IBM’s Watson Hopes To Be Your Customer Service Agent

IBM’s Watson was a runaway winner on Jeopardy, but that game show victory wasn’t the ultimate goal for Big Blue’s analytical monster. It turns out that IBM is focusing Watson’s power on a new domain, customer service.

IBM will be rolling out an “Ask Watson” capability that provides customers with answers across several channels:  Web chats, email, smartphone apps and SMS. Companies will eventually add a voice recognition front-end to Watson, which will allow Watson to answer direct calls. Initial users of the service include Australia’s ANZ Bank, Nielsen, Celcom, IHS, and Royal Bank of Canada.

My take: Yes, yes, and yes! Self-help analytics such as Watson will become a critical, mainstream capability for most large companies.

Natural language processing (NLP) has reached the stage where this type of self-service analytics can provide enormous value for customer service. We already see companies making use of virtual agents/assistants from companies such as VirtuOz and Oracle in narrow domains. Think of a smarter version of Apple’s Siri, an application that can tap into all of the company’s databases to understand who the customer is, what products and services she may own, and any previous interactions that she’s had with the company. Using that information, an analytical powerhouse like Watson should be able to deal with an increasingly larger portion of customer issues.

Will Watson and its peers be able to handle all customer service inquiries? No. But they can be smart enough to understand what they don’t know and transfer the request to a human agent.

The bottom line: Prepare for more interactions with Watson and his friends.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/brucetemkin

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