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Customer service AI


6 min read

The landscape

When you need customer support, you want fast, consistent and accurate answers across applications, devices or channels – using whichever touchpoint you prefer to engage. Your customers aren’t any different.

Every customer support interaction can result in delight or disappointment. Your ability to acquire, grow, and retain customers hinges upon which experience you deliver. Research shows that 91% of unsatisfied customers will part ways with a brand, and 78% of clients will back out of a purchase due to a poor customer experience . The emerging support landscape will force you to match great customer service experiences from far outside your normal competitors. And in today’s fast-paced reality, it’s too costly to let rigid, unintelligent bots or demand spikes derail your customer experience.

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Yet, the full scope of customer experience is broader than the customer care provided by service and support centers. It must provide exceptional, consistent, and personalized experiences at all points of engagement. Every moment of friction that your customers have in doing business with you will cost you money.

What’s changing this landscape are the rapid technology advances in conversational AI that now enable the interoperability of customer care touchpoints. These technologies are designed to help smooth areas of friction that can cause you to lose customers, and they can do this across virtually any channel such as telephony, voice, text or web messaging. Best of all, these AI-powered virtual agents don’t require data scientists or programmers to develop.

Virtual agents do more than just chat and relay basic information repurposed from a website.

They can:

  1. Truly understand nuanced phrasing in voice and chat interactions to discover what your customers want and need
  2. Seamlessly deliver accurate information across channels with the least amount of friction
  3. Connect to your backend systems to intelligently drive problems to resolution
  4. Learn with each interaction how to efficiently resolve even complex issues
  5. Scale as your needs evolve


4 min read

A new way to infuse AI into your business

AI and AI-powered experiences have redefined how companies engage their customers so comprehensively that customers are using well-designed AI experiences as their benchmark for customer service. According to a recent IBM Institute of Business Value study, 99% of organizations using AI-based virtual agent technology report an increase in customer satisfaction . Another IBV study found outperformers are 70% more likely to use AI to converse and engage with their customers.

99% of organizations using AI-based virtual agent technology report an increase in customer satisfaction.
AI for customer support

Customer self-service used to be a source of frustration for consumers who often found themselves yelling into their phones, “Just let me talk to a human!” But even experienced human agents have limitations compared to conversational AI. For instance, agents are expected to stay up to date on ever-changing product catalogs, which results in high attrition rates in call centers.

Because poor first contact resolution negatively impacts customer satisfaction and increases operating costs, successful businesses are embracing a hybrid model that mixes live agents and virtual AI assistants to engage customers online 24x7.

Fortunately, when equipped with AI-powered search capabilities, robust conversational AI can change this. You can make the most of your customer care platform by infusing it with conversational AI and AI-powered search.

While the ability for AI to drive real business value is clear, successfully implementing it within customer care requires organizations to overcome two historical barriers:

  1. Delivering truly exceptional and frictionless experiences with AI
  2. Removing the IT burden to develop and maintain those experiences

IBM has developed a strategic vision for AI for customer care and built IBM Watson Assistant to both deliver the powerful AI capabilities necessary to build the robust, meaningful experiences customers expect and provide an intuitive way to build with them so that anyone within the organization can succeed.


5 min read

IBM Watson Assistant

IBM Watson® Assistant is an enterprise-grade AI virtual assistant and customer service solution that provides your customers with proven and reliable care. The AI solution can be trained with your data and by your customer service experts to deliver personalized experiences seamlessly across channels.

Using market-leading natural language processing, Watson Assistant learns from past interactions and converses naturally. The solution is easy to set up and can be deployed on premises or on any cloud platform.

Beyond simple chatbots with canned FAQ responses and limited lifespans, Watson Assistant can be trained to dynamically find current information, and help customers complete actions such as rescheduling appointments, tracking shipments, and checking account balances. When Watson Assistant cannot help, it will automatically pass the customer off to a human agent along with full context of the conversation.

Create exceptional experiences - Eliminate friction with powerful virtual agents that can handle the complexities of natural conversations and accurately solve customer problems the first time.

Build once, deploy everywhere - Quickly build complete, publish-ready conversational AI bots without a degree in computer science. Empower all your teams with a low-code visual builder where they can easily build, edit, and maintain agents across all channels.

Integrate and extend - Seamlessly connect to your existing channels and back-end systems and unlock their potential. Extend and enhance your customer service applications for a comprehensive solution across your business.

Enterprise-ready - Pairing the expertise from more than 1,000 successful deployments across every industry with IBM's security, scalability and flexibility, Watson Assistant is the proven partner you need for your omnichannel deployments.


3 min read

Give customers the experience they want

The days of chatbots short-circuiting when asked unconventional questions or simply not understanding the context behind common questions are over. Today, customers expect consistent and immediate answers whether contacting support from the web, within an app or any other digital channel. Complicating this expectation is the frenetic pace that businesses now operate under and the reality of how AI applications have been developed in the past. Typically, business domain experts would outline common questions and their answers only to then pass that information off to a development / IT team who would spend months crafting a bot whose responses were months outdated.

Watson Assistant is changing this approach by bringing the power of AI to your domain experts. The low-code visual builder allows virtually anyone to build powerful AI bots without writing a line of code. IT leaders can further empower their teams with connection points out to the rest of their customer service portfolio, allowing for even more robust capabilities that can be easily repeated at scale.


