Conversational interfaces reshaping customer service
In recent years we have witnessed the rapid development of new ways of interaction with apps and – as a result – with businesses and services. Interestingly, we’ve seen the subsequent emergence of voice interfaces, in the likes of Google Assistant and Siri, as well as a second life for texting-based interfaces via mobile messenger apps. The latter has been fuelled mostly by WhatsApp (now owned by Facebook) and Messenger, which has gradually transformed from a simple chat inside Facebook to a standalone category-defining service with its own developer platform, rich media embedding, extensions and marketplace. And along the way it became one of most widely used apps worldwide.
The rise of messenger apps and all the AI advancements that made chatbots so much more usable recently are causing an important shift in the social media landscape and in customer service. Customers expect their providers, including banks, to be available through their messenger apps and ready to answer instantly. Traditionally this would be a costly transition, however with the use of chatbots, companies are significantly cutting the costs of their operations. Juniper Research predicts that by 2022 chatbots will bring over USD 8bn in savings annually for banks alone.
Banks get in on the act
Conversational interface is a very good fit for a bank. It is much faster and less stressful than a phone call and can be easily personalized which is vital in financial services. Crucially, a very simple implementation can already serve all the basic needs of customers, such as inquiries about the status of their products (account balance, credit card limits, current savings etc.), new product queries, generic information about SWIFT/BIC numbers, basic procedures, fees and commission. More complex ones could go as far as money transfers, personalized financial advisory and providing most bank processes inside the chat. Whatever cannot be resolved by the bot will be passed over to a human agent.
It’s not only about customer service. A few banks already work on bots for other purposes: JPMorgan Chase uses a bot for streamlining their back-office operations; American Express supports merchants by providing contextualized benefits for their cardholders via Messenger; SEB utilizes its Aida bot for handling IT support.
All of this can function not just through owned channels (mobile app, digital banking portal) but also on Messenger. The Messenger platform made it much easier for companies to create chat, and way more fun for customers to use it. It’s not only about replying to questions anymore. We can serve media-rich content, feed a client’s financial data, do fully functioning e-commerce, and so on. All this in an app that a user usually doesn’t need to download and is already familiar with. 2019-2020 is the time we should expect broad usage of Messenger-based and/or chatbot-based solutions. Early adopters have them on the market as we speak, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and HSBC all serving customers via advanced chatbots.
Prepare now for the years to come
There are a few challenges for financial institutions of course, one of the most essential being customer authentication. Not only do we need the client to be verified, but we also need to be able to prove to the regulators that we have them verified, which in some countries proves even trickier. As long as the process happens within our own app or website, we’re in full control of it. However, when moved to a messaging platform, that is no trivial task and we need to tackle it carefully. Technical possibilities are there already and first implementations are on the market, including integration between Messenger, CRM and Contact Center software.
Chatbots are still somewhat limited in functionality for now, but 2019-2020 is the time when it will all change. Now is the perfect time to start such a project so you are not late to the table. After building a solid base, you can expand to voice interface later. And don’t forget to coordinate it with your API efforts, there will be lot of synergy here for sure.
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