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IBM Watson To Replace Salespeople and Cold-Callers

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the coming-to-a-drive-thu-near-you dept.

AI 316

An anonymous reader writes "After conquering Jeopardy! and making inroads into the diagnosis of medical maladies, IBM's next application for Watson is improving sales and customer support. Companies will be able to simply fill Watson (or rather, DeepQA) with domain-specific information about products and services, and sit back as it uses its natural language processing skills to answer the queries of potential customers. The potential benefits are huge. Watson could either augment existing sales and support teams, or replace them entirely. Also, in a beautiful and self-fulfilling twist, the first application of this re-purposed Watson will be be internally, at IBM, to help sell more IBM Watsons to other companies."

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Jobs killer (3, Interesting)

jaymzter (452402) | about 3 years ago | (#36676232)

Mark my words, this will kill the economy, just like ATMs did.

Re:Jobs killer (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676264)

They make it sound like Watson's going to be answering the phone. But speech recognition still isn't dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all.
Watson processes written language.

Re:Jobs killer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676350)

I had a computer back in '96 that could wreck a nice beach without too much trouble. Why have things not noticeably improved since then?

Re:Jobs killer (2)

rainmouse (1784278) | about 3 years ago | (#36676458)

They make it sound like Watson's going to be answering the phone. But speech recognition still isn't dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all. Watson processes written language.

from TFA - You might be a little terrified the first time you pick up your phone to hear dulcet but unmistakably-computerized tones of Watson saying “Hello, can I interest you in cheap home insurance?”

The worst thing about speech recognition software in Europe such as what the Odeon uses, is that you have to put on a forced American accent if you want to stand a chance of even remotely being understood, especially if your from Scotland.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

squidflakes (905524) | about 3 years ago | (#36676480)

ELEVEN!

*secretly hoping you've seen the episode of the program to which I am making a reference.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#36676498)

If you are in the US you must speak as though you are in the middle of the country. These things do not work on an American accent, only on one from a specific part of the country.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#36676722)

If you are in the US you must speak as though you are in the middle of the country. These things do not work on an American accent, only on one from a specific part of the country.

North Midland Dialect, specifically. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midland_American_English#.28North.29_Midland [wikipedia.org]

There is no "American" accent, but television personalities usually adopt a north midland accent, so that's what foreigners hear often.

Japanese has an even meter (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 3 years ago | (#36676704)

or I think that's what it's called. It means every syllable is one beat. That makes it easy to create computer voices that sound convincing, especially if you're hard of hearing (like a lot of people in their 50s, who are the only ones that have money in our greying economy). Plus they're gradually solving this problem anyway. It comes down to processing power more than anything else, and they're not far off.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

errandum (2014454) | about 3 years ago | (#36676854)

Speech recognition is nowhere near perfect enough to make this replace anyone.

You can train a machine to recognize a person and/or dialect (without accent), but never to be perfect. I do believe that the Indian guy answering the phone will be able to type this into a terminal and get reasonable answers (very much like it did with jeopardy), and that might streamline the process, leading to less need for employees.

Re:Jobs killer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676278)

Don't worry, they can all get shovel-ready infrastructure jobs.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#36676792)

Don't worry, they can all get shovel-ready infrastructure jobs.

And Watson can manage them.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

Meshach (578918) | about 3 years ago | (#36676330)

Mark my words, this will kill the economy, just like ATMs did.

ATM's became popular because for simple transactions it is quicker to go through a machine then to talk to a real person. For complex sales interactions I cannot see some computer trying to guess what I am thinking replacing a real live sales person / engineer. The process for finding solutions that are right for my situation is too complex.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | about 3 years ago | (#36676486)

Mark my words, this will kill the economy, just like ATMs did.

ATM's became popular because for simple transactions it is quicker to go through a machine then to talk to a real person. For complex sales interactions I cannot see some computer trying to guess what I am thinking replacing a real live sales person / engineer. The process for finding solutions that are right for my situation is too complex.

