Watson Assistant innovations are moving fast to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world

By | 3 minute read | November 19, 2020

The world has changed in unimaginable ways in recent months, forcing businesses to adapt to radically different consumer needs with a speed and scale never seen before.

To help our clients keep up, Watson Assistant has been evolving rapidly as well. New features make it easier for organizations to deploy a conversational AI platform in days, not months, accelerating their return on investment. For example, Watson Assistant includes an interactive voice response capability that can resolve inbound telephone help requests. Watson Assistant can be integrated into almost any help desk platform (thanks to newly released connectors), smoothing customer transfer from AI to human agent. Most recently, we launched numerous customization features to encourage customer interactions.

Our goal is to solve three common market pain points:

  • Organizations and their customers want problems solved in just one session. It doesn’t matter if AI resolves the issue or if it’s escalated to an agent. Enter conversational AI such as Watson Assistant. A recent study found that 99% of organizations saw an increase in customer satisfaction after deploying virtual agent technology.
  • Enterprise clients often have three or more customer service platforms involved in each help request, leading to a fragmented approach. A single conversational AI platform that links existing platforms can solve this.
  • As enterprises continue to adopt conversational AI, there will likely be an increase in automated customer interactions — meaning your conversational AI must be equipped to deal with huge volumes and varieties of help requests.

Watson Assistant quickly strengthens customer service for organizations of all sizes

Let’s take a look at a real Watson Assistant client: Stikets. The Spanish retailer grew from an operation in a garage in Barcelona to an organization with clients in over 30 countries. This exponential growth placed a significant strain on their customer service approach. Global clients needed support around the clock, but they often waited 24 hours in support queues for a simple request. Stikets understood the key to customer retention is often speedy and simple support — and they turned to Watson Assistant.

Within one week, Stikets created a simple Watson Assistant virtual agent. Over the next few weeks, they continued to refine the solution, adding more languages to accommodate their international reach, and by week ten they had a robust solution up and running.

Now the AI-powered assistant resolves up to 90% of queries, conducting hundreds of conversations a day — but most importantly, Stikets achieved a customer satisfaction rating of 92%.

The founders analyzed the conversational data and discovered that about 55% of interactions occurred outside of business hours, proving that an automated solution was the right choice to stay ahead of customer requests and provide a better experience. Buoyed by this success, Stikets plans to scale their virtual assistant throughout the entire sales process to help customers with prepurchase questions as well.

This is just one example of how Watson Assistant helps businesses transform disjointed customer care into a more engaging experience.

It also reflects how the pandemic has changed spending on information technology infrastructure. While companies have pulled back on buying hardware, they have accelerated spending on areas that will accelerate their digital growth, like customer relationship software and support, according to research firm Gartner. And based on a recent IBM Institute for Business Value report, virtual agent technology is showing quantifiable value, as 96% of respondents exceeded, achieved, or expect to achieve their anticipated return on investment.

Integrating across fragmented tech stacks and scaling smoothly to better manage growth

Organizations often have multiple virtual agents spanning multiple business units, platforms and internal siloes. For external customer support a company might use Zendesk, for internal IT help it might use ServiceNow, and for technical help it might use GainSight. This creates a fragmented customer experience — and a frustrating agent experience as well. To solve that pain point, Watson Assistant has launched a “bring your own service desk” capability. Now organizations can implement the Assistant interface on top of almost any platform, providing a unified interface to customers and administrators.

This year’s challenges made it clear that organizations need an AI platform that can handle huge spikes in volume and variety of questions. They also revealed the need to train conversational AI on new topics quickly. We launched several new features to make it simple for customers to meet this demand whether this traffic came through voice, chatbots or social channels — all through the lens of how to simply deploy a conversational AI platform that can address complex requests.

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