How GlaxoSmithKline launched 16 virtual assistants in 10 months with Watson Assistant

Internal and external virtual assistants improved customer satisfaction and employee productivity

By | 2 minute read | December 8, 2020

GSK is a global pharmaceutical company that researches, develops, and manufactures innovative pharmaceutical medicines, vaccines, and consumer healthcare products. A company that prides itself on customer service, GSK was dependent on expensive call centers to provide 24/7 support. But about 20% of incoming calls were customers looking for standard info, putting unneeded pressure on overburdened call center resources.

Due to large call volumes and long wait times, in 2017 GSK began assessing virtual assistant technology to allow customers to self-serve. After evaluating many products, GSK turned to IBM Watson Assistant to provide world-class service while reducing costs.

Why did GSK choose Watson Assistant for customer self-service?

Building and deploying a virtual assistant wasn’t a daunting task for the experienced team at GSK, but continuously training the virtual assistant to stay up-to-date on various products was something they needed to take into consideration. Watson Assistant’s ease of use was a deciding factor for the team. The ability for their SMEs to log into Watson Assistant, learn quickly, and keep the bot up-to-date was unparalleled by the competition.

As a large company, GSK was also concerned with adding another piece of technology to the many systems it has in place. Watson Assistant’s open-ended technology made integrating with GSK’s existing platforms easy. Today, GSK has integrated Watson Assistant into online messaging and chat channels, email, CRM systems, databases and many in-house custom solutions.

Expanding beyond customer service

Over time, other business units learned of the flexibility of Watson Assistant and realized they could create virtual assistants for any use case. With the successful launch in customer care, GSK set out to deploy eight more virtual assistants. After just ten months, GSK doubled its target and launched 16 bots.

One of the most successful use cases was providing Watson Assistant to field sellers. The team needs to stay up-to-date with critical information, and in a market like pharmaceuticals there is no room for error. GSK trained Watson Assistant on all products, and now field sellers can get answers to even their most complicated questions, on the road or right in front of a client.

“Our field sellers rely on Watson Assistant — their world revolves around it. Watson Assistant helps them stay connected and ask for help quickly,” says Srini Raghavan, Senior Manager of Product Engineering at GSK. Last quarter, Watson Assistant engaged with 7,000 unique users answering a total of 83,000 questions.

Watson Assistant proved essential during the spread of COVID-19. With guidelines and regulations changing almost hourly, GSK field sellers were able to stay up to date and felt confident they always had the latest information. “Training Watson Assistant on new COVID-19 information was easy. It was almost instant, our normal way of working in these testing times,” says Raghavan.

Infusing conversational AI into workflows is only getting easier for GSK

As new teams continue to adopt Watson Assistant, it’s only becoming easier to deploy. Today, project delivery finishes on average five months ahead of schedule. Hence, the company expects its number of virtual assistants and use cases to keep growing. GSK is also exploring deployment of Watson Assistant over voice channels such as IVR and integration with conference rooms to make booking easy.

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