When the coronavirus pandemic led to widespread branch closures and restrictions, financial institution call centers were overwhelmed by the ensuing traffic spike. The challenge grew especially acute as these centers – in-house or outsourced – struggled to deal with social distancing, absenteeism and other issues. Various solutions including work-from-home arrangements, which helped in some cases but were not viable for many, Chatbots were looked to as another option, and vendors of such solutions reported increased interest and usage. While the COVID-19 crisis ramped up interest in these automated solutions, particularly for handling customer inquiries, the tide had already begun to turn for chatbots and their close relatives, virtual assistants. But that challenge has now been largely met. In fact several chatbot vendors now offer pre-packaged bots with data already built in that are tested and trained for a specific industry vocabulary and domain terms.
The term “chatbot” has proved quite sticky in banking and elsewhere. It’s also hopelessly vague, being applied loosely to everything from the simple bots that use preselected choices to Bank of America’s sophisticated digital assistant Erica and even to Siri and Alexa, the voice-powered virtual assistants from Apple and Amazon. This leads to confusion and misconceptions in the industry, several observers note. Conversational AI,” is the overarching term many prefer now and the conversational AI as “the use of chatbots, messaging apps, and voice-based assistants to automate customer communications with your brand. Bot – is an automated program that runs over the internet, typically behind the scenes. This places it at the bottom of the scale of intelligence and user engagement. Whereas, the Chatbot – can look for patterns in text and respond with automated answers, usually best at very simple exchanges. Some analysts refer to this as checkbox chatbot.
However, most of the conventional banks have started partnering with fintech companies to offer modernised banking solutions in order to enhance customers’ experience. The Indian banking sector is also witnessing ground-breaking changes driven by new-age technologies. They are actively adopting AI not only to combat the competition but also for better growth prospects.
AI based chatbots allows you to support more consumers with the same resources. A survey says, we can deflect about 70% of the chats coming in by the bot itself. It’s been a big win for the companies, those who have adopted. Secondly, the natural language processing lets you create a layered system of synonyms that match up with what a member could be trying to say.” That creates a strong bond, because members are able to self-serve their information needs while also feeling understood by their financial institution.
Human agents can be naturally inconsistent in the answers they give to similar questions – they may have different opinions or different ways of answering the same question. Chatbots provide consistent advice and can be trained in a controlled fashion to get smarter over time. Chatbots generate business intelligence and analytics about what people are asking about, which can be used to more directly address the root cause underlying the question and the chatbots can also reduce the workload of subject matter experts, freeing them up to work on more complex and higher value problems and opportunities. Now the customer will have a choice of using the bot, or the bank’s app, or live chat. At present, all Apple Business Chat interactions will be with the bank’s live agents, but the bank has not ruled out incorporating bot responses.