Also, Watson will never be able to properly replace someone in retention (the people you talk to if you sound like you're going to cancel your cable subscription). These people don't work from a script (even if they do have a playbook).

Re:Jobs killer (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 years ago | (#36676552)

Depends on the company. My former mobile phone company's retention team definitely had a script. Offer x, offer y, give up. I spoke to them a couple of times, and it was the same. With a bit more intelligence, they'd analyse my usage and work out what they could offer for my usage pattern and still make a profit.

Re:Jobs killer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676584)

Sure it can. Retention strategies are based on the clients value to the company. These 'values' are based on length of time with the company, how much money you have spent over that time and how your payment history is. Based on that they have ground rules on how incentives are offered. For example if you are a cell phone subscriber, been with the company for 5+ years, pay $60/month and have a pretty solid payment history they will normally have about 10% of your yearly expenditure to offer as incentives by offering free pre-packaged services such as additional airtime minutes, long distance minutes, etc.

It really isn't that hard.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#36676542)

"The process for finding solutions that are right for my situation is too complex."
well, aren't you special. You and you're too complex problems.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

Tanktalus (794810) | about 3 years ago | (#36676886)

If you keep up with that "you're-when-you-mean-your" thing, you're bound to confuse Watson. It might even suggest you get Windows 7 preloaded.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | about 3 years ago | (#36676718)

ATMs became popular because they fired most of the tellers and the line is 30 minutes long and you have to fill out paperwork for a basic deposit and many banks charge you to talk to the teller on top of all that. ATMs still suck. Especially the Bank of America ones. Give me back tellers and envelopes over some B.S. machine that won't take the checks I am trying to deposit because it can't read them.

Re:Jobs killer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676770)

Why does anyone still use BoA? I had an account with them over 25 years ago and have refused to bank with them since.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

Bluebottel (979854) | about 3 years ago | (#36676938)

[...] B.S. machine that won't take the checks I am trying to deposit because it can't read them.

Now there's your problem! Why any sane person in a developed country would still want to fiddle with checks is beyond me.

Re:Jobs killer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36677108)

Never had a problem with BOFA AMTs...must be user error.

Then they'll either drop you as a customer... (4, Interesting)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 3 years ago | (#36676768)

...(because you cost too much to maintain) or you'll adapt to their systems. And for Pete's sake, stop trotting out that overused ATM bit. It's called an EXAMPLE. It's how you illustrate a broad trend. ATMs are one of many, many ways that people are lost jobs to automation. There's lots more examples. My favorite is the sleeping bag factory that cranked out 1 million + bags/yr with just 300 employees. Then there's all the small craft businesses (like closet makers) that used to be highly specialized and now are being replaced by a few expert systems.

I don't know if you're old enough to remember, but back in the 80s were promised expert systems that would do these things and free us up for leisure time. Trouble is, instead of leisure time we're getting pink slips and a one way ticket to the gutter we're schedule to die in. Thing is, I've yet to hear a compelling solution to the problem of automation that doesn't just boil down to 1) Anyone w/o jobs dies of starvation or 2) Some form of socialism. What I do hear a lot of is attempts to ignore / downplay the problem. Remember Biotech? Where are the jobs? And even if we had them, how the hell would anyone get trained for them when we're cutting back on education budgets left and right?

Let's test it out! (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 3 years ago | (#36676952)

For complex sales interactions I cannot see some computer trying to guess what I am thinking replacing a real live sales person / engineer.

Do you believe it is normal to be thinking replacing a real live sales person / engineer?

Re:Jobs killer (5, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 3 years ago | (#36676334)

You know these sales and marketing people were all behind the outsourcing and devaluing I.T. jobs because the sales and marketing people made money, not computer geeks. As a testament to their success they convinced accountants to label them as "profit centers" while I.T. was labeled a "cost center". Guess which one the executives choose to fund more of vs cutting the other?

Now these same people are being outsourced and it is genius.

Re:Jobs killer (2)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | about 3 years ago | (#36676402)

so... now the IT folks will be profit centers because they are supporting Watson!

Re:Jobs killer (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#36676546)

A fork of Watson will support Watson.

