Ready or not, here comes big brother.
The company that gave us Deep Blue, the chess-champion supercomputer, has also been working on their Watson project. Watson, which is a very robust artificial intelligence query engine, has been designed to answer questions in natural language.
Rather than keep with Watson’s tradition of beating world-class Jeopardy champions, IBM is set to take it mainstream. If IBM is correct, about 66% of all customer service related calls go unresolved, and could have been handled efficiently with more adept access to information. For a select few companies, Watson will begin serving as their customer service representative. IBM may also make Watson available via apps on your smartphone, as well as web chats or email queries.
For many of us, the term “customer service” relates to hold times and an agent on the other end who seems befuddled by that charge on your credit card. Watson may be able to handle that, but the aim and scope seem different. It looks like Watson will concentrate more on the financial matters for now, but could also serve to assist representatives get faster access to more poignant information. Many of Watson’s guinea pigs are banks or other financial institutions, and seem intent on using Watson’s knowledge to better analyze and serve their customers’ needs.
Does this mean the end of human interaction? Not specifically. Watson may be smart, but it’s not personable. The art of reasoning is one computers can’t quite figure out right now, no matter the brilliance they hold. Asking a complex question with specific details is one thing. Asking for an opinion is another. Some things simply can’t be quantified in an algorithm.