Originally published at LinkedIn
We’re entering the age of conversational banking: a study by Juniper Research found that operational cost savings from using bots in banking will reach $7.3 billion globally by 2023. That means in 2023 banks would have 862 million hours of time saved, which equals nearly half a million working years.
Of course, this would not be possible without the rapidly evolving technologies and popularity of smartphones: on average, people spend about four hours a day on their devices.
Leading banks were the first ones to jump in on the trend and introduced mobile apps: nearly 75% of all bank interactions now take place online or on a mobile device according to FIS’ 2019 Performance Against Customer Expectations (PACE) survey. Then they naturally expanded their channels to conversational interfaces: chatbots in banking have already been used by Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Capital One for a few years. They have the capacity to perform tasks that range from checking an account balance to offering users suggestions on how to save money. But now, with further adoption of conversational AI, you can get the necessary answers just by using your voice — and with real-time updates too.
According to Gartner, by 2020 chatbots will be handling no less than 85% of all customer service interactions. Right now there are multiple channels to reach a bank: from branches to phone lines, from email to mobile app, from live chat to ATMs. Of course, it can be difficult for banks to gather and use customer data from all these channels. So, conversational solutions help banks deliver a truly omnichannel experience: a bot can be deployed across a number of channels ensuring customer needs are addressed, regardless of channel, in the best way possible.
How does conversational AI serve the banking sector?
Sure, AI technologies are not yet mature enough to successfully address 100% of customer queries. And it’s been said multiple times that the key to success is finding the balance between conversational AI and humans.
However, here is where conversational AI applications are a perfect fit:
Providing an automated service that answers questions like where is the closest ATM or branch, how can I reset my password, how can I block my lost card, etc. can easily free up very important and expensive contact center time. Conversational AI can handle a large volume of interactions without requiring any increase in team size. This is obviously helpful as changes are made to products, delivery channels, or regulations that may result in a spike in customer inquiries
Customers want answers at any time and any place, so a 24/7 instant chat feature is expected by the increasingly digital ‘always-on’ consumer. This means that banks with chatbots built into their websites have a competitive advantage, and are likelier to attract and retain customers.
— human factors
In most cases, virtual agents are being marketed as “immune to human flaws”: they never call in sick, don’t get tired, and sound cheerful no matter what. But there’s more to it: conversational AI platforms like Rasa, Kore.ai, or Just AI also enable customer support employees to respond to more complex problems where human literary needs human. Thus, when chatbots and digital assistants are in place, human agents get a better chance at showing their human side.
— nurturing better relations
According to recent studies, people find phone calls tedious and slow in comparison to instant chat. They also view emails or online forms as ‘impersonal’ and mostly dislike them. When engaging with a financial institution, it is the speed and personalization of services delivered that customers value the most. This is when chatbots come into play, as they combine live conversation and speed.
— finding information
Usually, banks and insurance companies offer multiple products and services, which often require various policies and documentation packages, so an average website of such a business is an information abyss. Bots help users quickly find the information they need from the massive amount of the bank’s documentation, which greatly speeds up access to services.
— new lead generation
When clients visit a bank’s website and there is a bot that politely greets them, encourages them to ask questions about products and services, and helps find their way to the necessary information, this is more likely to end with an account opening or a new purchase.
Here are a few examples of conversational AI put to good use:
Customers no longer have to wait for a call center agent
While it’s the most common use case for conversational applications, the importance of it cannot be stressed enough. Placing a virtual agent in a customer communication channel (or a few of them), when done right, impacts the overall brand image. For instance, a top-tier European bank started using infobots across a number of channels in order to increase the availability of its information services and harness new channels.
So, bots took a hefty share of customer inquiries: from consulting on loans and deposits to finding nearest branches and ATMs, to sending customized promotional offers. Send sample requests to chatbots. As a result, using bots help improve overall support desk productivity: as bots addressed frequently asked questions without customers having to wait for a call center operator or search the Internet for the answer. So customers, had their questions answered quickly, while human agents could fully focus on the situation where human-to-machine interaction doesn’t solve the problem.
Insurance bot helps customers during their travel abroad
There are situations when customers find themselves in a vulnerable position, conversational applications serve as a perfect customer care channel. Insurance is a business that needs to always be prepared to act in such a situation. This is when virtual agents come into play, as they enable insurance providers to immediately address customers’ requests. One of the European insurance companies intended to deploy an AI-powered bot for a faster response in emergency situations and FAQs, but as a result, it created a comprehensive assistant guide that helps customers during their travel abroad.
The bot can answer trivia questions about a destination country: from general information to visa rules, to customs regulations. When a customer is already abroad, based on their geographical location, a bot can provide emergency contacts, and consult on VAT refund policy, medicine, and transport. When the bot cannon answer the questions, it transfers it to a human agent — all that helps customers feel supported even in the most vulnerable moments.
Taking the stigma out of debt collection
There are sides of business operations that neither companies nor customers like drawing extra attention to and debt collection are one of those. However, progressive companies no longer use intimidation and force rather utilize technology for customer-centric debt collection and outreach strategies. Bringing bots to the debt collection process changed the way debtors and debt collection agents can interact and communicate. Compared to traditional channels a banking chatbot is easy to use and access. Debtors don’t need to download an app, fill up a form, spend time on a phone call or visit a bank branch, they can instantly chat or message to interact with the bot. To help debtors make informed decisions about repayments, an AI banking chatbot has the ability to create a comprehensive debtor profile and provide recommendations in real-time. What’s more, when interacting with a debtor, the bot does not exhibit any bias, unlike human debt collectors who unintentionally possess a tone of judgment — so debt collecting voice bots are friendly yet persistent in conveying their message.
Banking institutions that want to succeed in a digital economy need to make fundamental changes to how they operate; respond to opportunities for innovation, introduce services quickly, test and learn from the market’s response, and address the fast changes needed in the core business of banking. While adopting a digital mindset, they create additional value for customers and stakeholders, which helps them stay on top in today’s digital age.