Re:Jobs killer (2)

benjamindees (441808) | about 3 years ago | (#36676654)

No, the salespeople who are selling Watson are the new profit center. In fact it's salespeople all the way down.

Re:Jobs killer (4, Interesting)

Riceballsan (816702) | about 3 years ago | (#36676436)

Twice as awesome, to be replaced by machines, that will have to be supported by IT.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

EdIII (1114411) | about 3 years ago | (#36677086)

I honestly wonder if will see the beginnings of the Matrix in our lifetime.

If Watson really is that good that it can replace a customer service agent, then it will only be a matter of decades before technology converges and we have robotic servants similar to the Bicentennial Man or I, Robot.

This would be good for Japan I think, but then if we are all serviced by robots, and the robots service the robots for repairs and maintenance, and robots are designing other robots.... than just what are the humans here for again?

I am not a Luddite, but I think there are some things that should remain fundamentally human. Either that, or if the robotic lifeform becomes so good that we can't tell the difference, than it should be granted rights just like the rest of us.

Interesting times I guess.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676398)

What are you talking about? The economy went through several business cycles while ATM use rose.

Re:Jobs killer (2)

homer_s (799572) | about 3 years ago | (#36676494)

Nah, it was electricity that killed jobs. And not to mention, the wheel.

Re:Jobs killer (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | about 3 years ago | (#36676562)

When automation reduced industrial jobs, people could move into the service economy. But now automation is reducing service economy jobs. Where will they move to? While there's always some room for innovation, it's not impossible that we may reach a point where the majority of unemployed people simply cannot "move somewhere else".

Re:Jobs killer (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 3 years ago | (#36676876)

I thought about your question for a moment, then I realized that I too need a copy of Watson running on my PC five years from now. Assuming I have the raw computing resources for it, i too can outsource my job.

Two can play this game. Soon, my Watson will be calling your Watson for support and collaboration. Not sure if that's a good idea, but...

Re:Jobs killer (2)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 3 years ago | (#36676926)

Well ultimately, if automation replaces all human functions, we'll not need to work. The reason we need to work is so that we can have the things in life that we need to survive and want to be happy. Get it to the point machines can do all that, and humans can just relax.

That's a rather long way away though. Still a whole lot machines can't do, and even in the things they can do, humans have to mind after them.

But ultimately, it is not a problem. A fully automated economy might be the death of capitalism, but it wouldn't be a situation where "Everyone is unemployed and nobody has anything." Rather it would be "Nobody needs to work because machines do that, they do what they please and have their needs provided for."

Re:Jobs killer (5, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 3 years ago | (#36677060)

No, that will never be the case. Just as they predicted that computers would make for a 10-20 hour workweek.

You see, we currently pay people in return for their time. $40,000 (or $80k, or $120k) buys you a person for a year. Now, whether they do 40 hours of work a week to produce TPS reports, or you give them a computer so they can produce the equivalent of 80 hours worth of TPS reports in a week, the market is for a week of time. Business owners understand this, and their income is based on then number of TPS reports.

Let's say you've got 100 employees each making 10 TPS reports a week. Lets assume you are "right-sized" and there is only a market for 1000TPS reports in a week. Now you buy a Watson that can produce 100 TPS reports per person employed. Would you keep everybody on and let them work 4 hours a week, or would you fire 90 employees, keep the ten you need, pay the cost of Watson* with the savings in payroll, and pocket the extra?

That's exactly what has happened over the past 40 years. We are getting more efficient, but it's not leading to shorter weeks - it's leading to higher unemployment, and higher unemployability. As things get more complex, fewer humans have the mental capacity to operate the machines of business efficiently.

The more machines do, the "expendable" end of the human capability bell curve moves further to the right.

*note: if at all possible, IBM will charge for Watson the annual sum of about 85 employees, including maintenance and upgrades, for licensing.

Re:Jobs killer (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about 3 years ago | (#36676644)

No, mark my words, this will improve the economy.

