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Double Clicking Into AI: How 2024 will be different for financial institutions looking to implement AI

John Willcutts

2023 ushered in the next great wave of technology with the explosion of artificial intelligence (AI). It introduced major changes in the way we work and live with implications across all industries including customer experience (CX). John Willcutts, NICE’s general manager of digital and AI, said we saw good and bad things come out of 2023 concerning AI. What we experienced set the stage for 2024. 

“2023 was the tidal wave of large language models. It exposed what was possible, and it led to a lot of organizations doing internal soul-searching on how best to deploy,” said Willcutts.

NICE,  a leading global customer experience technology provider,  was the first in the CX industry to integrate ChatGPT generative modeling into its AI solutions in 2023. Willcutts said LLMs (large language models), which were a large part of the AI advancements in 2023, are a piece of a larger puzzle. LLMs alone can’t transform financial institutions’ (FI) AI strategy, he said, but they play an important role. 

“We’re seeing organizations realizing they’re going to need vendors that have a holistic approach to the entirety of the life cycle of both AI and the platforms it takes to deliver consistently for their customers,” said Willcutts. “So really large language models kicking off the tidal wave was the icing on the cake, if you will, to truly take customer experience to the next level.” 

Secret To Success

A study done by McKinsey Global Institute estimated that generative AI could add $200 billion to $340 billion (equivalent to 9 to 15 percent of operating profits) in value to the banking industry. McKinsey attributed this largely to anticipated productivity increases from the use of AI. 

Willcutts said if FIs want to implement CX AI, there are some steps they can follow. 

Here is what he said is the formula for successful CX AI implementation: 

  • Interaction-centric cloud platform: FIs need to store all their CX data on a single, open cloud platform. This is the first step to being able to fully realize the benefits of CX AI. It breaks down the silos that exist within organizations to be able to give AI the access it needs to generate holistic insights into CX operations. This also eliminates the complex tech stack that many FIs are saddled with. 
  • Purpose-built AI: AI should underpin FIs’ cloud platform, but not just any AI. Purpose-built AI is built from billions of recorded customer interactions and designed with the proper guardrails in place to ensure accurate and appropriate outputs. LLMs add the layer of semantics on top of AI outputs, translating the outputs into clear and conversational responses. This has changed the way FIs can interface with their CX data. This also transforms the level of service that FIs can provide through chatbots. If FIs implement AI the right way, customers will not be able to tell whether they are talking with a chatbot or human agent. 

Willcutts said AI is transforming both agent-assisted and unassisted customer interactions.  He said this goes for any organization including FIs. It also greatly improves the handoff between the two. 

“What’s so important is that if you take one holistic platform and embed the automation and AI capabilities over the top, you never lose context between what used to be siloed,” Willcutts said. This means if a customer inquires about a credit card through an FI’s website and is transferred to an agent to start the application process, the agent will already know everything the customer has done up to that point. So, they don’t have to waste time getting the customer to answer the same questions again. 

Secure Interactions

Data security continues to be a hot topic for FIs looking to implement AI. 2023 ushered in so many different vendors for FIs to choose from, it’s become difficult for FIs to decipher which is the right AI for them. Willcutts said that if FIs follow the formula of an interaction-centric platform underpinned by purpose-built AI, they can solve one of the top concerns with AI: bad or biased answers. 

“If you have a source of truth that’s developed on a single platform, you can apply that consistently across all the channels. If you do that, then you get the right answers every time with the right context written in a way that the organization would normally speak,” Willcutts explained. 

A recent survey done by Omdia and NICE found that 76% of FI CX leader respondents reported that they are using generative AI to formulate responses to customers’ inquiries. It supports the idea that AI can be a powerful tool to quickly generate accurate responses to incoming inquiries, saving time and money. 

Retaining Your Workforce
Willcutts said if FIs inject purpose-built AI into their CX operations, this will have ripple effects across the organization. He said this will make the employee experience more enjoyable thus boosting the ability to retain employees long term. 

“We’re going to make the agent’s job so much better, something they’re going to want to do. It’s human nature to feel guilty not knowing the answer to something. That gets amplified in the customer service world because agents know when they don’t have the answer which makes a customer very angry. Now with purpose-built AI, they have the right answer at their fingertips,” Willcutts observed.  

The study done by Omdia and NICE also found that of the FI agents surveyed, the number one negative aspect of working in a contact center is customer emotion and behavior, i.e. anger, rudeness, etc. FIs can resolve this with purpose-built AI. 

Keeping AI In Focus

2024 will be the year that things come into focus better with AI, concluded Willcutts. “It’s no longer about just having AI for the sake of AI. FIs have the chance to be purposeful with what AI they choose to use. This will be the single most important factor in determining whether they reap the immense benefits AI can produce for an organization. The right technology is out there, it’s up to FIs to make the right decision.“ 

Global Banking & Finance Review


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