IBM launches a customer experience practice

More than 100 IBM researchers will help clients identify better ways of interacting with customers and employees

IBM has started a new practice to help organizations interact more effectively with their customers through the use of social media and other emerging technologies.

"Today, businesses have a completely different way of engaging customers," said Mahmoud Naghshineh, IBM vice president of services research, noting that social media and mobile technologies have provided organizations new forms of feedback from their customers. "There are all these new ways of reaching out to people [but] you need to know when the right time is to engage."

The IBM Customer Experience Lab will provide clients with access to both IBM researchers and IBM business analysis consultants, who will generate new ways for clients to communicate with customers and employees.

The practice is similar to the IBM Services Lab, which was launched almost two years ago. The lab, still in operation, focuses on providing clients with more effective ways of managing their IT infrastructure.

According to IBM, the new lab will concentrate on helping organizations obtain more insight into their user bases, as well as to communicate more effectively with customers and employees. For greater customer insight, IBM hopes to deploy advanced capabilities such as machine learning and visual analytics to predict differences in individual customers. In this way, organizations could strengthen their customer engagement by personalizing transactions. And to strengthen employee engagement, IBM could help businesses embed semantic, collaborative and multimedia technologies into the workflow.

The lab is different from a consulting practice because instead of focusing on using existing technologies and techniques, IBM will explore new ways of addressing problems through the use of research and sharing of best practices, Naghshineh said.

More than 100 IBM researchers worldwide will take part in the lab. They will work with clients to identify new usage patterns, analyze user data and recommend new projects and changes, using scientific practices in mathematics, psychology and other relevant disciplines. The lab will also offer clients a series of workshops for generating ideas and prototypes.

IBM has been putting more of its researchers to work on client problems over the past few years. IBM employs about 3,000 researchers worldwide and spends about US$6 billion annually on research and development. IBM researchers have joined 1,000 client engagements over the past several years.

IBM has already helped a number of organizations to improve their customer interactions, including the United Kingdom's Nationwide Building Society, and the Mexican Banorte bank, Naghshineh said.

The lab, which operates under the IBM Global Business Services unit, will have headquarters at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, and will use researchers from IBM's 12 research labs around the globe, including those in Africa, Brazil, China, India, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the United States.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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