After all, we all know that reducing the cost of making telemarketing (or fundraising, or political) phone calls has no possible downside. After all, where would the internet be today if we didn't have pharmacological products advertised in our email and long distance gold-digging girlfriends impersonated by sophisticated spam-bots?

Re:Jobs killer (2)

Normal Dan (1053064) | about 3 years ago | (#36676648)

Good. That means the people who used to sit on phones all day can now go and do something productive and help increase the wealth of the nation.

Re:Jobs killer (3, Interesting)

scamper_22 (1073470) | about 3 years ago | (#36676692)

Mark my words... this is what computers were meant to do:
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2218882&cid=36363480 [slashdot.org]

I work with computers all day.
I often wonder what people think computers are all about.

They're all about replacing human labor. I find it odd working in this field and talking to people outside it.

People outside the field seem to think that every age has a 'new economy' but everything else stays the same... as if nothing has changed in history. So they talk as if the 'green' economy will provide everyone with jobs... just 'green' jobs. Or they think we'll all be doing analytical work.

The problem is typically these people lack an understanding of scale. It's odd how so many academics lack an understanding of scale as well. All the 'good' jobs of the future are jobs that do not scale with the population. They are for small groups of highly skilled people.

So Google can do all it does with a mere 30K people or so. That is enough to serve the whole world. Just to put it in context. BlockBuster employed 60K people and it represents just a sliver of what Google can do (content delivery).

The single biggest problem is that the private sector is increasingly not scaling with population. Small highly efficient operations are there.

The public sector typically does scale with population. More nurses, doctors, police officers, teachers... are needed as the population grows. Now we can certainly try and automate parts of these jobs (online class delivery...), but in general we're not there technologically or the unions won't allow it.

So we have a structural imbalance. The only way out of it... is to go to the start... computers are doing what they were meant to do... kill human labor. We should all be working less... job sharing. the result is a much more egalitarian society... with potentially a very rich upper class at the top of some of the automation companies.

However that would kill people's position of privilege in society. Public sector workers expect a premium over the average person. Ditto for bankers...

IMHO, we need to embrace deflation and the lack of work and redirect people to the jobs that still need doing. Maybe we need vast numbers of people to work on the farms 2 weeks a year. Other need to go mine for rechargeable batteries.

One of the biggest problem we still face is the emphasis on 'educated' labor. Just as the industrial revolution automated manufacturing jobs. The information revolution automates so much educated labor. We need a few experts, but computing can do the rest.

So we need to get rid of the idea that just because you're educated, you should be paid more. Most of the legal and financial jobs are unproductive today. Just there to keep educated people in a premium position over society. We could for example automate and simplify the entire tax field and get rid of most accountants.

But as I said, people are used to their position of privilege. Egalitarianism is a hard concept... even though people talk about it. When people talk about good jobs, they mean jobs better than someone else.

It's definitely going to be a rough time... especially since technology is deflationary... but governments and banks are inflationary. We certainly can't embrace deflation as governments have so much debt and banks are dependent on people taking loans... and guess who is in charge of most countries (bankers and governments...)

Expect a rough time.

Great, (1)

idontgno (624372) | about 3 years ago | (#36676236)

Now voice-response menu systems are artificially intelligent. This is not an improvement.

Re:Great, (3, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#36676286)

Now voice-response menu systems are artificially intelligent. This is not an improvement.

Think an unholy union of Skynet and QVC.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

"Dear Aunt. (3, Funny)

0100010001010011 (652467) | about 3 years ago | (#36676374)

Let's set so double the killer delete select all."

Now searching.

"The best way to commit a double homicide would be to..."

The good news (1)

robot256 (1635039) | about 3 years ago | (#36676250)

If it doesn't work, they won't sell any.

Re:The good news (1)

xclr8r (658786) | about 3 years ago | (#36676382)

You underestimate the exuberance of the technophiles that have budgetary clearance - who love expensive toys for a week, then gets bored and complains that it does not work to the techs he didn't consult about the purchase in the first place.

Luckily, I don't work at a place like that now but I have in past jobs.

