AI or Human? The Age of the Chatbot in Financial Services

Do you recall the last time you interacted with your bank’s customer service? Were you talking to a human or a digital assistant?

The way customers engage with financial service companies is changing, and the days of communicating with human customer service reps are numbered. Some of the most reputable banks have jumped on the artificial intelligence (AI) bandwagon: Bank of America launched Erica, a chatbot that can help check balances and answer bank-related questions, while Capital One released Eno, a text chatbot that informs customers about their accounts and helps them make credit card payments from their smartphone.

As other industries set the standard for customer service and experience, financial services companies need to find ways to engage their customers and outperform their peers, even in the face of aging infrastructure and intense regulation. Luckily, recent AI advancements have made solutions to these problems more attainable and more scalable than ever before.

Engage Your Customers

The demand-driven economy has forced financial companies to take an omnichannel approach to customer engagement that allows customers to select the touchpoint most convenient to them, with the expectation of having an instant, engaging response.

This approach can seem overwhelming and unrealistic because it presents two major challenges to companies. First, with a human workforce providing 24/7 support across texting, live chat, voice, and social media channels, costs can skyrocket. Second, meeting customer expectations quickly can be challenging for a human workforce.

The solution? Send in the bots.

Omnichannel customer engagement requires the integration of AI with the help of chatbots, Alexa Voice Assistant, and intelligent process automation. Chatbots will never entirely replace humans, but there are many tasks that chatbots can perform better than humans.

Chatbots no longer provide stiff chat experiences but can have personality and understand complex conversations. Cases in point: Clinc released its chatbot Finie last year, which can understand complex and unstructured English, and Google just announced several features at Google I/O that are built around adding a human touch to its AI experiences.

Here are four significant advantages of chatbots compared to humans:

1. They can engage the customer faster than a human.

2. Chatbots can relieve customer support or sales of large volumes of inbound traffic.

3. They can save a company substantial costs by reducing the number of required human staff members. Automating just a few steps for customer service can result in millions of dollars in savings.

4. Chatbots can improve the overall customer experience and position a company in the technological forefront. Chatbots are multilingual, they ensure compliance, they do not misspell, and they can employ an omnichannel engagement strategy.

With the emergence of voice-based, conversational user experiences — cue Alexa — more than half of U.S. households will have voice-enabled smart speakers by 2022.

Believe it or not, the finance industry is one of the most natural environments in which to apply smart speakers, whether it’s for checking your credit card balance, making a payment, learning about your spending habits, or receiving customer support.

With all of these advantages, it’s no wonder that 80 percent of businesses want chatbots by 2020.

Another area in which AI can create big wins for customer engagement is with intelligent process automation. Allowing customers to become more autonomous across mobile, text, and social media can reduce costs while increasing engagement — think about automating a credit line increase and making it available through text messaging, or allowing customers to take a photo of their driver’s license to auto-populate fields in an online form. Making the digital experience more customer-centric will help maintain customer interaction over time.

Get To Know Your Clients

Customers are willing to share data to receive a better experience or product offering, but at the same time, they are wary of their privacy and data security. A point of differentiation is transparency about data use and an easy opt in/opt out method in data categories to demonstrate a commitment to customer data protection.

Do not hide what you are doing — customers want to be treated with respect and will reward you with their loyalty.

Performing machine learning on customer data, customer behavior, and channel interactions can provide business insights, create better product offerings, and improve the digital experience over time. For instance, machine learning can give you more information about who your customers are and help you define more detailed and accurate customer segments. Additionally, you can also learn what the most common online queries are per customer segment. Combining this information with a predictive algorithm can improve chatbot performance over time and offer relevant products to customers before they even know they want them. 

Create The Right Environment

To successfully implement an advanced AI experience, you need three things: amazing people who enable a creative work culture, open communication channels throughout an enterprise organization, and a solid, long-term digital strategy.

What makes some teams amazing is their ability to create the right organizational culture for fostering creativity and empowering each team member to deliver. The best teams share the values of transparency, open communication, accountability, and trust by integrating the work of business people and developers throughout the entire implementation process.

Siloed organizations struggle to make successful AI experiences due to poor communication and cross-functional collaboration across business units. Leadership must understand that technology and products do not break down into a company’s structure. Forming a cohesive, omnichannel, digital experience requires a long-term digital strategy; a road map that focuses on business outcomes rather than one that focuses on the product; and a uniform experience for the customer across multiple channels.

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