Conversational AI In Banking

How Banks Are Leveraging Conversational AI Amid COVID-19

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought some unprecedented business issues to the forefront. One of the major industries that is compelled to accelerate its digital transformation initiatives is banking.

As social distancing becomes the new norm, the need for digital banking services has increased manifold. With businesses significantly impacted due to the disruption, a large number of customers are seeking extensions on loan installments and mortgage payments.

Customers are also seeking small-business loans, thus giving rise to a significant number of applications awaiting approval at the banks. A delay in grant of loans affects the customer’s ability to continue business. Moreover, some retail customers may want to capitalize upon the business opportunities created by the pandemic.

For instance, governmental regulations like the CARES Act passed by the United States Congress are putting immense pressure on banks to process two decades of small-business loan applications in a single month. This massive surge in demand has overwhelmed banks which haven’t adopted automation in their operations.

All this has led to an unprecedented increase in the number of customer calls to banks’ contact centres. This causes hours of wait time to connect with an agent, delays query resolution, causes dissatisfaction among the customers, and hence tarnishes the bank’s reputation. In times of uncertainty, limited access to banking operations can also severely hamper customer morale and alleviate anxiety levels. 

In times like these, deploying conversational AI platforms can infuse agility in day-to-day customer service operations. This enables agents in improving their productivity as they can focus on the crucial tasks, while leaving virtual agents to deal with basic or repetitive queries.

Navigating the Pandemic: Key Challenges facing Banks

In the wake of the pandemic, the banks are facing several critical challenges in servicing their customers –

  • During crises, customers prefer the human touch, thus resort to verbal communication channels to resolve their queries. However, customer care centers lack the capacity to serve the increased volume of calls;
  • Shortage of contact center staff due to stay-at-home orders or workers falling sick;
  • Contact center staff may lack the expertise to answer the wide variety of questions;
  • Remote working poses additional operational challenges related to device, technology, network, etc.
  • Dependence on legacy systems

To tide over these problems, it is imperative for banks to opt for conversational AI to support the evolving customer needs.

What is Conversational AI?

Before delving deeply, let us first understand the concept of Conversational AI.

Conversational AI is an advanced technology that enables computers to process, understand and respond to text or voice inputs in natural language. Conversational AI platforms can be used to build conversational user interfaces, chatbots and virtual assistants which can be integrated with messaging platforms, social media platforms, SMS, and website chat.

Conversational AI in Banking

As discussed above, the current scenario is posing some tough challenges to banks.

It takes years to build brand loyalty. Inability to service the customers during a crisis can negatively affect the bank’s brand image.

Some areas where banks can leverage the functionality of conversational AI are as follows-

  • Conversational IVR:

    Conversational AI platforms that use natural language processing technologies can be integrated with the IVR systems. These conversational IVR systems will answer repetitive questions, handle a sudden surge in calls and prevent panic among customers.

  • Website Chatbot:

    Banks can detect the top reasons customers are reaching out to contact centres and deploy a dedicated web interface chatbot which can address these concerns and related FAQ. Routine questions which the contact center receives can be routed to this web chatbot. This will allow the service agents to focus on complex queries and reduce wait times.

  • Assisting customer service agents:          

To assist the customers in a speedy manner, contact center agents can use chatbots to draw up the relevant knowledge and background information from CRMs and any relevant banking apps. This will improve first call resolution rates. Additionally, conversational AI technology can monitor conversations and inform agents about what customers are asking frequently.

Learn More: CRM Chatbots

  • Scheduling appointments and meetings:

    In order to comply with the social distancing rules, banks need to restrict the inflow of customers into their branches. Firms may use chatbots to schedule the customer appointments.

  • Transferring calls to the relevant agents:

    For complex queries that need human attention and based on the nature of the queries, bots can be optimized to transfer the calls to the right agents. For instance, a highly complex query can be transferred to an agent with a low average handling time. In addition to this, video calls with the agent can be initiated for the most complex service requests.

Learn More:

Examples Of Banks Using Chatbots To Tackle COVID-19 Challenges

Several banks have already implemented chatbots in their customer service operations to fight the COVID-19 disruption, including –

  • Bank of America – Bank of America introduced ‘Erica’ inside its mobile banking app. From providing balance information, tracking spending trends to suggesting ways to save money to providing personalized recommendations, Erica has been helping customers address their banking problems via text or voice.

Due to the increased number of customers looking for personal finance services amidst the pandemic, Erica added 1 million users a month from March through May 2020.

Since March, Erica has assisted 350,000 clients who had trouble meeting their credit card, auto loan and other payment obligations. The bot also learns from the conversations and can now understand more than 60,000 COVID-19 related terms and requests – thereby reducing the call volume to the bank’s contact centres.

“We think of Erica’s ability to deliver insights as the ability to deliver advice at scale,” says the bank’s CIO, Aditya Bhasin.

Learn more: Customers bank on BofA chatbot amid pandemic  

  • Standard Bank (South Africa) – Standard Bank South Africa launched a COVID-19 chatbot on WhatsApp in April 2020. This chatbot provides information about – (i) banking services available during the lockdown (ii) answers to FAQs (iii) debt relief offered by the bank to clients whose income is affected due to the virus (iii) measures taken to curb the spread of the disease at Standard Bank locations (iv) the bank’s contribution to the economy and the government, and (v) updated information on COVID-19 in South Africa.
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We, at Acuvate Software, are enabling clients to build AI-powered bots through our low-code, intuitive bot-builder platform called BotCore.”

BotCore offers several benefits:

  • Intuitive, no-code interface simplifies and accelerates the creation of chatbots;
  • Users can build bots to handle the most complex conversations
  • Using “Cognitive Abstraction”, BotCore can leverage any available AI service. It can aggregate LUIS Bots, QnA Maker Bots, Power Virtual Agents and other third-party bots;
  • It allows the creation of virtual assistant network through connection of existing bots across different departments;
  • It is a globally competent solution that works seamlessly with existing legacy systems and LOB apps;
  • It enables users to customize bots to match the branding and culture of the organization;
  • It works well with any kind of data source and also integrates with your existing Microsoft AI cognitive services.

BotCore is platform-independent, and hence deployable on both on-site and cloud (Microsoft Azure) environments.

Get Started

The new normal  necessitates the intervention of conversational AI in banking. It is essential to reduce call volumes and waiting times in day-to-day functioning of customer support centers. This will allow agents to focus on more critical tasks that require human judgement. It will also ease the financial burden of banks to deliver superior service and pave the way for stronger and more positive customer relationships post COVID-19.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, please feel free to get in touch with one of our experts for a personalized consultation.