Salesforce and Oracle show off more AI-flavoured goodies around service and finance respectively

Salesforce and Oracle have been wiggling their proverbial tails and showing off a bit of plumage in an attempt to woo potential customers with their latest AI-flavoured offerings.

Salesforce has announced an extension to its Service Cloud Einstein AI product set. New use cases include reply recommendations, using natural language processing to suggest the best responses to agents over chat and messaging, article recommendations, as well as automated routing.

Of most intrigue however is Einstein Next Best Action, which aims to offer ‘optimal recommendations at the point of maximum impact’, in the company’s words. As this video shows, organisations input their data and create recommendation strategies, then refine it before activation. Salesforce argues these recommendations can help identify cross-sell or upsell opportunities.

Quip, the word processing application acquired by Salesforce in 2016, is also part of this upgrade. Quip for Service will enable agents to co-author documents and collaborate with experts on particular requests, again integrating with Einstein AI.

Oracle, meanwhile, announced a slew of updates around products in finance, marketing and HR at the Modern Customer Experience and Modern Business Experience conference at Las Vegas. The company also cited that these updates featured machine learning in some capacity, including an expense reporting assistant and a digital assistant which provides status updates and learns from previous time entries and project planning data.

More advanced financial and access controls were also included in the revamp. The advanced financial controls will aim to prevent leakage to provide a continuous analysis of transactions and configurations around audits through data science techniques and self-learning algorithms. On the access side, AI techniques are again cited to help protect business data from insider threats.

Naturally, the talk from the executives was one which emphasised the need for automation to keep track of both business threats and customer demand. “We are living in a new age of service where today’s customer expects great experiences at every stage of the buying cycle and across any channel, making the agent’s role more critical and more challenging than ever before,” said Bill Patterson, EVP and GM of Salesforce’s Service Cloud. “With these innovations we are empowering agents to rise to the occasion with a console built for modern customer service that is intelligent, collaborative and connected.”

“Oracle continues to deliver on the finance innovation promise expected by our customers,” added SVP Rondy Ng. “Our pervasive AI strategy delivered via continuous product updates ensures rapid adoption with immediate business results. This allows finance and operations teams to stay ahead of the technology curve and retain a competitive advantage.”

The challenge that service teams continue to face was exemplified by the tandem release of Salesforce’s State of Service report, which noted organisational moods ranging from determination to fear. More than four in five (81%) of the more than 3,500 service decision makers polled said their company’s customer service needed to transform in order to stay competitive, yet the pressure remains to stay composed on the frontline. More than three quarters of those polled said their company viewed agents as brand ambassadors or customer advocates.

When it came to AI, four in five (79%) said they believed AI was most effective when deployed alongside humans, rather than in place of them. The report noted this position. “As AI automates certain functions across roles and industries, some members of the workforce may wonder whether their positions are at risk. Customer service management, however, realises that customers’ changing expectations include human connection and understanding.

“It is critical, then, for leadership to not only design AI strategies that empower their agents, but to be transparent about the role AI will – and won’t – play within their organisations,” the report added.

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