After the first iPhone and Android smartphones hit the market, it took about a decade for mobile banking to reach the current level of maturity. You can attribute that to several factors – including mobile application availability, mobile technology advancements, cellular network bandwidth and changes in consumer behavior.

It would seem safe to assume that mobile banking is here to stay. But what if there were an even better way for customers to address their banking needs?

What if this approach can not only support the functionality of mobile banking but also surround it with the empathy normally available from a fellow human being? It can even bake in proactive, “common sense” outreach – for example, alerting for potential overdraft challenges on your current account as well as when an anticipated transaction does not occur on the usual schedule. This kind of customer service is now possible with Conversational AI – often called “Conversational Banking” in financial services.

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Advanced Customer Engagement - ACE

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The broader concept of Conversational AI has applicability across industries – and it’s being fast-tracked by the pandemic. Stay-at-home orders have led to massive shifts in how contact centres operate, how customers behave and what customers expect. Before the pandemic, Conversational AI mostly guided customers through a service interaction. It functioned like a chaperone, helping a customer get to the right online or human resource to resolve the request. This year – with years of digital transformation compressed into a matter of months – customers are far more willing to engage with virtual assistants that can actually get things done.

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Using Conversational AI, a virtual assistant can become a customer’s “sidekick.”

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Indeed, the pandemic continues to push contact centres to rethink how they can unleash Conversational AI for a far greater range of customer intents. Virtual assistants can and should go well beyond a “point in the right direction” or FAQ to handle complete transactions – from changing an address to cancelling a payment and updating a standing order to identifying a specific need and routing the customer to correct specialist. These interactions can occur through a messaging platform similar to the ones that consumers have integrated into their daily lives and interpersonal relationships. Consider that WhatsApp alone has more than 1.6 billion users around the world, with other popular choices including Viber, Apple iMessage, WeChat and Facebook Messenger. 

Using Conversational AI, a virtual assistant can become a customer’s “sidekick” – a trusted resource for helping manage their everyday banking needs, shopping lists, wardrobe and more. In much the same way that banks made “mobile first” a mantra, it’s time for all customer service organizations to make Conversational AI central to their strategy and operations.

While starting with FAQ based Conversational AI is a first step on the journey, the holy grail is getting to a personalised state where the chatbot is tailored to your needs and preferences. You can find more on that here.  

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I have no doubt that Conversational AI merits a starring role in every organisation’s customer engagement strategy. When well designed and trained, a virtual assistant, chatbot or other form of Conversational AI can forge greater affinity and loyalty among your customers. It can help optimize cost to serve, with a greater share of inquiries deflected to automation or prevented altogether. And when customers can count on a trusty virtual sidekick, Conversational AI can enable an overall experience that makes your brand stand out from competitors.

Can Kekevi

Managing Director – Accenture Financial Services, Customer, Sales and Service

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