By Paul Sandle
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Simplyhealth said it had become the first company to use Salesforce's generative AI to respond to customer emails, with personalised replies taking a fraction of the time needed to produce an answer using a template.
The health and dental care plan provider was already using Saleforce's other AI technology to handle 20-30% of inquiries, said Director of Customer Services Dan Eddie.
But generative AI could understand customers' questions and supply a personal response, he said.
Salesforce's Einstein GPT Trust Layer uses generative AI without compromising customers' data to produce responses, while also using trusted data to improve results, it said.
For Simplyhealth, the trusted data is 500 historical emails.
The first query was from a customer struggling to move dental practice.
"We asked Einstein GPT to reply, and within three seconds a reply came up," Eddie told Reuters.
"The first thing that it did was say 'Dear Laura, Firstly can I apologise for any frustration you've had so far', so it picked up on the empathy that was required."
Salesforce UK Chief Executive Zahra Bahrololoumi said AI was changing industries like healthcare.
"Salesforce's trusted AI solutions are driving huge productivity benefits, not only enabling the Simplyhealth team to support customers more quickly and effectively but tailor support and further enhance the level of care for those that are most vulnerable," she said.
The emails are checked by a human to ensure they are accurate, Chief Technology Officer Tim Gough said.
"We are adopting a test and learn approach to these new technologies," he said. "We've got internal safeguards and we have a specific forum to review the ethical usage of AI technologies."
Of 65 emails produced so far, 11 required tweaks to punctuation or a different salutation, he said.
But there had been no "hallucinations", he said, thanks to the controlled data. Hallucinations refer to false content generated by AI.
Response times had been cut from 12 minutes to one, which Eddie said allowed more time to solve complex customer issues.
(Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by David Evans)