If Siri’s just not cutting it anymore IBM might have the answer. The company’s Jeopardy-winning, cancer diagnosing supercomputer is being rebranded as a question-answering customer service web service and smartphone app called “Ask Watson” (we only hope IBM isn’t planning on dressing Watson up in a suit à la “Ask Jeeves”).
Customer service may seem like a step down for Watson, but considering the state of the industry he may just be the man, or rather the machine, to fix America’s flailing call centers. U.S companies and organizations collectively spend $112 billion per year hiring call-center employees and paying for software just to see half of the yearly 270 billion customer-service calls go unsolved. Enter Watson.
“Ask Watson” will offer customer service across platforms including web chat, email, text message and, of course, smartphone apps. The service will initially only extend to a small group of guinea pigs including the Royal Bank of Canada, Nielsen and Australia’s ANZ Bank.
How will “Ask Watson” work? Ask him anything and he’ll search the internet and your own data for the answer. According to IBM, during internal testing Watson reduced search time by 40 percent for customer service calls on average.
“Watson pulls up stuff that an agent wouldn’t because it is looking for semantic links, not just doing text-matching based on keywords,” general manager of IBM Watson Solutions Manoj Saxena told Forbes. IBM predicts the Watson app will be available to consumers in the second half of 2013.