NEW artificial intelligence (AI) and automation capabilities in Watson Assistant, IBM’s intelligent virtual agent, make it easier for businesses to create enhanced customer service experiences across any channel: phone, web , short message service and any messaging platform. Virtual assistants are growing in popularity due to continuous improvements in natural language processing (NLP) and automation.
According to IBM’s 2021 AI Global Adoption Index, 52% of global IT professionals surveyed said their company is using or considering NLP solutions to improve the customer experience.
By adding new features to Watson Assistant, the company enables businesses to leverage AI and NLP to solve customer problems on first contact. This includes a new collaboration with IntelePeer, a leading communications platform as a service provider, to configure and test a voice agent as well as a new application designed to enable seamless handoff to a live agent while now the context of the conversation.
Where businesses already have an existing contact center phone system, IntelePeer could also provide the connection between Watson Assistant and the existing phone system using industry standards. With IntelePeer, Watson Assistant can now connect to almost all major contact center platforms that use the session initiation protocol in as little as half an hour without coding.
Other new features of IBM’s intelligent agent are:
– Help customers resolve issues on first contact with Watson Assistant Search Skill. Watson Assistant’s Search Skill feature now includes short answer retrieval, which is based on an innovative question-and-answer system from IBM Research. This allows the virtual agent to return a response – in a few words – from longer sentences or passages and provide the context from which the response comes. The extraction of frequently asked questions (FAQ) is also now available in the search functionality. FAQ extraction is designed to help administrators keep the virtual agent up to date with broader sources of information, without having to constantly perform manual updates.
– Facilitate seamless transfer with the new agent app. Watson Assistant’s new agent application feature helps customer service agents reconnect with a customer where the virtual agent left off. When a customer calls, IBM’s voice detection models, which are designed to provide more accurate out-of-the-box transcriptions, provide near real-time transcription of the conversation. When the transfer takes place, the new agent app provides the customer service agent with the latest transcript right on their screen. This means customers don’t have to repeat their questions and agents are empowered to resolve issues even faster.
In addition to these new features, IBM also announced that organizations of all sizes have turned to Watson Assistant to help them resolve customer issues with increasing call volumes.
For example, when new cases of Covid-19 began to increase last year, the State of Rhode Island (SRI) realized that the handling of hundreds of thousands of calls from affected residents was not not sustainable.
The state needed to improve its engagement with residents with more efficient processes and rapid updates to a rapidly evolving Covid information space.
To deal with unsustainable workloads, the state turned to Watson Assistant to tackle resident engagement processes and improve support with the contact center. IBM Global Business Services (GBS) and SRI have launched a virtual agent, “Rhoda”, which uses Watson Assistant to answer questions about Covid-19 in English and Spanish.
As of October 2020, Rhoda has had over 100,000 conversations on topics related to test scheduling, test results, travel restrictions and vaccine eligibility. Additionally, IBM GBS has integrated Watson Assistant into interactive voice response for vaccine appointment scheduling to provide a better experience for those requiring appointment scheduling assistance.