacular, and talking to devices is normal—so much so that consumers often say “thank you” following an interaction, even though devices aren’t programmed to respond in kind. What’s also becoming normal is the expectation for artificial intelligence-powered personalization, giving users better experiences and recommendations based on patterns of engagement. In 2020, intelligent voice interactions will also move firmly into the enterprise, setting the stage for a post-digital transformation era of enterprise process, experience, and service innovation.

Intelligent voice capabilities will transform the enterprise in two phases. Phase one focuses on CRM. AI-driven voice applications will change how employees work with data and insights. Voice-powered CRM will also enable companies and people to interact more contextually and personally throughout the customer journey. In phase two, voice-powered AI and cognitive automation will take shape through enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. Voice-powered ERP will create a business operating system that enables a layer of intelligence and automation to unlock automated operational insights, capabilities, and outcomes.

Through AI-powered voice capabilities, organizations are already starting to gain access to voice intelligence for a variety of everyday and mission-critical enterprise applications. In CRM, for example, Salesforce recently announced intelligent Einstein Voice Skills for its Salesforce Customer 360 Platform. In the ERP space, Aera Technology introduced its pioneering business OS for what it calls “self-driving enterprises.”

PHASE 1: AI-POWERED VOICE PLATFORMS GAIN EARLY SUPPORT IN NEXT-GEN CRM

Like cloud, mobile, and social before it, AI-powered voice represents the next step in CRM’s evolution. Prior to voice, CRM systems faced an input challenge: Users struggled to ensure records were up to data and complete. Voice changes that, making input more natural; and when it comes to AI, the better the data, of course, the better the insights.

Having a robust voice-enabled, AI-powered CRM is only part of the solution, though. The rest is to be found through user experience design for both employees and customers (where applicable).

User interface and user experience change the game, moving us beyond entering data in rectangular boxes or simply visualizing information as output. Voice adds a new dimension and needs an experiential construct for all new employee and customer touchpoints and applications. AI-driven platforms will also need further architectural development to deliver completely new value-added intelligence and insights. This is why AI-powered voice platforms are just the beginning. Customized workflows and customer-facing applications are where the magic happens and competitive advantages start to emerge.

VOICE + AI-POWERED CRM = THE FOUNDATION FOR PERSONALIZED RELATIONSHIPS

When it comes to both employee and customer experience, vendors and businesses that implement next-generation CRM need to take their design cues from popular consumer-facing devices and apps.

For everyday consumers, AI-powered voice assistants are becoming the new standard for engagement. Alexa, Siri, Google, and others deliver simple, user-centered experiences that consumers have come to expect as the new normal. It’s how consumers are learning to interact with information, and it’s changing the customer journey in the process. Now, compare these experiences with the ones customers have when contacting businesses in times of need—i.e., today’s interactive voice response (IVR) platforms. The experiences are profoundly opposite. One is personal, instant, smart, and dynamic. The other is functional, but linear, inhuman, and often frustrating.

AI-powered voice systems make it easier for people to interact with complex information internally and externally. With the right vision, the next chapter of CRM, powered by voice and AI, will usher in an era of hyper-personalization that truly places the C and R of CRM front and center. But this time around, the customer is both the enterprise user and the ultimate customer.

With a little imagination and ingenuity, the architects of a post-digital transformation era will re-imagine the relationship between people and data and processes to enhance customer and employee journeys. In this next chapter of CRM, experience design will now become a differentiator for how enterprise users and, ultimately, customers interact with CRM applications. 

Brian Solis is global innovation evangelist at Salesforce. He's also an eight-time best-selling author, international keynote speaker, and digital anthropologist. Solis’s research explores digital transformation, CX, experience design, innovation and disruption, the cognitive enterprise, and "the future of" industries, trends, and human behavior. 

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