Watson Assistant can do more than just answer questions. It can seamlessly integrate within your existing customer service stack to solve real problems like perform purchases, schedule events, reroute shipments and much more.


Watson Assistant uses leading natural language understanding to address customer needs even when the conversation gets messy.


Build once and easily deploy across any channel such as websites, apps, and even popular third-party messaging apps.


Watson Assistant is smart enough to remember your previous customer support interactions and draw insights from your previous behaviors.

Smarter search

Get started quickly with the most advanced search techniques to pull knowledge from your existing sources and deliver it where it’s needed.

Continuously improves

The AI algorithms continually fine-tune natural language understanding models resulting in better customer experiences.

Knows its limits

Watson Assistant asks questions to determine your underlying intent rather than giving up. When it detects that a query is beyond its capability to answer, it seamlessly passes you off to a human agent.


4 min read

Modernizing your call center

76% of customers engage with customer service over the phone (PDF, 1,3 MB). The only thing worse than listening to hold music on repeat is trying to navigate a complex tree of choices hoping you don’t make the wrong selection and start all over again.

IBM Watson Assistant brings the power of cutting-edge conversational AI to your call center, helping you lower your operational costs while reducing wait times and increasing first call resolution.

Woman smiling interacting with phone

Answer customer calls immediately and accurately with advanced voice agents that are available 24x7. Learn how Watson Assistant can integrate with your call center to speed up response times and improve first contact resolution.

By integrating analytics into the process, the customer service department can use collected data to surface powerful strategic insights.

Here are some ways that advanced analytics can help leadership improve call center processes.

Respect your customers’ time

Improve first contact resolution and eliminate wait times with 24/7 customer support that can cover 1000+ topics with conversational AI.

Seamless agent handoff

End the spiral of misery, automatically pass your customers to an agent with context to avoid repetitive questions and deliver a quick resolution.

Advanced analytics reveal hidden insights

Pinpoint customer issues quickly and determine correlated challenges by analyzing conversations and automatically recognizing patterns hidden in the data.


5 min read

Employee support

Even the most state-of-the-art chatbots can fail to answer a customer’s query. Human language is complex, and bots, while getting better, can fall short. Sometimes you do need to speak to a human.

Conversational AI can be used to empower human agents. Just as customers query AI assistants, so too can agents, helping improve their productivity and the quality of the interaction for the customer.

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Far from rendering the jobs of agents obsolete, this technology allows agents to focus their time and energy on the most complex customer problems. Virtual agents eliminate a lot of work that agents find repetitive, tedious or unchallenging. Humans and AI assistants are working together side by side, each doing what they do best.

If a conversation with an AI assistant becomes tangential or overly complex, or if the customer becomes frustrated, the human agent can take over to provide a human touch.

Conversational AI, coupled with AI-powered search, can empower agents in numerous ways.

Reduce rote work

Automation relieves human agents from repetitive tasks and lets them focus on more challenging, stimulating cases and reducing the monotony of their day-to-day role. This helps prevent agent burnout and attrition.

Fill in the gaps

Chatbots are always online, 24x7, so they can field queries when human agents are busy or not at work.

Gain a supercharged search

Currently, in a 6-minute customer service call, four and a half of those minutes on average are devoted to agents doing manual research. Even experienced agents need time to comb through databases for answers. But with AI-powered search, agents can pinpoint specific answers fast.

Reduce training

Chatbots put all the company’s institutional knowledge at the fingertips of every agent, even new hires. Agents spend less time memorizing documentation, saving the organization’s resources.

Boost morale

When agents spend more of their time resolving interesting, high-level problems that take advantage of their unique expertise, or making customers feel valued, they feel more like important, strategic team members.

Improve the employee experience

Agents can use conversational AI for more than just helping customers. They can also use it to receive support at work. Whether that’s looking up their accrued vacation days or resetting a password to the company intranet, AI can quickly resolve employees’ day-to-day issues while cutting down on HR and IT costs.


5 min read

Real-world success stories

Dutch banking giant ABN AMRO Bank N.V. is keeping the pulse of the shift to fintech. Increasingly popular, digital banks can offer faster, more convenient and more affordable financial services when compared to traditional banks. Today, ABN AMRO is on the path to digitization.

However, not too long ago, its retail customers had to contact the call center or send emails to get answers to questions. The process was antiquated and time consuming. After experimenting with chatbots in 2017, they realized they needed a more robust solution to meet the expectations of their customers.

Customer self-service

Today, Anna, the ABN AMRO virtual assistant, converses with 1 million customers annually, answering 90% of their questions using IBM Watson technology.

Agent assist

If more complex advice is needed, Anna transfers the caller directly to a knowledgeable live chat agent. This way, callers always get the answer they need.

Customer service insights

Analyses of Anna’s conversations revealed how the bank could change some settings and content on its website to make it easier for customers to find information.

Because Anna stores and analyzes all of the conversations it has with customers, ABN AMRO can observe the larger problems of digital applications next to chat channels. Instead of just interpreting clicks and page views, they now understand why the customer is doing what they’re doing, providing more insight into how to innovate their digital landscape.

The Forrester Total Economic Impact Report: Watson Assistant calculated that although focusing on just the customer could produce around USD 13 million in savings, the combined value of all the different elements of AI for customer service was almost double that number—USD 24 million—and had a 337% ROI.

Read more about how organizations around the world are finding success with Watson.

Next steps

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Watson Assistant is the industry-leading conversational AI platform that your customers, human agents and employees actually want to use.

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