IBM’s Watson graduates from medical school – takes on customer service

 In social business

watson-avatarThose of you that have followed the progress of IBM’s Watson, the supercomputer that won at Jeopardy in 2011, will know that for the last year he has been in medical school, helping with the fight against cancer.

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IBM has just announced that Watson will now take on the interesting field of customer service, using its incredible intellect to answer customer queries via the web and mobile.

IBM calls it the Watson Engagement Advisor and its an offshoot its Smarter Commerce initiative. Consider that Watson is smart enough to understand the natural ebb and flow of human language and is designed to answer questions in much the same way that humans do, and then quickly sort through a set of known information to determine the best answer, you realize it’s a great fit for customer service

Interestingly, instead of being deployed on a device, Watson is embedded on a brand web site, meaning that you can have a branded experience delivering smart customer service, even greeting customers by name, then providing intelligent support and advice.

In the ideal case Watson will have access to customer records plus the data stores it was trained on, and will be able to use both in giving a customer a recommendation or help.

Interesting also is the mix of clients trialling Watson’s new capabilities – they include Malaysia telecom provider Celcom, financial firms Royal Bank of Canada, Australia’s ANZ Banking Group, IT services provider IHS, and the consumer research firm Nielsen.

Here’s hoping the folks at IBM have de-programmed the phrase “I’ll have to speak to my supervisor…”.

I can think beyond being embedded on a website, smart uses for Watson would be to hook him up to the brand’s social feeds and provide smart advice via Twitter and Facebook.

With the news that mobile operators such as O2 in the UK are seeing a massive reduction in customers that use call centres, automated and intelligent systems like Watson may become the norm.

Watson and IBM seem to have a considerable head start over their rivals though, and I don’t see Apple’s Siri wining at Jeopardy anytime soon.

What are your thoughts about computer assisted customer care?

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Futurist Keynote Speaker and former IBM Global Managing Partner, Andrew is a popular and sought-after presenter and commentator on issues around digital disruption and emerging technologies. He is a multiple TEDx & International Keynote Speaker. Watch his speaking showreel here, enquire about availability & fees here.