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Five9 on Dealing with Einstein

Salesforce is more than a standalone company: It’s also central to an eco-system of many smaller firms that feed utilities and functions into the SaaS-based CRM app. So when Salesforce announced Einstein—its application of artificial intelligence to all aspects of its CRM—some eco-system partners took note, and wondered what the future held for them.

Among those partners is Five9, which provides customer support integrated with Salesforce’s CRM. “AI is an interesting technology. We want to participate here. But I see a long tail here.” said Mayur Anadkat, vice president of marketing at Five9.

“There is a lot to be said for its potential, shifting companies like ours from traditional communications, from one-to- one to one-to- many. … Now AI can learn to be an endpoint or a bridge.” Anadkat said. That could mean moving from business-to-consumer over to business-to-machine-to-consumer.

In Five9’s case, the specialty is providing a cloud-based “contact center”, which can round up, analyze and present customer data to its call-center clients.

“Salesforce is great at tracking digital interactions,” Anadkat said. “When we play into Salesforce, we plug to our ability to take and receive calls.” Salesforce is a “system of record” for many companies. “We’re a system of interaction” Anadkat added.

Imagination has no technical limit. It is easy to conjecture a system where a bot, backed by Salesforce Einstein, can respond to a caller’s needs, artificially cognizant of a caller’s record with that business. Yet the technology may not be there yet. “When a live person is getting involved, you have more context,” Anadkat said. Callers still want human contact. Artificial intelligence can automate routine tasks and simply repeated interactions, he explained. Yet there still remains a clear-cut boundary between simple interactions and complex ones.

Where AI shows promise is interaction between companies and applications. Anadkat offered a use case to illustrate his point. A customer books a business trip with an airline. That customer’s data is cross-linked with his Uber ride from the airport and with the hotel he is staying at, providing a seamless experience that works. That traveler goes from city to city without any complication.

Meanwhile, back in the present…

What will be the impact of AI on Five9?  “We’re peripherally involved in it,” Anadkat said. “We’re a customer care company, augmenting our ability to connect with AI in a care scenario.” Call routing to call centers and backing that up with data is what Five9 will be about. “That’s the core of our business,’ Anadkat said.

That scenario is already becoming complex with present-day technology. Customers and businesses are already engaging each other through mobile devices and social media. Even the Internet of Things can trigger a commercial action. Take Nest Thermostat. “It kicks off a…service request or call based on its activity,” Anadkat observed. “We don’t build AI. We [will] communicate with things that have AI.”

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