Chatbots are banks' new best friends for customer service

Elly Yates-Roberts
Elly Yates-Roberts
By Elly Yates-Roberts on 27 February 2019
Chatbots are banks' new best friends for customer service

I've lost my credit card, what do I do? Can I transfer some money? What's my account balance? Customer service advisers in banks across the world answer these types of questions every day. But perhaps not for much longer; chatbots are increasingly answering them instead of humans.

According to a recent Gartner survey, 61% of us are already using artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technology such as chatbots, virtual personal assistants, navigation apps and streaming services. For always-on customers who expect a smooth, seamless service 24/7, AI interactions are the new norm. Chatbots are now particularly prevalent in financial services where their potential goes much further than transactional enquiries.

Chatbot platforms and natural language technologies are improving all the time. Gartner estimates that by 2020, chatbots will power 85% of all customer service interactions. Many banking customers choose to use chatbots for routine tasks, but the sophisticated dialogue is resulting in a more positive experience.

The journey for banking customers is more complex than ever. Customers use online and offline channels and expect a personalised experience from their financial institution every step of the way. Banks must engage with their customers in the right way, at the right place and at the right time.

Well integrated, intelligent chatbot solutions are a key part of this engagement process. They’re changing the face of banking communications, providing around-the-clock customer support and relevant information almost instantly. 

Meet Sean – he recently got married. During a dull moment watching a football match, Sean decides to check his phone to see if his new joint account has been activated. He logs in and quickly sees that it has, but he also notices a mortgage offer. It's a good rate and it captures his attention. He can't call his bank right now; the football stadium is too noisy and there's no privacy. However, he can have a text-based conversation with a chatbot. 

Sean is asked to confirm information about his employer and salary. He's recently changed jobs, so he updates the details. The chatbot immediately tells him how much he's eligible to borrow and asks if he'd like to see an in-branch adviser or if he'd prefer a home visit. Two clicks later, he has a next-day appointment at a branch of his choice, an e-mail confirmation and a map of how to get there. Thanks to natural language processing, Sean also has the option of using controlling the system with his voice. Machine learning provides a near human-level of communication ensuring he gets accurate answers to his requests in real time.

It's an instant, intuitive, personalised service that uses Sean's preferred digital channel. And, he hasn't even missed a goal.

That's great for Sean. He's a satisfied, engaged customer who now feels he has a good relationship with his bank. But the benefits of chatbot technology go much further. There are significant cost savings from automating transactional enquiries and it allows customer service representatives to focus on more complex customer issues that require deeper human insight.

AI-driven chatbot technologies also give banks a deeper understanding of their customers' behaviour, life events and financial needs. They can even be integrated with social media channels such as Facebook and LinkedIn. These actionable insights allow banks to deliver highly targeted content for cross-sale and up-sale opportunities that secure and reward their customers.

Let's go back to Sean. He hadn't told his bank he wanted a mortgage; the offer was triggered by his recent marriage and opening a joint account. AI recognises that these life events are frequently associated with buying a house. The offer reaches Sean exactly when he's in a mindset to take out a mortgage and the chatbot feature allows him to jump on the offer immediately.

Using chatbots as part of an omnichannel banking experience not only makes transactions more efficient, interactive and personalised, but it can also drive higher customer awareness, satisfaction and retention rates through targeted, relevant communication.

Wim Geukens is the managing director of VeriPark Europe

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