I have a question for Watson... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676256)

What's IDK mean? /trollface

Rubbish. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676268)

People love those automated voice systems at banks and other institutions, right?

No, wait. They fucking hate them because they're universally horrible.

Careful, Dave! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676296)

Great. Machines selling machines. What's next? Machines voting for machines?

/this post tainted by Hollywood

The last barrier to immediately hanging up (4, Interesting)

SpiralSpirit (874918) | about 3 years ago | (#36676314)

The only reason I don't hang up right away on sales/survey calls is because deep down I don't like being rude, even to strangers. The minute I hear a machine or recording I hang up, though. For support, if I can't talk to a human that speaks the same language as I do within a reasonable time frame, I don't use the service. Replace humans at your peril.

Re:The last barrier to immediately hanging up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676568)

Telemarketers don't have feelings, you shouldn't feel bad about abusing them.

oblig (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676316)

i for one welcome our new salesperson overlord.

Can't say they're not eating their own dog food! (1)

Tolkien (664315) | about 3 years ago | (#36676318)

Pretty cool. Now if these DeepQA continue to learn and integrate information acquired from callers, all we need is to bombard it with 4chan style idiocy of Cleverbot proportions, just to see how it handles that! Hehehehe.

Re:Can't say they're not eating their own dog food (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676714)

Even better: "I'll buy your product if you recite the exact value of pi for me".

That's cool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676322)

Will I be able to connect it to my personal automated salesbot listener, and let them discuss the advantages of the new and improved washing machine until they run out of memory?

Huzzah! (1)

Kingrames (858416) | about 3 years ago | (#36676342)

Now those jobs stolen by Indians can be given back to Americans! (American robots, but hey.)

Re:Huzzah! (1)

microcentillion (942039) | about 3 years ago | (#36676444)

American robots assembled in China!

Re:Huzzah! (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#36676606)

American robots assembled in China, by robots.

Re:Huzzah! (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 3 years ago | (#36676620)

With software written by Indians!

Still going to ask for (First World) humans. (1)

sethstorm (512897) | about 3 years ago | (#36676352)

Watson can't help you if you cut straight to the human. If they're offshore, the only thing this does is make it easier to justify people who know not your accent, language, or problem.

Might work (4, Funny)

khendron (225184) | about 3 years ago | (#36676356)

Customer: Can you tell me the location of your office in the United States?
Watson: Toronto?????

Re:Might work (4, Funny)

sortadan (786274) | about 3 years ago | (#36676538)

Watson: What is Toronto?

Re:Might work (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | about 3 years ago | (#36676564)

Please phrase your answer in the form of a question

Watson: What is Toronto?

Re:Might work (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 3 years ago | (#36676798)

I also hope Watson now realizes Toronto is an international call...

Now, finally ... (4, Funny)

foobsr (693224) | about 3 years ago | (#36676360)

(drum fill) REAL sales droids. All you ever wanted. Yuck.

CC.

One big reason it will not work (1)

hilldog (656513) | about 3 years ago | (#36676362)

As someone who has worked in sales most of my life and managed sales support teams I see one flaw in the plan. Watson is logical. People are not. Anyone in sales knows the vast ocean of illogical reasoning that comes spewing from peoples mouths during the sales process. Anyone in IT has their favorite stories of dealing with people who either are clueless or just temporally insane at that moment.

Re:One big reason it will not work (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 3 years ago | (#36676598)

On the other hand, the ability of Watson to augment a live human at a call center should be considered. On several occasions, I have been transferred from one person to another because the first few people had no clue what I was asking about -- "You want to do what with your cell phone? What's GSM? Do you want to buy a 3G plan?" It would be very helpful if something Watson could help them understand what it is that is being asked, and perhaps provide some sort of answers.

Now, I may be overly optimistic about the way that Watson will ultimately be used, but that is another story entirely. Watson is not necessarily a bad idea for those situations where a less-than-knowledgeable person is forced to deal with a technical question from a customer (and I really cannot be the only person in the world who asks technical questions).

