Virtual delivery of a virtual agent using Watson Assistant, helping real fans and players during COVID.

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For seven years now, IBM has been the Rugby Football Union’s Official AI and Cloud platforms Partner, helping the RFU harness technology to enhance the experiences England Rugby creates for players, customers and fans. But with the unexpected impact of COVID, IBM has also been working with the RFU to transform the customer support experience.

Customer support is vital for all organisations, across all industries and in these unprecedented times, customer support teams have been stretched to their limits. On top of facing reduced capacity of teams and adjusting to new ways of working, they are dealing with an ever-changing set of rules and restrictions, resulting in an influx of complex questions and increasingly anxious customers. According to a recent study by the IBM Institute for Business Value, 46 percent of global consumers have either used live chat services during the pandemic or plan to after the pandemic – and 99 percent of organisations surveyed saw increased customer satisfaction due to virtual agents.

For the RFU, this is amplified by the variety of customers it strives to provide excellent support to, each bringing their own challenges and questions to the table. This influx of questions meant the RFU needed to find new ways of improving the support experience through leveraging the latest customer support technology. This is where the idea of “ROSIE”, RFU’s AI virtual agent using IBM Watson Assistant was born. 

Using the expertise of IBM Services, in 2 weeks the RFU and IBM team analysed historical support ticket data and built a proof of concept which demonstrated the value an AI virtual agent using Watson Assistant could bring to RFU’s employees and their customers. Fast forward 2 more weeks and ROSIE was live, public facing and tackling questions, 24/7, running on the IBM Cloud.

How exactly has ROSIE changed the customer support experience in just 4 weeks? ROSIE, utilising 16 specifically designed customer journeys, plus its trained IBM Watson Discovery corpus, saves the RFU’s employees time in three ways. Firstly, ROSIE uses natural language processing to understand and independently answer high volume, low value questions such as “how do I reset my password?”.  Secondly, ROSIE can help guide customers to the correct support team (cutting out the need to transfer support tickets between teams).  Lastly, ROSIE is being used to promote self-service adoption (further reducing the overall number of support tickets).

ROSIE also improves customer experience by being available 24/7, being able to instantly provide responses, and freeing up support teams to respond to more complex queries more rapidly. ROSIE does this all through understanding natural language and learning from customer interactions, making the whole experience feel more personal, conversational and less transactional.  

However, ROSIE has only just started her journey, ROSIE has the potential to augment all RFU support teams, expand into Live Chat and automate back office processes. All informed by the insights she is already generating.

Improving experiences is only one of the success stories. ROSIE was born during the COVID 19 pandemic, delivered with remote teams who never stepped foot in the same room. As IBM is doing globally, the IBM team utilised remote collaboration tools to not only deliver and make it ‘a positive, fun and very productive experience’, but actively introduced tools and upskilled the RFU in new virtual ways of working.

The partnership is just scratching the surface when it comes to transforming the RFU’s customer support experience. 6 weeks in and 11,400+ conversations later, Rosie is proving the value which virtual agents bring, echoed in the RFU’s owns words “Previously, we weren’t entertaining the idea of a Virtual agent at all – but now we are talking about how it can become a permanent feature of the 3 to 4 year strategic landscape- a real success story”.

To access ROSIE and see her in action, please follow the links below.

ROSIE is Live on the following pages of

IBM have helped countless organisations design, build & deploy virtual agents and transform their overall customer service landscape. You can find out how IBM can help your transformation here.




Digital Transformation Consultant

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