ChatGPT is being used to write emails. Big companies are embracing it

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Jakub Porzycki | Nurphoto | Getty Images

AI chatbots are already being used to send custom email pitches. It shows how AI like ChatGPT may soon play a significant role in business, with companies like Salesforce and Microsoft beginning to offer tighter integration between the chatbot and their software.

A recent viral Tiktok showed how it’s possible to use ChatGPT integrated with Google Sheets to write ten custom LinkedIn messages to executives asking for a meeting. It identified different potential companies in an industry and their CEOs, and generated different outreach notes for each one, including a unique question to ask.

“I think we’re at a very interesting inflection point of how we’ll begin to use AI in the future in our day-to-day lives that wasn’t as easily accessible even six months ago, before ChatGPT was more readily available to the public,” said Alex Klufas, a creator who makes videos focused on working in the tech industry.

The video — and previous viral posts displaying similar techniques — clearly struck a nerve, with 2.5 million views, and scores of comments asking how it worked.

Generative AI and tools using large language model (LLM) techniques like ChatGPT have led to a boom as big tech companies and startups alike race to integrate software capable of producing content that resembles something a human would write.

Few LLM-based products are actually making money. Microsoft and Google are working to integrate next-level chatbots into search engines. Companies are working on using these bots to write marketing copy or computer code.

There’s one particularly promising application that could be commercialized in the near future: Using the power of a chatbot to quickly write and automate emails with a little bit of personalization, perhaps for sales, marketing, or personal networking. Microsoft and Salesforce announced new products this week with that exact feature.

Financial analysts at Credit Suisse pointed to email generation several times in a note earlier this month as a concrete and near-term use for the technology. The analysts estimated Microsoft’s recently announced generated AI sales features could help it take market share and potentially add over $768 million in annual revenue.

Products coming to market

On Tuesday, Salesforce announced its LLM product called EinsteinGPT, which uses an OpenAI ChatGPT model. It can automatically write marketing emails — a logical integration because Salesforce’s main product is a web app that keeps track of how often salespeople contact leads.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff demoed the software, using it to identify two contacts at a company, then automatically generating a one-sentence email trying to arrange a meeting. In the demo, EinsteinGPT softened the cold outreach email after the user told the software to be less formal.

Salesforce hasn’t set a price for the tools yet but said it’s in testing now with pilot customers.

Microsoft announced on Monday that it would integrate generative AI based on ChatGPT into a set of tools for business called CoPilot. One of its primary features is using AI to generate emails.

In a demo video, Microsoft showed the feature integrated into an Outlook mailbox and provided examples of using it to reply to a request for proposal, or to suggest a meeting time with a customer.

In the example, an inbound email wanted to follow up on a potential sales deal, and Microsoft’s feature offered four different draft replies, including one that offered a discount and another that addressed a concern.

Microsoft says that its AI email writer can take important context from the email thread, like the price that was previously discussed, and stick it in the response drafted by AI. In the example provided by Microsoft, the user takes the AI draft and edits it before sending it.

Microsoft’s feature is currently in beta testing, but will be released to customers of Microsoft’s Viva Sales feature on March 15, the company said on Monday.

Some startups have even trained their sights on developing customized AIs that can respond to messages the same way that their owner would, by analyzing a user’s previous email and text interactions and integrating it into a personalized AI model.

“The benefit is people who would want to communicate with you where you don’t have time to get back to them, where you don’t have time to offer your mind,” said Suman Kanuganti, founder of personal.ai, a chatbot currently in beta mode. “In those scenarios, you can choose to either have your AI help you in co-pilot mode or offer [automatic] responses to them in autopilot mode.”

Shortcomings

Some worry that the ability to generate email text could be abused to spam people and that chatbots could be used to phish for people’s private passwords.

“We could see mass targeted messages and spam indistinguishable from dedicated email,” JPMorgan analysts wrote in a note this month that examined the AI industry.

ChatGPT is also prone to “hallucinating,” or making stuff up. It merely predicts what the next word or part of a phrase should be based on statistics, and doesn’t know whether it’s correct or not.

Microsoft said in its announcement that it would use data from its software to ground the replies in facts, and has a thumbs-down button so users can tell the bot that a response was unhelpful. That helps train the model to avoid the same mistake in the future. A Salesforce executive previously told CNBC that it was moving as quickly as it could without compromising a responsible, ethical approach.

But the limits of ChatGPT were clearly visible in the viral TikTok video. While some recommendations were correct, several of the CEOs ChatGPT recommended for outreach were either former CEOs or are not currently an executive at the company. While the text for the cold outreach looked appropriate, it would still likely require a human to make sure everything was actually right.

“I think anyone using this technology, as nascent as it is, has to do that due diligence,” Klufas said. She didn’t end up sending the notes generated by ChatGPT because she’s not currently looking for a job.

But she’s still excited about using ChatGPT to help her make TikToks and other content for social media. Her latest application is to use ChatGPT to produce TikTok captions packed with the keywords that make her videos easier to find online.



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