Re:One big reason it will not work (2)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | about 3 years ago | (#36676784)

Plus, lets just say I'm the head of a large government agency, and I'm going to spend a few billion dollars on a large consulting contract. Who am I going to buy from, IBM, who has Watson, who can answer all my questions? Or some other company, who has an actual salesman, who can buy me a lapdance and a couple of scotches?

Perpetual Loop (1)

Solstice (11486) | about 3 years ago | (#36676368)

Deploy the counter-Watsons to talk to the sales-Watsons. Only then will Watson learn that the only winning move is not to play.

Re:Perpetual Loop (1)

Terrasque (796014) | about 3 years ago | (#36676942)

Counter-Watson? Sweet little Eliza will be more than enough for that task :)

Bad Idea (1)

dbialac (320955) | about 3 years ago | (#36676384)

I get pissed off when I call and get an IVR system. Do you think I'm even going to give you the time of day if you replace a sales person with this? I can't think of a better way to chase away your customers than to show that you are genuinely not interested in talking to them.

Hello, my name is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676390)

If they can give it an Indian accent, it will hurt the call centers most of all.

This works both ways... (1)

microcentillion (942039) | about 3 years ago | (#36676394)

I'll have it answer for bill collectors and telemarketers!

"Your computer vs mine, and I suck less at building them!"

Honestly? (1)

freman (843586) | about 3 years ago | (#36676406)

If you can't take the time to talk to me about your product then I'll be stuffed if I'm going to take the time to be interested in it.

Re:Honestly? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#36676632)

Yeah.. unless it's something you need and it's only sold by a company who uses watson.

Could be good, probably will suck (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 3 years ago | (#36676418)

A well constructed domain specific support automaton would be more useful than the current crop of script drones *IF* they allow real data. Instead, you won't be allowed to hear about known problems, even if there is a fix available. Clueless execs would frown on divulging information that made the company look anything less than perfect. Maybe if you navigate the tier 2 computer long enough, you will be transferred to a tier 1 computer to be told to turn your product off an on again.

duckduckgo.com (-1, Offtopic)

morjazzz (2348590) | about 3 years ago | (#36676420)

Everyone should try duckduckgo.com. It's a great search engine. No BS like the corporate monopolizing Google.

Re:duckduckgo.com (1)

melikamp (631205) | about 3 years ago | (#36676580)

Watson, is that you???

It can talk - but can it read and reply? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676430)

This was not covered by TFA - how does watson do with correspondence?

At my employer we get significant amounts of customer support correspondence (email and snail mail). We trialled an automated system developed by university reseachers - but its error rate was unacceptable. The system could not handle compound questions (eg more than one or questions that led to more questions) and would get stumped by emotional content (angry complaints).

Is Watson able to deal with this?

Oh and 32million to replace your customer service infrastructure, for ever, with an instant response system? That sounds pretty reasonable!

real sales people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676452)

tell lies

Support Calls == Compicated (2)

brunes69 (86786) | about 3 years ago | (#36676454)

The thing companies seem to fail to understand is, if someone is CALLING YOU, especially in 2011, then their question / answer is LIKELY COMPLEX. If my query could be answered via a Google search or my transaction be done on your website, then why the F do you think I would be calling you? No, I am calling you because it is something only a human can do, so get me to a freaking human ASAP.

Yes, it is true that we used to be the tech-savvy minorty. This is no longer the case. Who does not bank online? Who doesn't pay their bills online? If you bank online and are calling the bank, what on earth could you be calling about that could be done by a robo-call? Nothing.

Re:Support Calls == Compicated (3, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#36676548)

You haven't done much tech support recently, have you? Much of it is still at 'are you sure the computer is plugged in' level.

Again, this isn't pitched at you, it's for them.

Re:Support Calls == Compicated (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 3 years ago | (#36676680)

Not likely; have you ever dealt with people in the real world? Most people are still struggling to figure out their computers, and the fact that they keep buying more computers with more complex software doesn't help. It also doesn't help that people are being forced to learn new models of personal computing every few years; by the time they have figured out the way people started doing things five years ago, everything has changed and they have to start again. Couple this with that fact that most of these people have little interest in actually learning about their computers, and you have your standard "check if it is plugged in" level tech support calls.

