How Autodesk sped up customer response times by 99% with Watson

By | 4 minute read | October 12, 2017

Key Points:
– Autodesk used cognitive technology to enhance its customer experience through real-time customer service
– Using Watson Conversation Service, Autodesk built a virtual agent (AVA) that interacts with customers and responds to questions in real-time
– Through AVA, Autodesk has significantly improved customer response times by 99% percent


Almost every industry is trying to answer their customers’ questions more quickly and accurately. Automating the customer experience can decrease costs and free up staff for more complex tasks. Finding the right solution to meet evolving customer expectations is paramount.

Autodesk, a global leader in 3D computer-aided design, engineering and entertainment software, was faced with this very search. Their move from a seat-based, client side offering to the SaaS model increased their customer reach, but also expanded their need to give real-time support 24/7.

We were looking to resolve 24x7x365 support, and a future where every single customer who wants to contact us was able to get their issue resolved immediately.
– Gregg Spratto, VP of operations, Autodesk

The three main challenges Autodesk wanted to solve:

  1. Faster Resolution of Simple, Tier 1 Questions
  2. Move to 24x7x365 Operation
  3. Provide Better Service at a Lower Cost

Handling 1 million customer queries a year

Autodesk employs a staff of around 350 internal and external customer support agents who deal with roughly one million customer and partner contacts per year. Half of the questions they’re faced with are simple customer queries that can be easily answered – code requests, change of address, contract problems, technical issues, activation code requests and so on.

Autodesk needed an effective automation solution that could scale for even more inquiries. They chose Watson Conversation Service as the cognitive technology that delivers on enhanced support for customers, and allows staff to tackle the tougher questions.

The solution: Autodesk Virtual Agent (AVA)

Autodesk used Watson Conversation Service to build the Autodesk Virtual Agent (AVA), designed to quickly answer the most common customer queries, every day and at any hour. AVA can recognize the intent behind customer queries and communicate that understanding to the web service, before then carrying out the appropriate response to the inquiry.

Watson Conversation allows customers to enter questions in natural language, as they would with a human agent. It recognizes keywords and phrases to understand the conversation’s context and the purpose of the query, and returns high-confidence answers quickly and effectively.

How does AVA work?

Ava is a custom application built by Autodesk, but the brains of Ava is effectively Watson.

Ava, essentially, is the first stop for any customer interaction in the future. Ava can understand what the customer is asking for and even if they need to direct the customer to a human agents, at least the agent is starting from a place where they know what the customer needs.

Autodesk consolidated a body of knowledge from their own data to train Watson Conversation. This allowed AVA to understand and recognize different types of customer queries.

They used data from chat logs, use cases and forum posts for the training. As of this writing, AVA has analyzed some 14 million sentences for keywords, entities, phrases, clusters and other speech and language patterns.

Over time, AVA will continue to expand its understanding of the nuances of customer vocabularies and of meaning and context, so that answers are relevant to customers by tapping the expertise of an ever-growing number of internal resources.

Front-line of call resolution

Watson Conversation acts as the front-line interface for Autodesk customer service inquiries, and analyzes web submissions and chat inquiries. AVA resolves issues on its own or can collect information to hand over to a human agent along with a full background for the agent’s use.

“If nothing else, if we can just understand what customers want, we can route more appropriately, collect more information and create a case so that when it gets to a human agent, they’re not having to do all that work,” Spratto explains. “This ultimately leads to quicker resolution and a better customer experience.”

Already seeing great results

Since implementing AVA with Watson Conversation, inquiries that had taken an average of a day and a half to respond to are now answered in a matter of minutes — a drastic improvement of some 99%.

With the help of Watson Conversation, Autodesk now:

  • Supports 30,000+ conversations per month
  • Recognizes 40 distinct use cases to quickly resolve easy requests
  • Cuts resolution from 38 hours to 5.4 minutes for most inquiries
  • Cuts cost per case from $15-$200 to $1

With Watson Conversation Service, Autodesk sees a future in which it can scale its customer service in a way that will increase satisfaction and retention among its subscription customers because it can answer more inquiries, faster and more effectively.

“The 24x7x365 aspect of a virtual agent is incredibly intriguing,” says Spratto. “It’s a way for us to scale our volume almost endlessly and, at the end of the day, it’s better for our customers.”

How can you get started with integrating AI and chatbots into your customer support channels? Learn more about how Watson can help.

AI is shaping the future of call centers. Discover how Watson can help you deliver exceptional customer experiences.