A single source of truth for customer data and a voice assistant for the enterprise were among the novelties Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff unveiled at the company’s Dreamforce 2019 conference in San Francisco this week.
The goal of Customer 360 Truth is to link all the data a business holds on a customer with a single Salesforce ID, connecting website visits, order history, email address and device ID.
This is something that chief marketing officers have been asking CIOs to deliver for years, but they have often had to make do with a single pain of glass to view disparate information, rather than a single source of truth, according to Liz Miller, principal analyst at Constellation Research.
The main component is Customer 360 Data Manager, which will allow admins to link data sources and reconcile customer profiles. There’s also a customer data platform (CDP) component, Customer 360 Audiences, for generating segmented audiences from the amalgamated data, a Privacy and Data Governance tool for simplifying compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and a single sign-on service that promises to enable customers to log in to all of a company’s web properties based on their Salesforce ID.
Whether Customer 360 Truth can become the single source of truth that Benioff repeatedly referred to remains to be seen. Enterprises typically look to their ERP or data warehouse as a source of truth. While Salesforce will be able to pull in data from such systems using the Anypoint Platform from Mulesoft, a company it acquired last year, its version of truth revolves around the customer ID, meaning that it can’t be relied on for data unconnected to an individual customer.
Awkwardly, that could leave CIOs needing more than one “single” source of truth to cover all their data.
“I am skeptical if the SSOT [single source of truth] is exportable beyond the Salesforce cloud,” says Miller. “There was lots of talk about the ability to pull in across APIs, not much on the bi-directionality of it.”
For that reason, Customer 360 Truth may not meet expectations, says her colleague Nicole France. “The naming is problematic. Without getting into debates on the subjectivity of truth, that’s setting the bar pretty darn high for what this should be able to do. Given that almost all of Salesforce’s customers also have other systems they use, the risk of overpromising seems significant,” France says.
Giving voice to customers
Benioff had plenty of other news for Dreamforce guests, much of it revolving around voice recognition and the use of AI to surface relevant information.
He showed off a call coaching tool that customer service staff can use to play back recordings and get automated advice on where and how they could have pitched additional services — and another tool that listens to live calls, suggesting next best actions and popping up relevant information about a customer and the products they have bought so that staff can respond instantly to questions. In a demo, a customer called their insurance company to ask whether they were covered for a particular incident, and the system was able to identify them and pull up the relevant section from their policy.
Rather than just listen, though, Salesforce’s software will talk back more often — and to a wider range of conversation partners.
At last year’s Dreamforce the company showed how sales staff could update records and access key information using Einstein Voice Assistant.
Now Benioff wants corporate boards to scatter a few devices around the place so that they too can interact with Einstein and get answers to a wider variety of questions on key corporate metrics.
Einstein a go-go
But that’s not all: The company now wants to give its customers’ customers access to Einstein too. It’s making it possible for businesses to create custom skills using data held in the Salesforce cloud, and that their staff and customers can access via Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or the Google Assistant.
The company demonstrated its curiously British-accented voice assistant using a cutesy illuminated Einstein figurine as a smart speaker. CIOs won’t have to worry about supporting this in the workplace as it will not be for sale.
Salesforce had some other news involving Amazon and Apple too.
It’s expanding its existing partnership with Amazon Web Services, integrating Amazon Connect, a cloud-based contact center, with Service Cloud Voice, a new Salesforce product that offers service agents a unified console through which they can access CRM data and communicate with customers. Amazon Connect also provides the real-time transcripts and translations that Salesforce is using to drive its Einstein recommendations.
On Apple’s iPhones and iPads, Salesforce has developed a new application, Trailhead Go, that allows Salesforce users to access online training for the platform, and has updated the existing Salesforce Mobile App to take advantage of new features in iOS and iPadOS. Finally, businesses developing their own apps for accessing Salesforce on Apple’s mobile devices can take advantage of a new SDK updated for iOS 13.