Michael Machado of Salesforce: Voice is the Future of CRM

I just hit the 5 year anniversary with my first Amazon Echo device, and since then I’ve kinda had a thing for voice assistants and devices I can talk to. So one of the things I was really interested in learning more about at last week’s Dreamforce event was seeing how Salesforce’s voice technology – Einstein Voice – was coming along.  It was announced at last year’s Dreamforce and I wanted to see how prominent it would be this time around. Let’s just say they are very high on the impact voice will have on CRM. I’m putting a few thoughts that will go pretty deep into what I saw for my Voices Carry column very soon – so stay tuned.

But while I was there I was able to chat for a few minutes with Michael Machado, Salesforce’s Senior Director of Product for Einstein Voice and Deep Learning.  Michael got me up to speed with what’s new with Einstein Voice, what the feedback from customers has been so far, how voice technology will help people understand AI more, and what impact he sees voice technology will have on CRM adoption once people get their hands on it – or should I say get their voices on it.  

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.  To see the full conversation watch the video or click on the embedded SoundCloud player below.

A Closer Look at Voice CRM

Small Business Trends: I wanted to catch up with you and just talk about what’s been the last year like when it comes to Einstein Voice? What’s going? What’s the kind of where have we come since that last year?

Michael Machado:  We’ve come a humongous way. 171,000 people tuned in in-person, 10 million online, just to actually hear what we are doing, what we’re envisioning for the future of CRM. And that’s where I actually think Voice is. We’ve learned a lot over the past year. We’ve been running a pilot directly with customers, traveling around the United States, traveling the globe, actually, talking to customers what they want out of Voice because it’s a broad term. Right?

Small Business Trends: Right.

Small Business Deals

Michael Machado:  And it means a lot of things to a lot of different people, but we all have these smart devices all around us, whether it’s our phone, a smart speaker in our kitchen, our living room, in the office. Now, we’re starting to see a proliferation of smart devices. And Voice is really your ability to engage in those devices and transform your user experience for the business world.

Voice CRM Expectations

Small Business Trends: What are they telling you? What are their expectations for Voice? What are they looking to do with Voice?

Michael Machado:  I think about the value propositions it brings. Voice is going to change the way you interact. It’s going to make almost like an invisible CRM for your end users, and when they start to get that benefit, you see a huge boost in productivity. And then you look at other profiles and other personas that leverage Salesforce and leverage the sales, service and marketing, commerce; they’re starting to think of Voice and starting to think, “Okay, wow, I want voice to guide me.”

We’ve been learning about how to make reps more productive in the field using their mobile device, and now we’re seeing any device; we’ve created admin setup, admin configuration tools to build voice-enabled applications. So everyone now can have Voice in Einstein as a guiding tool for them across their Salesforce apps.

Small Business Trends: Talk about some of the partnerships around this effort, what you guys are doing with some of the names that people probably know. 

Michael Machado:  Well, we’re a deep partnership company. Right? Yeah. We announced a ton last year, this year actually, and then we’ve been working a lot with Amazon. Amazon, I think, has sold over a hundred million devices worldwide. And that footprint that they have, we want to be able to leverage that and use that, let our customers, essentially, bring their own device when they’re engaging with Salesforce. And I think we’ve seen this with just the transformation that goes with mobile, and now we’re seeing that transformation with smart devices, whether that be UI or no UI.

How Developers are Changing This Technology

Small Business Trends: What about from a developer or a skills-building perspective? What’s going on there?

Michael Machado:  I think that was our big announcement this year. Last year was sort of you have a mobile application that’s voice-enabled, and you can make your reps more productive. Now, we’ve voice-enabled every application you have in Salesforce. And we do that through our Einstein Voice Skills, and it allows any admin to take 20 years of configuration they’d been building into Salesforce, and through a drag and drop, clicks, not code, be able to actually build voice-enabled applications. And it’s extremely powerful because we don’t want you to rip and replace what you’ve already built. We want to leverage that framework and build Voice right into the platform of Salesforce, and that’s what we’ve done.

Small Business Trends: What are we going to be talking about in 2020 through Einstein in Voice?

