How conversational applications can enrich the banking experience

By Madhav KP | 1 March 2018

The exponential rise of computing capability, in line with Moore’s Law, has fueled the rapid shift from technology-literate people to people-literate technology. Catalysed by disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Chatbots etc., we are fast humanising technology.

After a decade-long reign of mobile-first and cloud-enablement as trending technologies, the time is ripe for the next wave of disruption: conversational applications. AI-rich conversational applications converse with the users and soon become so conversant with them as to provide proactive intelligence. These applications talk to the users, learn and evolve with them, assuming human-like interaction capacity replete with emotion, empathy, sociability, intelligence, and contextual and proactive communication abilities.   

The advantages cut both ways. Conversational application is as much as an enabler for enriched customer experience as it is a driver for enterprise transformation.

Banking for Millennials

For the Baby Boomer generation, the banking experience involved waiting in queues at the local branch and loads of paperwork for each transaction. Millennials (largely defined as people born between 1981 and 2005) have totally different expectations and the banks are yet to fully accommodate these.

Millennials are barely used to writing checks for payments and instead rely on internet-enabled and mobile-powered peer-to-peer (P2P) payments. Millennium Disruption Index states that a whopping 71% of Millennials would go to a dentist than listen to what banks say.  However, a significant number of them have downloaded money management apps and many more seek to digitally track their financial health. How do we reconcile these two apparently contrasting observations?

Could it be because the rapid technological advances in the consumer market which is better-tuned with the millennials, has not yet permeated the enterprise world? Social media and its younger sibling messaging apps have fundamentally altered the way millennials communicate. Voice-based intelligent assistants like Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant have eased their daily routine significantly.

Serving the unbanked generation

The technological waves and the concomitant change in the consumer behavior has resulted in trans-valuation of business assets. Attention, not money, is the new currency, and data is famously dubbed as the new oil. Conversational applications present a unique opportunity to cater to a generation that thrives on cognitive offloading of their mental activities to their “second brain” smartphone.

Conversational applications can enable voice-based communication, bypassing the necessity of screens for select interactions. However, it is by no means limited to just voice. Conversation is the new user experience, encoded into the user interface at every level. It implies flipping the script by putting the user at the heart of product experience.

It empowers Millennials to have a conversation with the bank on 24/7 basis through their preferred channel of messaging (text or voice-based) and interactive, intuitive designs. It does the heavy-lifting in lieu of the users, thus equipping them to promptly execute actions, better comprehend data and make data-driven decisions. An associated concern about the security can be readily resolved by incorporating a twin-key model of voice-recognition alongside either a fingerprint or iris scan.

The conversational application no longer reflects an extended service from the bank, it becomes a de-facto representative of the brand itself.

A use case

Gartner predicts that by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human. However, the fact remains that we gravitate towards interactions that feel human-like.

The present-day intelligent assistants can broadly be categorised as “record and retrieve” systems and feel robotic; they barely scratch the true potential achievable by AI-rich conversational applications.

Here is an indicative scenario where conversational applications can improve customer experience through proactive intelligence:

Millennials want to have real-time and forward-looking spending analysis through conversational UI. Given that 60% of them don’t have $2000 saved for emergency (as noted by Bill Rogers, CEO – SunTrust), proactive intelligence and preemptive alerts are profoundly vital to their very continued financial independence and survival.

Building the future

AI-rich Conversational applications act as an intellibuddy (such as LUCY, above) to the users, helping them check real-time account information, enabling payments and transactions, and regulating their financial health through contextual and proactive intelligence.

The future belongs to those banks that infuse conversational intelligence into their systems, helping the user perform the most complex tasks in an effortless manner. Apart from delighting the customer, conversational applications can harness the customer data to provide tailormade banking services and special offers based on purchase history. The data-enriched personalisation of user experience coupled with on-demand individualization of offerings can give a tremendous branding edge to banks.

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