Banking on conversational AI



By Stephen Harcup, Head of AI Banking, EMEA, IPsoft


After years of incremental change, banks need a fundamental rethink of operations in order to thrive in a rapidly digitised and data-driven world.


Across the globe, the retail banking industry is fast embracing a mobile-centric customer experience. Investment in mobile technologies has led to a rapid adoption of digital banking to meet consumers’ constantly evolving demands. Meanwhile, consumers’ experiences in other industries are upping the ante for most banks. Recent research found that banking consumers have a stronger emotional connection to brands like Apple, Amazon, and Google than to their banks. These companies have the ability to blend experiences from the physical and digital worlds and that is what provides a good model for banks.


But in striving for the latest and greatest omnichannel solutions, banks may be tempted to embrace whatever new technology is available. This has led to a glut of banks implementing chatbots, which claim to bolster customer service functions with automation. In reality, these “bots” behave more like dated robots and are highly rigid in how they interact with customers, creating an experience that frustrates callers and prevents banks from truly serving their customers.


This need to bolster customer service offerings with technologies is especially pertinent today, in the aftermath of COVID-19 lockdown measures and the possibility of subsequent lockdowns. It’s now clear that many banks were overwhelmed by an influx of calls at the height of the quarantine, and they are now facing a potential resurgence as many cities and towns deal with local flare ups.

Yet, for whatever reasons call volumes spike, banks need to be able offer the same quality of service over the phone as they would in person. Banks can’t be expected to satisfy customers with rudimentary chatbots. They should instead look to the power of Digital Employees, which can help them meet scalable customer expectations in ways that are not possible with any other technology.


Adapt to customer needs


Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) forms the backbone of Digital Employees, a new technology that differs from chatbots in a number of ways – a primary one being their ability to handle customer going off script. Chatbots cannot determine what customers want if they change their mind mid-sentence, or introduce multiple issues or queries simultaneously. Chatbots tend to become confused and either provide the wrong answer or fail to provide any answer at all. This can be extremely frustrating for consumers, whose issues will only be worsened by the chatbot’s inability to resolve them.

Chatbots are built with a strict, formulaic interaction in mind. They cannot learn to answer questions beyond the way in which they were programmed, nor can they learn to resolve new issues over time. This inevitably leads to roadblocks that reduce net promoter scores (NPS) and decrease the number of interactions that can be resolved on first contact. Moreover, conversational AI agents will make it easier for customers to access their bank as they are “always on” and will never deviate from best practice or have a “bad day”.


Unlike a chatbot, digital employees can rapidly

Stephen Harcup adapt to customer needs. Most importantl