Michael Machado:  I think right now we’ve built a ton of tools in an application layer across all of Salesforce that lets people get voice-enabled, and I think we’re going to just going to see that adoption increase, go through the roof. We wanted to learn a lot from our customers over the past year, and now it’s really about letting Voice open into the wild for businesses.

Where Does AI Fit In?

Small Business Trends: There’s still a lot of folks who really aren’t sure about AI, generally speaking. Or they don’t feel like they know enough about it, or if it’s even for them. They don’t even know that they’re using it in some aspects.

Michael Machado:  Yeah.

Small Business Trends: Do you think Voice will actually impact the way people view AI?

Michael Machado:  It makes the accessibility of AI seems so much more transparent. You’re talking about conversationally talking to an artificial intelligent assistant. You’re getting guidance, and it doesn’t really feel like that’s AI anymore. In fact, that’s usually how it works. When it becomes natural, when it becomes fluent for any user, AI’s at your fingertips, AI is guiding you through your day. Marc [Benioff] talked about it yesterday. AI has a seat at the table for every Marc meeting, and that’s Einstein having that seat at the table.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Michael Machado:  But whatever your AI provider is, I think we’re going to start to see that people are welcoming AI because it’s not taking your jobs or anything. It’s making you more effective. And those without it, your competitors or your fellow employees that don’t leverage AI, they’re going to get left out because it’s that much about productivity boost.

Small Business Trends: So you think B2B will start catching up to B2C in that regard?

Michael Machado:  100%. I mean, all of these trends tend to go that way, right, even the Cloud. We were all leveraging Google Services, and then all of a sudden Salesforce came out with Cloud front-end business applications.

Small Business Trends: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael Machado:  And we’re seeing that now with artificial intelligence. We’re now seeing that with Voice.

How Users are Adapting

Small Business Trends: I think Voice, like conversational CRM or just being able to talk to your CRM, I think that’s actually going to make people want to use CRM more, CRM-related technologies, more because there’s nothing easier than talking and being able to … If you’re able to tell your application to do things as opposed to type and click, I think you’re going to just do it more often.

Michael Machado: It’s the evolution of user experience, and I talk about it as you’re going to be leveraging CRM. You don’t even really need to know that you’re leveraging CRM. You’re actually looking to Salesforce and saying, “Guide me on the way I need to run my business. Guide me on what I need to do to perform better to make my customers happier.” And whether or not that Salesforce’s providing that information to you is really you don’t care. You just want to go about and form your duties as an employee and making customers happier.

Small Business Trends: And even the things around Customer 360 and being able to bring in data sources from outside of Salesforces that might be another enterprise apps that you’re dependent on, all of that intelligence makes it, I think, more likely that you’ll use the Voice interface to be able to get at all that stuff.

Michael Machado:  It’s the sizzle on the steak, as I like to call it. Customer 360 is bringing that unified view, that single source of truth to your customers, and good data in means good data out.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Michael Machado:  And that’s our goal. Right? We want to make sure that data has truth. It’s important that you can actually leverage that for insights.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Michael Machado:  And so that is why that steak’s so important because we can’t deliver the sizzle without it.

A Little More About Einstein

Small Business Trends: One last thing, I love the Einstein [Alexa type device]. 

Michael Machado:  I was waiting for it.

Small Business Trends: Tell us a little more about that. How did that come about? Did you have a role in the Einstein Alexa device there?

Michael Machado:  Yeah, I ventured into the hardware space for the first time in my career, and I got to say I loved it. It’s been an adventure. We’ve been working. As we said, we partnered with Alexa to start to make this available to our customers.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Michael Machado:  But if you weren’t there to the keynote, I recommend you tune in and see our beautiful Einstein device because that actually was for us internally to think about how can we kind of dog food this technology and actually have Einstein really have a seat at the table. And we put him in his physical form factor, and it’s great. It’s fun, and it energizes everyone when you start to use it, but all that technology is wrapped up for any smart speaker provider that we can actually push our Einstein Voice skills across these smart devices.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

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Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.

One Reaction
  1. We will really see improvements in voice technology in the next year. It will change the way current technologies are used.