“Talk to me” – Conversational Banking

The use of chatbots and language assistants in banking

How the use of chatbots and voice assistants will change banking. The Millenials Generation in particular wants to experience services differently and we show how.

Alexa, turn on the TV! Ok Google, how is the weather today?

The digital helpers of the big technology companies are about to conquer our everyday life. 20% of Google’s search queries today are already done by voice input. Google is also a leader in the field of Artificial Intelligence and shows impressively how an appointment at the hairdresser can be handled by voice control via the Google Assistant.

The “Millennials” generation is used to chatting via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

Bank customers expect the same service and want to interact via chatbot or voice assistants. This is known as conversational banking and will continue to drive the digitalization of banking.

Differentiation Chatbots vs. Voice Assistants

"Talk to me" – Conversational Banking 1

Chatbots are text-based dialog systems that can communicate with the user. The input/output is done via text or buttons. Known applications are Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, Telegram or direct integration into the company’s app/website.

"Talk to me" – Conversational Banking 2Voice assistants are speech-based dialog systems that enable interaction with the voice. Well-known applications are Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortona or also the direct integration on the app/website of the company.

Advantages of Conversational Banking

24/7 availability

The telephone availability of customer service is limited at many banks. The contact times are limited to the day between 08.00 h – 18.00 h; support on weekends or in the evening is only offered by a few, large financial institutions. Increased availability is associated with higher staffing levels and therefore costs. The reduced availability is also confirmed by a study by the Institute for Financial Services Zug (IFZ), which has been analyzing the development for years. Chatbots or language assistants can provide support without additional personnel and process simple customer inquiries around the clock on 7 days.

Increased customer/employee satisfaction

Many of the customer support inquiries are simple and repetitive. The information you are looking for is on the website and could easily be retrieved by the customer himself. Examples are questions about the opening hours of the bank, where the nearest ATM is located or how much the fees for an account are. These routine questions can easily be intercepted by chatbots/language assistants, while customer support staff deal with more complex issues. This enhances the function of the support and the customer feels well taken care of by the personal advice.

Scaling

In recent years, the number of inquiries to call centers has increased steadily. Especially during the Covid-19 crisis, many call centers were overwhelmed by the rapid increase in customer inquiries. This led to long waiting times on the phone and many frustrated customers. For many customer support employees this time was very challenging. Conversational Banking is able to remedy this situation and can easily handle larger volumes of up to 80% of all inquiries. The customer receives faster answers and the employees are relieved.

Lower costs

Banks can reduce costs by up to 30% by using chatbots or voice assistants. Conversational banking reduces expenses for personnel, recruitment or training. The development and operating costs for Conversational Banking are relatively low and first savings show up after a short time. However, the costs depend on the complexity of the issues and the variety of topics to be covered. The financial expenditure for interfaces and integration into other systems should also not be underestimated.

Personalized offers

Conversational Banking allows customers to obtain information about products and services without having to go to the bank. Of particular interest are applications that suggest personalized offers to the customer. With the help of the bot, the customer can select a product or service that can be used immediately in e-banking or mobile banking. Push notifications about suitable offers are another way to increase customer loyalty, especially if the customer has not been in contact with the bank for a long time.

Applications

The use cases for chat bots and language assistants can be divided into the categories information, transaction and service. International practical examples are Erica from Bank of America, Westpac Australia or Eva from HDFC Bank. In Switzerland, PostFinance and ZAK stand out. The following fictitious conversations show the possible potential:

Information

  • Account balance: “Hey Alexa, how much is my current account balance?
  • Card movements: “Tell me the last 3 credit card movements?”
  • Spending: “What was my insurance spending in 2020?”

Transaction

  • Send money: “Ok Google, send CHF 150 to the account of Mr. X”.
  • Trade securities: “Sell my 100 Facebook shares!”
  • Product closing: “Change my account package from Classic to Premium!

 Service

  • Locking cards: “Hey Alexa, lost my Maestro card. Please block card immediately!”
  • Increase limits: “Please increase my credit card limit temporarily from CHF 1’000 to CHF 5’000!
  • Message (Alert) for suspicious movements: “Hi Max, we have detected a suspicious credit card transaction in the amount of EUR 750. Is this transaction correct?”

Success factors for Conversational Banking

1. Clear goals lead to clear results

Conversational banking sounds cool and innovative. But this is not enough for a successful introduction. As with any project, it is crucial that the goals, use cases and customer benefits are clearly defined from the outset. Customers expect answers to their specific concerns and not “gimmicks”. From a company’s point of view, the focus is on efficiency, improved customer service and customer loyalty.

2. Start small and scale

The introduction of Conversational Banking should start with a small pilot project. This helps to gain experience, build up the necessary skills and create acceptance among key decision makers. After the initial successes have been achieved, the chat offers or language assistants can be expanded, anchored more broadly within the company and scaled.

3. The customer as partner

The areas of application for Conversational Banking should always be viewed from the customer’s perspective. It is therefore advisable to leave the inside view of the company and integrate customers into the development process of chatbots or voice assistants at an early stage. Bots learn fastest when the most frequently asked customer questions can be covered. The Pareto principle is a good guide: 20% of use cases bring 80% of the benefit.

4. Security in customer communication

Trust is the most important asset of a bank. Customers expect their bank to provide secure communication via digital channels (e-banking, mobile banking). The same requirements apply to the use cases (see above) in conversational banking. The well-known instant messenger solutions such as Facebook or Whats App are less suitable for more trustworthy banking transactions. The company Jemmic offers a secure chat solution for banks with integrated digital signature.

Outlook

In Switzerland, the topic of conversational banking is still in its infancy. There are three factors that will accelerate this development. Firstly, due to declining revenues, banks are under increasing pressure to reduce costs and automate processes. Second, clients increasingly demand to interact with the bank via digital channels across all generations (not just millennials). They want their concerns to be resolved quickly, easily and independent of time and place. Third, Covid-19 has triggered a digitalization push. Visits to bank branches for simple transactions will decrease and shift to digital. Banks that do not offer chatbots or voice assistants risk losing further relevance in the future.

This development should therefore be seen as an opportunity and placed on the strategic agenda. In this sense: “Hey Bank, talk to me!

Author: Roberto Zimmermann, Managing Partner, andrion AG

andrion ist die fachlich, methodisch und technologisch führende Digitale Projekt Agentur der Schweiz. andrion ist fokussiert auf die strategische Ausrichtung, lösungsorientierte Konzeption und erfolgreiche Umsetzung von Digitalisierungs-, Automatisierungs- und Modernisierungsprojekten. Der Erfolg von andrion baut auf dem orchestrierten Zusammenspiel zwischen Expertise, Technologie und Mensch auf.

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