We are entering either one of two things, the age of the chatbot, or the age of hype about chatbots.
A chatbot is a piece of software that can have a conversation with a person. They listen and respond with relevant information. There are digital assistants that are voice activated, and there are chatbots, voice or text activated. Bots can vary according to the back-end integration of artificial intelligence. This allows brands to do more for the customer than respond with basic logic. Chatbots are supposedly better than chat software which often feels like one dimensional conversations. Chatbots are more conversational where as digital or intelligent assistants go beyond bots to perform tasks that assist the user. Most customers have very low expectations when it comes to the self-service offered by banks, because often it is terrible. Many self-service transactions result in a customer having to contact the call center anyway, not a great customer experience.
That said, every company today is racing to make artificial intelligence a big part of their strategy. Particularly in industries such as banking. More fintech start-ups are creating chatbots to help customers manage their money such as chatbots Plum, Chip and Cleo out of the UK.
French bank Societe Generale is developing chatbots that could answer questions about equity funds in its Romanian banking unit. Money transfer startup TransferWise released a chatbot that allows customers to send money to friends and family internationally via Facebook messenger.
Individual brands are creating chatbots on social networks, in addition to chatbots on their own websites and mobile apps.
There is a great deal of potential of chatbots, specifically for the future of financial services. AI can be of great benefit to consumers who would like better customer experiences how AI could be utilized for the benefit of customers.
We’re already seeing banks such as Swedbank posting positive results of their chatbot tool called “Nina” built with Nuance Communications. The bank says of the 40,000 conversations a month that Nina handles the chatbot resolves 81 percent of the issues.
These numbers are promising, illustrating how chatbots can improve customer experiences. But if executives haven’t walked through the experience of the chatbot themselves then they shouldn’t release the technology for customers. Unless the chatbot adds unquestionable value to the customer, don’t release it just because all of your competitors are releasing them.
It’s now trendy to talk about chatbots, but one has to wonder if the customer experience of chatbots are actually that great. While chatbots might save companies money, the jury is still out on the value they provide to customers. The industry certainly doesn’t need any more half-baked self-help customer software. These preliminarily released software programs require customers to call the contact center after failed interactions. So what’s the point? Despite our spotted past with self-help software, perhaps this time it will be different thanks to advances in machine learning. It’s an exciting time for technology because banks are actually testing new technology for customers.
Here are five recent examples of chatbots in banking coming from Swedbank, Bank of America, Capital One, SEB and Wells Fargo.
Recent studies show that customer satisfaction with Swedish banks is at a 20 year low. Customers don’t trust banks, in fact Sweden has recently turned to AI to help improve customer satisfaction – and I have to admit when I read that, I had to read it twice. You’re implementing more technology to improve customer satisfaction? Usually when banks want to stop frustrating customers they make it easier to opt out of self-help technology and talk to a person. Enter chatbots such as Nina, a new release from Swedbank. With Nina, agents can now spend their time on other types of calls instead, which increases value for the bank. Nina takes care of all the service calls so that our agents can spend more time selling. According the bank, she saves agents time, but if they had to do it again, they would roll it out to only 20% of the customer base initially. That way, the virtual assistant would have time to learn and grow the database.
Bank of America: Erica
Erica, taken out of the word AmErica, was created to help customers with simple transactions such as paying down debt, checking account status and more. Here’s an example of how Erica would help a customer via text, “Michelle, I found a great opportunity for you to reduce your debt and save you $300.” Click the text to launch the app, and get Erica’s advice. “Based on your typical monthly spending, you have an additional $150 you can be putting towards your cash rewards Visa. This can save you up to $300 per year.”
Additionally, peer to peer payments are a huge new move for B of A. The bank’s customers will be the first in the industry to try out Zelle, a new peer-to-peer money transfer service that will compete with PayPal’s Venmo. Customers will be able to take out or deposit cash at ATMs through their mobile banking app.
Capital One: Eno
Capital One Financial has developed a “chatbot” named Eno, an automated chatbot program that can communicate with the bank’s customers via text message. They can give customers information on their accounts and help them make credit-card payments from their smartphone. Capital One’s virtual assistant is gender neutral. Asked if it is a boy or a girl, Eno will reply that it is “binary.”
SEB has recently released Aida, a female chatbot for customers – and a follow up to an internal chatbot SEB released called Amelia, for employees. Nina, Aida, Amelia – are you seeing a trend yet? Apparently the chatbot has been good for the Swedish bank. In Amelia’s first three weeks, over 4,000 conversations were held with 700 employees, and she solved the majority of issues without delay. Rather than helping customers with traditional banking needs, she’s tasked with working with employees and assisting internal IT support.
Sweden is on a roll with chatbots, in fact other than Aida and Amelia at SEB, there’s Nova, a chatbot at Nordea Bank AB tasked with the life and pensions unit in Norway. We already mentioned Swedbank’s Nina. All three are designed to sound like women, based on research suggesting customers feel more comfortable with female voices.
Wells Fargo’s chatbot – which doesn’t have a name yet – uses artificial intelligence to respond to natural language messages from users, such as how much money they have in their accounts, and where the nearest bank ATM is. The Wells Fargo chatbot includes answers to basic questions about account balance or recent transactions, which are what most customers use the chatbot for. There are also other features that customers have yet to discover, like diving deeper into spending trends and potential account offers. I recently interviewed Kimarie Matthews, Senior Vice President of Wells Fargo Virtual Channels Social Care & Capabilities. You can listen to our podcast here.
Have you personally used these chatbots as a customer? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section of this article.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience speaker, futurist and author of More Is More. You can sign up for her weekly newsletter here.