IBM's Watson conquers Jeopardy, cancer and now customer service

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IBM thinks that they can revolutionize customer service using their Watson supercomputer. Famous for beating two of the world’s top Jeopardy! players in 2011, and then going to medical school for oncology and utilization management, Watson is now being tasked with reducing the irritation associated with calling customer service departments.

While it’s not as prestigious a position as fighting cancer, Forbes reports that each year 135 billion customer-service related calls go unresolved. There is definitely room for some hyper-intelligence in the help-desk realm, and IBM thinks they have at least part of the solution.

A new “Ask Watson” feature will be rolled out in the next few months to several of IBM’s partners, which will initiate conversations and direct customers through various channels for help, including online chat, email, text message, and smartphone apps.

Beta customers include Australia’s ANZ Bank, Nielsen, Celcom, HIS, and Royal Bank of Canada. Each company will custom brand and create unique interfaces for the service, and will reportedly begin using the system only with internal employees in the initial phases. Watson will be fed comprehensive data from product databases containing catalogs, training manuals, product disclosures, terms and conditions, emails, customer forums, and call center logs from each company, and will then use this information to respond to customer queries.

In IBM’s internal testing, they recorded an average reduction of forty percent in search time for information. IBM says we should see the first “Watson-powered” consumer apps in the second half of 2013.

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