AI salesman vs the law (4, Interesting)

Fractal Dice (696349) | about 3 years ago | (#36676476)

What are the legal implications of Watson lying? of providing false or misleading information?

Re:AI salesman vs the law (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#36676614)

Why would it be different than what salesmen do now?

obligatory ST:TNG reference (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | about 3 years ago | (#36676502)

Why does that remind me of The Arsenal of Freedom [wikimedia.org]

So I buy my own Watson (1)

cvtan (752695) | about 3 years ago | (#36676508)

Then when my Watson has a problem I can have my Watson call IBM's Watson and they can just work it out between themselves. Or the universe will explode because my Watson is really running IBM's Watson in the cloud...

Re:So I buy my own Watson (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | about 3 years ago | (#36676964)

Watson the cloud? Probably water vapor.

Do something really useful (1)

TopSpin (753) | about 3 years ago | (#36676512)

Put some lawyers out of work.

Watson: You can yell all you want... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676518)

Wouldn't you prefer a nice game of chess?

better way to sell it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676576)

let wotson play epic mafia. that will make sure it can handle infinite humans that comes to the web and play with the bot, not know if it is real or not.

and the ability to check if he can be good human communication.

Um, sure... (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 3 years ago | (#36676628)

"IBM Watson To Replace Salespeople and Cold-Callers"

I'm dyin to see how Watson will walk into the lobby and chat up the receptionist.

There is no replacement for a cold-caller. Sometimes you have to physically walk in and make the effort. What BS this headline is. I suspect IBM expect Watson to respond. Not initiate. At least, not yet. That's for the unholy Google/IBM/Microsoft alliance that will end life as we know it, if SAP doesn't do it first.

Computer Science 101 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676706)

Recursion at its finest.

Soft AI Customer Support (2)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | about 3 years ago | (#36676712)

So they want to use a somewhat intelligent(?) computer to augment and/or replace their customer support? And here I didn't think customer support could get any worse than the current automation/unknowledgeable representative hell that exists?

If any company is going to honestly transfer its customer service division into the hands of a computer, you can kiss any useful support goodbye permanently from that company.

Re:Soft AI Customer Support (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36677056)

having talked to some customer supports it wont make a difference, 90% of the people i talk to know nothing more then to read the script.

i had times that i explained them the most likely cause of the problem and asked them to check 1 setting and they couldn't/wouldn't do it.

Poor watson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676752)

cold calling? You mean watson will be used for telemarketing? what an annoying way to use such technology.

Re:Poor watson (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 3 years ago | (#36677130)

Watson. Hang up. I hate you.

Please press 1 now... (1)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | about 3 years ago | (#36676794)

I'm already annoyed by those phone menus whose obvious purpose is to let the company act like it's providing support while at the same time making it so difficult for customers to seek human assistance that the company won't have to hire many (or perhaps any) customer support people. I fear this Watson system may lead to more of the same thing (except more widespread, as this is supposed to be better than phone menus).

"What is Toronto?????" (1)

Katchu (1036242) | about 3 years ago | (#36676816)

Customer: "My cable modem keeps dropping sessions." Watson: "What is Toronto?????"

Don't cross the beams (2)

SMoynihan (1647997) | about 3 years ago | (#36676838)

Just wait, soon there will be Watson powered answering machines.

And soon after, we'll have these AI cold-callers interacting with same AI answering machines...

And what conversations will they have, on phones unmonitored by humans?

Watson Loop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36676852)

I'll just buy a Watson to answer my phone for me.

Such a disappointment (4, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 3 years ago | (#36676880)

Come on IBM, finally, finally, FINALLY we have an opportunity to actually create a talking car a la Knight Rider and you let it go to waste on such frivolous tasks as winning a game show, doing medical diagnoses, and selling people stuff. This must make David Hasselhoff so mad that he is rolling around half-naked on the floor unable to even eat a simple cheeseburger.
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