Though only a mere two months into the year, it already seems certain that 2017 will be the year of chatbots and AI.
The rising prominence of chatbots and AI and the opportunity the technology presents to greatly improve upon the quality of interaction between consumers and their digital devices is not to be ignored, as interest in both voice powered innovations continues to grow. Both emerging technologies have enormous potential to significantly improve customer experience in a number of industries globally, including banking, something Temenos have innovatively demonstrated through their ground-breaking interaction between a voice-controlled banking app and an AI assistant.
The application of chatbot and AI technology in an industry known to be apprehensive about digital transformation and often resistant to change has thus far been limited, though not completely absent. Last year Bank of America launched its own chatbot, Erica, able to aid customers in making payments, checking balances and saving money, with the aim of providing Bank of America customers with a more personalized banking service. Fintech companies are also providing similar services, such as Clinc's mobile banking AI, Finie, designed to answer questions unique to each user without the use of keywords or commands, and Finn.ai, an AI chatbot able to integrate with numerous instant messaging and AI platforms. The use of chatbots and AI in banking isn't solely limited to smartphone apps, with over five million Amazon Echo speakers, controlled using voice assistant Alexa, sold in the US alone since its debut, offering an enticing new platform to provide unique banking services from. Capital One recently began offering banking options through the Amazon Echo, allowing customers to use Alexa to check their account balance, pay bills and receive their transaction history from more than 2,000 popular stores including Amazon and Starbucks, while neobank Moven also intends to offer a similar service.
Though these inventive uses for chatbots and AI in banking are engaging, useful services enhancing the ease and simplicity of customer interaction with banking applications, all are instances of human-machine interaction. Temenos endeavoured to increase the ability of chatbot and AI interaction further, to enable a voice responsive mobile banking app to interact with Amazon's Alexa. This machine to machine interaction was successfully demonstrated, showcasing the first instance of a banking app effectively interacting with an AI.
The conversation begins with banking app voice agent Spencer alerting the user that they've just been paid, then enquiring whether half should be saved and the remaining half spent. The user then confirms this using their voice, prompting Spencer to notify the user to the transfer of funds to their savings account. Spencer then asks Amazon's Alexa to add Galaxy chocolate, Pepsi Max and Jaffa Cakes to the user's shopping list, which Alexa then confirms. This interaction could also potentially be continued between the user and Alexa, with the user asking Alexa to order the items directly from Amazon's website. Interaction between two bots is an invaluable means of improving convenience for a customer, creating a seamless chain of events that requires less customer input and time. Increasing the speed and decreasing the human effort required in day to day digital interactions is beneficial for both banks and their customers, something chatbots and AI technology have proven again and again as able to provide, with Temenos' inventive example of chatbot to AI interaction illustrating the further benefits of using the two in unison to create the best possible user experience.
Temenos acknowledges the value of customer interaction extends much further than the simple digital banking services and human-machine interaction available today, looking ahead to the exhilarating potential of emerging forms of interaction from voice to Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). With ground-breaking new technology comes new challenges for the industries that adopt them, something banks will need to manage effectively when advancing their mobile services from traditional banking apps to more innovative products integrated with engaging methods of interaction. Effective privacy management when introducing a unique new component, such a voice interaction, is a difficulty banks will need to be mindful of in order to provide customers with a trustworthy experience they feel comfortable making use of. Temenos took great care to ensure no personal data or bank details were disclosed when using voice interaction, allowing the customer to feel at ease to make use of this attractive feature at home and in public, without fear of strangers becoming privy to sensitive information. Though there are numerous obstacles for banks to tackle when implementing new technology and the application of these forms of interaction in banking remain in their infancy, their vital role in the future of banking, alongside a multitude of industries, is clear.
Innovative banking is vital to remaining relevant and appealing to customers, as offering technology on pace with the most innovative banks, as well as what is available from other industries that customers come to expect from all their digital interactions, will lead to the greatest success. Digital engagement is moving far beyond how we interact with our digital channels to how they interact with us, and even for us, as Temenos' demonstration illustrates, through the advancing technology of chatbots and AI. With chatbots able to initiate conversations with users without prompting, enquiring whether a customer wishes to check their balance when they are paid or see the findings of a weekly spend review, and continual development in the range of information chatbots can provide, offering superior level of service with minimal user exertion, "conversational banking" will become an integral digital banking experience.
As chatbots and AI become incorporated into digital banking services more frequently, conversational banking will grow in prominence, posing the first genuine potential threat to the role of human assistants and branch representatives. Successful chatbots will need to offer ease of service and personalisation that exceeds anything currently available in a standard mobile banking app, in order to entice customers to make use of its functions. As chatbots are further developed, the possibility of this technology beginning to mimic the detailed, personalised interaction a customer would receive from a representatives in a bank branch or through a call centre becomes greater. This indicates the advent of digital conversational banking replacing human assistants, or at the very least drawing customers away from this traditional banking avenue, if strongly executed. It is imperative banks begin to invest time in understanding new interaction patterns as experiences move from clicks, taps and swipes to increasingly advanced approaches that will lead to conversational banking becoming commonplace in our digital lives.