Banking on bots: Let’s chat about the future

The following is a guest post from Rahul Singh, president, financial services for HCL Technologies.

Rahul Singh

Rahul Singh

 

Banking, which has always been ready to embrace technology, has done it again. Banks are deploying chatbots at such a furious pace that chatbots are already poised to qualify as the most memorable trend to sweep the industry in 2017. While they are making banking better – and certainly more convenient – there is much for banks to learn from existing deployments to realize their true potential.

It is reasonable to assume that banks would be cautious in adopting chatbots. Even minor flaws in advice by a chatbot could lead to a regulatory tangle. Despite this, bankers and customers are enthusiastic. One reason behind the rush for chatbots is the growing customer expectation for instant gratification, resulting in frustration over wait times with call center agents and bank officials. In today’s busy world, customers don’t have the time to wait in a call queue for 20 minutes for a two-minute question – they would rather get an instant response from a chatbot. Plus, chatbots don’t go home at the end of a work shift – they are available 24/7, 365 days a year. Now add the business math: While a single customer transaction with an agent via phone can cost up to $4.00, a chatbot could push that down to a handful of cents. These advantages help explain why everyone from MasterCard to Capital One is launching chatbots.

American Express has a chatbot that uses Facebook Messenger to answer simple queries without a flamboyant display of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Bank of America’s chatbots go beyond “Check my balance,” joining the growing tribe of bots that provide automated “conversational banking.” Not only do they answer sophisticated questions such as, “how to manage spending and improve savings,” but they also have a keen sense of humor. Take, for example, Bank of America’s chatbot Erica who introduces herself as “I amErica” – enough to bring a smile to any customer’s face.

Banks that are exploring AI-powered chatbots, however, must bear in mind that there is one singular aspect that binds all successful chatbots together: user experience. The most successful chatbots are built to be less like machines and more like humans. When chatbots outguess their users, understand user intent rather than commands, and show shades of empathy, the experience can be charming. An experience with a chatbot like this reinforces the customer trust thank banks rely upon, bringing users back repeatedly and creating brand loyalty.

As data becomes ubiquitous, commoditized and highly accessible, and platforms become available in ready-to-integrate-with-enterprise flavors, what will distinguish a brand is its customer experience. Chatbots are one way for banks to raise the bar among competitors, creating customer interactions that are more authentic, quicker and more reliable.

The possibilities that these technologies hold to revolutionize banking are enormous – something we are already witnessing this in other parts of the world. To realize the true potential of chatbots, banks must watch these developments closely and quickly replicate ideas that demonstrate efficacy, remembering that at the heart of any successful customer interaction is a human experience.

 

 

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