Marc Benioff, co-CEO of Salesforce.com Inc., speaks on a panel session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
Hollie Adams | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The company said Tuesday that it will release software incorporating artificial intelligence to help salespeople, customer service agents and marketers do their jobs. Salesforce is calling the offering Einstein GPT, drawing on OpenAI’s technology that’s taken the tech industry by storm since the Microsoft-backed startup opened ChatGPT to the public in November.
Top technology companies are jockeying to capitalize on the surge in interest in generative AI, which can spit out text or other information after learning from pools of data culled from the internet. These AI models sometimes display incorrect information, prompting companies that sell to big businesses and governments to proceed carefully.
“We’re moving as quickly as we can without compromising the responsible ethical approach,” Clara Shih, CEO of Salesforce’s Service Cloud business, said in an interview.
Like Salesforce, Microsoft is trying to keep the spread of incorrect information to a minimum as it brings AI features to its competing Dynamics 365 software. Microsoft said Monday that users can join a waiting list for a customer service feature that automatically drafts email messages, after announcing a similar feature for sales reps last month. Separately, Microsoft is adding OpenAI’s chatbot to its Bing search engine.
One feature Salesforce is rolling out in Service Cloud will be a chat box with technology that can write an answer to a question based on information already stored in Salesforce. Agents can edit the automatically generated response or hit the send button.
Salesforce, which has come under pressure of late by activist investors to become more profitable, hasn’t finalized the pricing or the timing for the new features. Executives first want to see how things go with organizations enrolled in Salesforce’s pilot program.
Salesforce has taken various steps to keep Einstein GPT’s capabilities from misinforming people. In addition to the involvement of the human agent, the company has narrowed the field of data that can influence the answer.
Both Salesforce and Microsoft are showing off services that can write marketing emails. Microsoft calls the new AI parts of its Dynamics applications Copilot.
“It’s not Autopilot,” said Charles Lamanna, a corporate vice president at Microsoft. “It gives me options, but I am the editor. I choose the option that goes into the campaign.”
Salesforce is also touting a new ChatGPT app for Slack that can display information derived from Salesforce. OpenAI built the app and has been using it for the past few months, Shih said during a Monday media briefing. People can sign up to join a waiting list for the Slack app, a Salesforce spokesperson said.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is in on the hype. He mentioned AI 14 times on the company’s earnings call last week.
“In combination with our Data Cloud and deeply integrated with Customer 360, including Tableau, MuleSoft and Slack, Einstein GPT will open the door to the next level of intelligence and drive digital transformations in our new AI world,” Benioff said in a statement about the new offering.
Shih said Salesforce started working with OpenAI’s language models over a year ago, but the excitement in the space sped up the timeline for giving early access of the new features to customers.