International Finance
GlobalMagazineMay-June 2019

Why understanding the full scope of conversational banking is so important

Why understanding the full scope of conversational banking is so important

No longer is there a linear relationship between financial institutions and customers, where one supplies a service and the other procures.  Increasingly, there is an ongoing dialogue and this is leading to the conversational banking trend.

According to a recent Accenture report, banks need a paradigm shift in their communication strategies to converse with their digital customers. By using Conversational User Interfaces (CUI) that integrates messaging, text, and voice, banks can introduce innovative services to develop a seamless relationship with the customer.

Whether it is retail or corporate banking, the expectation is the same: customers need to continually interact with financial institutions. They need services that are more sophisticated as more data and knowledge are captured. In international banking, this presents an even greater challenge, as nuanced information about customer expectations need to be carefully and intelligently integrated into the service offered.

Finance organisations across the world will be looking to technology to manage this change in customer expectation. But doing so should be with care; getting it wrong could irreparably damage relationships with customers.

The chequered past of the chatbot

Criticism around chatbots has been plentiful. The Poncho app found it difficult to cope with questions it couldn’t understand, and the lack of human control in Microsoft’s Tay turned into an embarrassment, as the app spouted hate speech.

Stephen Cunningham
Director for UK enterprise Avaya

Largely, however, chatbots fail because they haven’t been fully thought out in terms of the artificial intelligence they create, internalise, and learn from. This could be due to a developer problem of a lack of platform and standards or UX problems such as the inability to translate text-based conversations or understanding the meaning behind the words.

As chatbots evolve, however, consumers are beginning to recognise the value intelligent chatbots can bring and there is growing demand for them in the conversational banking mix. In recent research, commissioned by Avaya, 51 percent of UK consumers said that they prefer their questions to be answered by chatbot with AI while they are shopping online or using an app, and 32 percent prefer a working chatbot powered by AI than a human customer service agent, demonstrating the increasing trend towards technology-powered customer service.

AI powered chatbots in a global banking world

For international finance organisations, AI powered chatbots provide a unique opportunity. Even the most astute customer service agent may find it difficult to know the complete history of each and every single customer it serves. Whether it’s the language a customer speaks the product they are using or past issues, having all this information top of mind and being able to use it to determine recommendations is a tall order.

Not for the chatbot. Data-driven insight is a huge advantage of chatbots over and above their human counterparts. It doesn’t mean that humans are no longer neededquite to the contraryhumans and chatbots should play to each other’s strengths.

The best example in practice is when chatbots are used as a consistent reference point from initial conversation through to specialist problem solving. The information you initially delivered to a chatbot can be captured and used to build a profile of you as a customer. When your query then gets routed to the relevant specialist, they can not only be equipped with the most relevant and up-to-date information on the specific request, but the chatbot can cross reference this with the various resources and resolutions within a customer service agent’s toolkit. Although as humans we can use our power of building a relationship, understanding the context of a situation and experience in dealing with similar customers, we can also benefit from being guided to the most relevant solution by a chatbot. Critically, the chatbot is able to move from front line customer support to back office support for the customer service agent, yet retain all that important information specifically relevant to you as a customer.

This allows the service to move beyond language and cultural nuances with recommendations built in and flagged to the customer service agent where necessary.  Such a situation can happen with regulatory considerations such as MiFID II and GDPR that may require data or online conversations to be handled in a specific way.

According to an EY report, typical banks have digitised their legacy systems to improve customer experience, decrease costs, and manage risks.  The digital transformation that conversational banking requires moves beyond this, however, and both customer service and infrastructure need to evolve to improve banking as an experience, as a marketplace and a service partner. Conversational banking, chatbots and AI is critical to this bank of the future, particularly for international finance institutions that want to differentiate, evolve, and ultimately compete in a changing and increasingly fierce global marketplace.

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