Nightmare on Customer Service Street


In May I attended the Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Nashville. One of the most exciting announcements came from IBM’s Manoj Saxena regarding the new role for IBM Watson: Engagement Advisor.

A call center may not be the next place anyone would have guessed Watson would crop up. However, after the week I’ve had, I can’t wait to start working with Watson.

Over half of the 270 billion customer service calls each year go unresolved. In one week alone, I have added significantly to that statistic. Have you?

Nightmare 1: I placed three calls to the local utility requesting a copy of a bill. Three times I was assured it would be delivered by mail, email or fax. Having never received it, I followed up. On the fourth call, I was told that what I wanted had to be requested in writing and would take several days to process once the proper approvals on both sides were received.

Status: still in process

Likelihood of resolution: 75 percent

Effort: high

Nightmare 2: During the lovely late spring, I ordered a grill cover. I have not yet received it and cannot currently locate its whereabouts. The only reason I ordered from this particular company was because they offered a deal through Living Social, a company I have had a positive experience with. I called, emailed, left messages with the grill cover company and received absolutely no response. None.

Status: lost

Likelihood of resolution: 10 percent

Effort: high

Given my level of frustration with customer service this week, IBM Watson entering the call center couldn’t come at a more opportune time. Clients are expecting personalized service across devices. IBM Watson Engagement Advisor is ready to deliver, whether through the self-service or agent assist.

IBM Watson

Self-service (aka “Ask Watson”)

Instead of looking up the right phone number, calling and being transferred from one agent to another, with self-service you could just “Ask Watson” from your iPad, smartphone or any number of devices.

Agent assist

The agent assist solution is designed to help manage the information call center employees need to provide the level of service clients expect. Data is growing and changing every day. Many call center employees create and maintain customized “cheat sheets” to help them access information. IBM Watson can optimize that process and provide new data as well to adjust to the ever-changing environment and demands of the clients.

I realize that not every organization will be jumping in line for this. However, with a smaller footprint, IBM Watson is now 75 percent smaller and 25 percent faster. A single Power 750 running Linux is a far cry from the IBM Watson that competed on Jeopardy!

While it may not seem like a high priority investment for companies to improve the call center experience, it is worth investigating. Consumers spend more with companies that provide good customer service. As a consumer, there are companies I want to deal with and those I have to deal with. Those I want to deal with provide a robust (and positive) customer service experience.

I know where I’m spending my money. Where are you?

IBM Watson Goes to Work (for You)

Karin Broecker currently leads a team of software architects in making sense of the IBM software portfolio to help address business challenges. Karin has tackled the big three in STG: System z, Power Systems and Storage. In addition, her background includes application development, IT architecture, education and people management. She loves building a strategy, practicing yoga and enjoying life. Follow Karin on Twitter: @kbreks

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