IBM Upgrades Watson Voice AI for Call Centers
IBM Watson has debuted new features designed to make it a better virtual agent for call centers and other businesses. The company has also partnered with enterprise communications platform IntelePeer to streamline making Watson available as a white label voice assistant to contact centers without coding.
Watson has made IntelePeer’s platform an add-on so customers can now create a voice AI with a new phone number in half an hour without any coding. The AI can also be integrated into existing call center phone systems as easily. IntelePeer’s presence in most major contact center platforms speeds the creation and implementation enormously compared to hand-coding a new AI.
“One critical challenge facing nearly every business today is the need to better communicate with their customers and employees across all channels,” IBM data and AI general manager Daniel Hernandez said in a statement. “We’re continuously delivering new innovations in natural language processing, automation and advancing responsible AI, and building a strong, open ecosystem with partners like IntelePeer to help businesses transform customer care with Watson Assistant.”
The updated Watson Assistant comes with a few new and updated features for itself. For instance, the upgrade introduces the new “agent app” to smooth the hand-off from the AI to human employees when necessary. The AI applies automation and natural language processing to reduce the confusion and time spent repeating information when the real agent gets on the call. The AI transcribes the conversation with a customer while it is happening, providing the text to the customer service agent on their screen so they can pick up where the customer left off instead of having to start over asking the initial questions. Watson’s search function has also been expanded to handle short-answer retrieval. The AI uses a new system from IBM Research to pull the relevant information from long passages in its databases and provide short answers to queries instead of reciting the whole thing, as can be seen in the image on the right. The same goes for picking out what the customer is looking for from FAQs that companies can set up, so they don’t need to update Watson’s databases all the time manually.
IBM Watson’s partnerships and upgrades are part of the larger trend of all centers accelerating in implementing conversational AI. Demand, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic led to a boom in calls and reduced human staffing, has meant huge funding and contracts for companies with the technology, from IBM down to young startups. The $78.15 million raised by Yellow, the $14 million for higher-ed chatbot platform AdmitHub, Rasa’s $26 million round, and the $100 million raised by Gupshup are just a few of the big checks written for the tech. And the trend has fueled other acquisitions as well, like Zoom’s purchase of digital contact center Five9, a year after Five9 bought virtual agent platform Inference Solutions.