TOKYO -- IBM Japan and Mizuho Bank are working together to develop the world's first computer system that automatically answers customer questions using a combination of speech recognition and the Watson cognitive computing system.
Mizuho Bank intends to use the system starting next year at its call center. Later it hopes to harness the technology for sales as well, for example by offering financial products optimized for individual clients.
The two companies are developing a system to provide quick answers that call center operators can give to customer questions. The speech recognition system will process the phone conversations and convert the talk into text for Watson. The IBM supercomputer will then reference lists of potential questions and answers and scour the Internet to determine the optimal answer, presenting this together with follow-up questions on the operator's computer screen.
An inexperienced operator may need as long as 30 minutes to figure out the answer to a difficult question, but Mizuho Bank hopes to shorten this to eight minutes using Watson, thereby providing its customers with better service.
Watson may take some time to answer a new question, but because it can learn, it can give that answer immediately on subsequent occasions.
In the U.S., Watson is helping doctors make treatment decisions. In Japan, IBM Japan is keen to shop Watson around to companies in a variety of industries, including the financial and retail sectors.