My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: IBM's Watson soon to be a Watson Engagement Advisor in Call Centers - The Internship of Ask Watson 40% faster search puts Customer Service Agents in Jeopardy at The World’s End

Sunday, May 26, 2013

IBM's Watson soon to be a Watson Engagement Advisor in Call Centers - The Internship of Ask Watson 40% faster search puts Customer Service Agents in Jeopardy at The World’s End



“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

Readers of my personal blog and my commercial writings on the Geezam blog know I really don’t like AI (Artificial Intelligence). I marvel at its capacity to learn; I fear it takin’ over. So I'm quite perturbed to announce that IBM’s Watson may also be coming to take  away Customer Service Agent’s jobs as per the article “IBM's Watson Now A Customer Service Agent, Coming To Smartphones Soon”, published 5/21/2013 @ 12:01AM, Forbes Magazine and “IBM's Watson Is Now a Customer Service Agent”, published May 23 2013 By Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, Mashable.

In fact, Watson has an official job title many CSA’s (Customer Service Agents) or TES (Technical Engagement Specialist) as they are called on the SHARP Account answering AQUOS TV Calls may find familiar: Watson Engagement Advisor as reported in the article “IBM Watson on smartphones to make customer service bots less annoying”, published May 21 2013, 10:09am EST by Jon Brodkin, ARS Technica.


The level of interconnectedness of Powerful supercomputers with NL (Natural Language) Learning capabilities such as IBM’s Deep Blue and Deeper Blue, who defeated Gary Kasparov in Chess back in 1997 as chronicled on the Geezam blog in the article “IBM and the Watson” is troubling. IBM supercomputer Son, dubbed IBM Watson, defeated the top Champions in Jeopardy in February 2011 as per my blog article entitled “IBM Watson on Jeopardy and AI's Future - The Matrix meets The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes”. 

More recently IBM Watson was used as diagnostic tool to diagnose patients thanks to a partnership between IBM, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and WellPoint. 90% of Nurses trusting IBM’s “Google”-esque prowess at making accurate diagnosis of patient’s conditions as reported in the article “IBM's Watson Gets Its First Piece Of Business In Healthcare”, published 2/08/2013 @ 2:22PM by Bruce Upbin, Forbes Magazine.

This planned use of IBM Watson as a Customer Care Agent isn’t much of a surprise, based on the performance of Watson on Jeopardy in February 2011. I’d already noted in my blog article entitled “NTT DoCoMo introduces Free Real-Time Language Translation App - A Siri-esque Looper for Increased Business International Calling and Local Advertising Revenue” that advance AI powered NL was already in use in Japan to translate languages among business people in the Far East.

Basically IBM Watson, the brains, will be deployed be a few good clients that are clients for a Call Center. A quick snapshot of them includes:

1.      Australia’s ANZ Bank
2.      Nielsen
3.      Celcom
4.      IHS
5.      Royal Bank of Canada

The main channels for interaction with the clients will be the newer ones that involved text based interactions:

1.      Web chats
2.      Email
3.      Smartphone
4.      Apps
5.      SMS

IBM’s Watson may be coming to a Call Center near you, fellow Call Center Agents at ACCENT Marketing, most likely as an extra Transfer option for very difficult calls added to the Call Flow Procedures, possibly codenamed “Ask Watson”. So stop fretting; it’s not going to replace you, at least not just yet.

Just like calling the Translator whenever you receive a call in Spanish or French, “Ask Watson” most likely will be an option introduced FIRST among Call Center Agents to use to find information after having collected information from the customer. Queries by Customer Service Agents may be via Text initially, like a Google Search Engine, but eventually may become Voice Search capable via a partnership with Siri or Nuance.

Once fully tested by Call Center Agents, it’ll be rolled out for direct interaction with customer for the clients to be monitored and assessed on the same parameters like any Customer Service Agent. Based on how it performs and whether or not it’s more cost effective to employ IBM’s Watson as a Watson Engagement Advisor, job cuts among CSA’s at that point may become inevitable. By 2020, the CSA may become another job taken away by Automation and Artificial Intelligence.

Granted, none of the clients listed above are a known part of ACCENT Marketing’s Client Listing, Fullgram Solutions Client Listing or even Xerox’s Client Listing, based both on their Websites as well as friend who still work in these industries. Still, my sources, both in the form of websites and friends may be out-of-date, having not been update for quite awhile or the Call Centers are keeping the information close to their Chest, hoping not to spook the CSA’s into thinking their being replaced by a machine that can understand them.

So the possibility is still up in the air that the new Call Center being built by ACCENT Marketing and other Call Centers in the Montego Bay Free zone as mentioned in my blog article entitled “How to find work in Jamaica at Call Centers - Job Agencies, Applications with Proposals and Reading the Sunday Gleaner for Fast and the Furious 6 Tips and Tricks” may end up being a guinea pig tester for the new Transfer option codenamed “Ask Watson”.

This latest development in the Call Center World is really a case of the US playing catch-up with the Asians and their NL Voice Translation techs, which usually required a Call Center Agent who “translate[s] everything you say and keeps it confidential”.…..again.

Still it’s impressive technology, I must give it that much.

Harnessing Watson’s super fast search skills, it’ll help the US$112 Billion dollar Call Center Industry handle calls that usually go unresolved, roughly about 135 billion inbound and outbound calls. Eventually Watson may replace the entire Call Center itself, as it can do everything thanks to its natural language capabilities. 

Thus the handling of Calls, both inbound and Outbound at a Call Center may eventually be handle by Servers in much the same way it’s already being done in the formal Telecoms Sector, where ISDN and POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) Switches for Landline and MSC (Mobile Switching Centers) Switches in Mobile handles the routing of calls with little human intervention.

It’ll help reduce customer churn due to “Bad customer Service” by finding pertinent information 40% faster on average and still updating and closing out Case file at the same time, thanks to Watson’s ability to access to multiple Databases simultaneously. These are the same databases I used at ACCENT while I was a TES (Technical Engagement Specialist) on the SHARP Account:

1.      Catalogs
2.      Training manuals
3.      Product disclosures,
4.      Terms and conditions of Service
5.      Emails (called blurbs or blurblets at on the Amazon account at ACS-Xerox)
6.      Customer forums,
7.      Call Center Logs (we call them Casefiles on the SHARP Account at ACCENT Marketing)

Internet resources such as Reviews from places like Amazon and technical support communities aka forums are also used as well, but sparingly so, as customers are expected to read. But with Watson slated to do some of that reading for you, “Ask Watson” may be the new catch phrase both among Customer Service Agents who get to test drive the services and then eventually Customers who’ll eventually use it in real-time conversations.

The IBM Watson Engagement Advisor is The Internship (2013) that heralds The World’s End (2013) for Customer Service Agents.
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