IBM Watson Masters Customer Service as Engagement Advisor

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Print this article Print

After enhancing cancer research and helping in the financial services industry, IBM has turned its Watson cognitive system into a customer service advisor.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—IBM is calling on its Watson cognitive system supercomputer to help enterprises rapidly sift through big data to provide better service to customers and users.

At the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit 2013 here, the company on May 21 unveiled its new Watson Engagement Advisor. According to the company, it's a technology breakthrough that allows brands to crunch big data in record time to transform the way they engage clients in key functions such as customer service, marketing and sales.

In essence, Watson's latest personality is that of a cognitive computing assistant that learns, adapts and understands a company's data rapidly, enabling users to have IBM Watson at work quickly, while increasing its knowledge and value over time.

This is the latest flavor of Watson that IBM is pushing out to market. Watson also has been charged with assisting physicians and health care insurance professionals. Watson has been charged with helping doctors diagnose and treat cancer and with helping insurance professionals cut through red tape when processing health care claims. The system has also been in use in financial services operations. The Watson Engagement Advisor will likely not be the last flavor of Watson to be seen from IBM.

Two years after annihilating human competitors on "Jeopardy," Watson's new personality, the IBM Watson Engagement Advisor, is a first-of-a-kind system designed to help customer-facing personnel assist consumers with deeper insights more quickly than previously possible, according to IBM.

Provided through cloud-delivered services and online chat sessions, IBM Watson will empower a brand's customer service agents to provide fast, data-driven answers, or sit directly in the hands of consumers via mobile devices. In one click, the solution's "Ask Watson" feature will quickly help address customers' questions, offer feedback to guide their purchase decisions and troubleshoot their problems.

IBM Watson, via cognitive computing intellect, can proactively engage with a business' customers, and continuously learn from interactions, any time and any place, providing fast, accurate and personalized interactions. The IBM Watson Engagement Advisor will help companies make their interactions count by knowing, delivering and learning what each customer wants—in the context of their preferences and actions—sometimes before even the customer knows it themselves.

According to IBM, some of the factors that make the time right for a Watson advisor for commerce include that millennial consumers will comprise nearly half the workforce by 2020—using paychecks for major purchases that require top-flight customer service—from cars to insurance policies; there will be more than 10 billion mobile devices by 2016, outpacing the human population; and a recent IBM study of 1,700 chief marketing officers revealed that 65 percent of CMOs feel underprepared for the growth of choices that today's empowered consumers have for communications channels, such as smartphones and tablets.

That is why leading brands from a variety of industries are exploring how the IBM Watson Engagement Advisor can help them engage with their customers, including ANZ, Celcom, IHS, Nielsen and Royal Bank of Canada.

"We envision Watson to serve as cognitive assistant, adept and quick at making sense of big data, that can empower our regional bank advisors to better serve our 2 million wealth management clients across the region," Joyce Phillips, CEO of Global Wealth and group managing director of marketing, innovation and digital at ANZ Banking Group, said in a statement. "We are pleased to explore with IBM how Watson can enable smarter, faster financial recommendations—yielding a customer experience that is simple, personalized and steeped in data-informed insights."

Watson's ability to understand natural language is core to its capability as an engagement advisor. Part of IBM's Smarter Commerce initiative, the newest capabilities of IBM Watson, are a natural fit for customer engagement, based on its ability to understand the nuances of human language, process questions akin to the way people think, and quickly cull through vast amounts of big data for relevant, evidence-based responses to its human users' needs.