Simplified Customer Conversations With Nexmo and the New, Improved IBM Watson Assistant

<Businesses are no longer competing with other companies’ products – they are competing with a customer’s last great experience. - IBM

The above looks like something straight out of Nexmo’s playbook, but it actually came from IBM, and we couldn’t agree more. We announced our partnership with IBM back in February: ‘With direct access to Watson AI and its communication services, you can build voice agents that communicate in a more conversational way and have the capability to handle more complex customer interactions than standard phone menus.”

The Nexmo Connect Partners Program encompasses over 300 partners, including a wealth of AI and BOT Platforms. Our network of Artificial Intelligence (AI) providers, BOT platforms, and independent software vendor (ISV) partners enables developers to build their own customized and intelligent solutions and workflows with communications APIs to drive enhanced customer journeys.

Nexmo and the Watson team have been working on a deeper technology partnership that was launched this week by IBM, simplifying even further the ability of brands to add conversational automations to their customer engagement.

IBM Watson Assistant and Nexmo

We’ve often described our APIs as communications building blocks, prebuilt bits of code that developers can use out of the box, plug and play.

IBM has the same idea with Watson Assistant. With their many integrations, they’re offering customers a one-stop shop that connects the pieces of your existing infrastructure (web and voice) and solves customer problems at the moment of need, meeting them where they are. Machine Learning allows Watson to understand a customer’s intent quickly and power superior customer interactions and outcomes.

Machine Learning

What is Machine Learning (ML)? It’s a subset of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that “provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed.” (ExpertSystem.com)

In other words, Machine Learning is just what it sounds like: software that has the ability to learn and thereby improve its own performance. It does this by observing and gathering data, and finding patterns among the data and among examples provided by the developer. It’s then able to predict that action A will lead to result B, and if it instead leads to result C, something might be wrong. It can then analyze what was different about action A this time that made it produce result C instead of B, and actually make adjustments and tweaks to improve accuracy and performance.

Applied to human conversation, Machine Learning is helping Voice Assistants grow leaps and bounds, offering support experiences that are natural, helpful, and efficient--often without involving your human agents at all. When human agents are needed, an artificially intelligent Voice Assistant knows when to escalate. It will connect the caller to an agent and then provide that agent with the information they need to best serve the customer.

More Than a Chatbot

IBM’s big announcement this week is about more than just integrations. It’s unveiling the new Watson as “more than a chatbot”; it’s a digital assistant that learns and grows with your company, streamlining and strengthening all your customer conversations. And now Watson can scale, anywhere, across any cloud. “Clients,” says IBM, “...are leveraging Watson across their enterprises to unearth hidden insights, automate mundane tasks and help improve overall business performance.”

Customer Conversations

The idea of creating journeys through customer conversation is one we’re passionate about at Nexmo. And we’re absolutely delighted that IBM, one of our key partners, is making such strong improvements to their product that demonstrate commitment to the same values.

Through our partnership, we’re able to offer our users direct integration of IBM Watson Assistant and our Global Voice API. Watson can serve as your contact center’s gatekeeper, triaging and handling low complexity tasks and inquiries before they ever reach a human, and quickly transferring trickier calls to exactly the right person.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) means when a human being talks to your Watson Assistant, the Assistant can understand natural language. For example, it can pick up “yep,” “yeah,” and “yes” and realize they all mean the same thing. AI is maturing and the best bots are becoming easier and easier to talk to like a human; no more screaming “YES” at your phone only to hear it tell you it can’t understand, or to misdirect you.

It’s not IVR (interactive voice response)...it’s IVA (interactive voice assistance). A Voice Assistant is actually listening and calculating as you speak, producing the perfect response and follow-up questions.

Sentiment Analysis goes even further, offering insight into a customer’s feelings that enables an agent to engage an expert supervisor before a situation escalates. With real-time sentiment analysis, a virtual assistant like IBM Watson is positioned to not only support agents on calls, but to support seamless and preemptive escalations that lead to happy customers.

Where’s My Package?

The applications of AI and Machine Learning are boundless and no doubt will amaze us all as they continue to expand and mature. But even now, AI like IBM Watson is accessible to even the smallest companies. IBM and Nexmo are both committed to removing barriers and offering ease of use and access to Voice Assistants. Here are just a few of the applications you may encounter in your life:

  • Logistics and Transportation: You may call a support number to follow up on the delivery of a package you were expecting. If Watson answers your call and asks what the problem is, you can ask him “where’s my package?” and he’ll be able to independently retrieve that data and communicate it back to you without any confusing menus to navigate. If you seem unhappy with this response, Watson will simply ask you to hold for a moment while the correct agent is identified and brought into the call.
  • Financial Services: Similarly, you may call your bank to check your balance. By simply asking in natural language, “What is my balance?” you trigger the Voice Assistant to prompt you for your identity, verify you, and give you the information you seek. And once again, if the Voice Assistant can’t help you or detects irritation or impatience in your voice (real-time sentiment analysis), you’ll be connected to the right human being without having to press any buttons.

At Nexmo, customer experience is everything, and the development of voice assistants that can learn and “think,” we’re entering a whole new world of CX. We look forward to seeing what our customers build and accomplish with Nexmo and the new, improved IBM Watson Assistant.

Ready to get started? Visit IBM’s Watson Assistant page today to explore all the new options available to you (you can find Nexmo under “Voice Integrations”).

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