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How BOIPA Bot Helps Merchants Help Themselves

Chatbot empowers self-service to keep payment terminals working smoothly 

By Cathal McGloin, CEO of ServisBOT writes,

EVO Payments International GmbH, trading as BOI Payment Acceptance, provides acquirer services including payment terminals and online payment services, including payment gateway, virtual terminal and other products, which are designed to make electronic payment acceptance easier for merchants and attractive to businesses of any size. BOI Payment Acceptance (BOIPA) is a marketing alliance between Bank of Ireland and EVO Payments.

The Challenge:

Many of the retailers and sole-traders who use BOIPA payment terminals need assistance with setting them up. As more merchants adopt electronic and contactless payments, this can result in heavy traffic to BOIPA’s contact centre in Dublin, with agents handling up to 8,000 calls in a typical month and often repeatedly responding to the same questions.

During busy periods, this can result in merchants having to queue to get assistance, while also trying to serve customers and run their businesses.

BOIPA wanted to provide a more convenient and self-service process for handling payment terminal queries; payment acceptance queries; and changes to merchant bank accounts. They felt this could be achieved by implementing chatbot solutions.

Improving customer experience:

Jennifer Doyle, Head of Digital Platforms, at EVO Payments (BOIPA) comments, “About 18 months ago we started looking at introducing digital assistants as part of our digital transformation plan. We wanted to improve the customer experience on our website, enhance self-service, and modernise the way that we present BOIPA to customers.”

“We could see that a lot of merchants were calling us for the same reasons and asking us the same questions about setting up and operating their payment terminals or changing their bank account details. We don’t want them to have to wait to speak to someone, particularly if they’re having difficulty using their terminal and they’re unable to take payments from their customers. We knew that there was a more efficient way of resolving their queries.”

BOIPA decided to develop a Terminal Troubleshooter bot that would guide merchants through a clear step by step process to quickly resolve their issues and provide additional out of hours support, alleviating pressure on contact centre agents while also reducing the cost to serve.

Bank account change functionality would also be incorporated within Terminal Troubleshooter bot to assist with processing changes to merchants’ bank accounts.

Finding the right technology partner

BOIPA spent several months developing a proof of concept. However, the chatbot vendor that BOIPA was originally working with was using defined templates that the digital platforms team found to be too restrictive. After researching the market, BOIPA was introduced to ServisBOT, which provides a conversational AI platform that allows businesses to rapidly build and scale chatbot and natural language solutions across a range of different business use cases, such as sales conversion, onboarding, operations, service, and renewals.

“During the sales process, we provided ServisBOT with some high-level data and within three days they pulled together a demo bot that wowed us. It was clear that they really understood our business challenges and what we were trying to achieve and they showed us how they could provide us with flexible chatbot solutions that would really help our customers,” enthuses Jennifer Doyle.

Doyle explains that a key part of the selection process was the fact that she and her team could see how the bot could be developed to follow a clear workflow and how it enabled BOIPA to advise changes as needed. “We could see technically how the ServisBOT platform works and how easy and seamless it was to make changes to the bots. It was also clear that the platform would allow us to build an intuitive and engaging user experience.”

Demonstrating Agility During the Pandemic, with Call Deflection

Just as BOIPA was about to launch the pilot of its first bot, COVID-19 hit our shores and many of the businesses that use BOIPA payment terminals were forced to close their physical premises.

Doyle explains how the flexibility of the ServisBOT platform came into its own. “When lockdown was announced, we put the original bot pilot on hold. We had to adapt to accommodate the new challenges that we faced with our customer service colleagues now working from home, while at the same time the contact centre was inundated with merchant questions that had increased by approximately 30% overnight,” reports Doyle.

In spite of these challenges, BOIPA was able to integrate ServisBOT’s platform with its Avaya IVR system and Intercom live chat and deploy a call deflection solution within a matter of days, which eased pressure on their contact centre, while providing self-service options to resolve customers’ most common queries.

“We wanted to offer our customers an option, via our IVR, to deflect to SMS where they could engage with an FAQ bot that provides answers to COVID-related and other common customer questions, with the ability to seamlessly hand over to a human via live chat if the customer still had questions. We were able to build an additional feature into the IVR that allowed customers to divert to a digital assistant if they didn’t want to wait to speak to a human. If they selected1 on the IVR, the customer would enter their mobile number and receive an SMS that provided a link to launch an FAQ bot. The bot was transformational.” reports Doyle.

“We weren’t constrained at all, the platform gave us the flexibility to make changes within 24 hours if need be. A lot of providers claim that, but with ServisBOT we really could. It was great to have the ability to request changes and have a team that could deliver at the click of your fingers.”

Within three months of launching the call deflection solution, at least 10% of the traffic was being deflected to the bot.

Encouraging adoption

Cathal McGloin

Cathal McGloin

Once the call deflection solution was launched, BOIPA deployed the Terminal Troubleshooter and bank account change bots on the BOIPA website and supporting pages within two weeks.

Of those visitors that clicked to open a bot, 70% engaged, with this split further into 79% selecting FAQs and 21% selecting Terminal Troubleshooter.

With an eye towards continuously improving engagement, bot accuracy and customer experience, Doyle explains that BOIPA invites regular feedback from customers to help continually train and improve the bot, including five-star feedback within the bot experience.

She cites the example of changing the call to action (CTA) for the bot on the website to a larger format button with subtle animation, which simply asks, “Need Help?” Small enhancements such as these are encouraging more customers to use the bot each month. “Initial bot engagement was 6 percent. After the CTA change, interactions jumped to 15 percent, increasing overall engagement by 150 percent with this small adjustment” reports Doyle.

Another key learning point was that BOIPA originally designed the Terminal Troubleshooter bot to dive deep into technical issues associated with the merchant terminals. However, after analysing conversational history and, specifically, where customers were abandoning conversations, it was determined that often customers just needed help with the basics of getting started with the terminal. In response, BOIPA created instructional videos, which customers can access through the bot, so that they can watch the steps to follow to get their payment terminal working at the start.

Measuring Results

Shane Feenan, Senior Operations Analyst, BOIPA, reports that, at the start of the pandemic, the contact centre was handling up to 10,000 calls a month, about 20-30% more than average. In September this figure had been reduced to just over 6,300 calls, and by October it had reduced yet again to 5,824 calls a month. The number of calls handled by agents in the six-month period May to June 2020, even in the face of a pandemic, was down 34% compared with the same period last year.

“I’m a big fan. Data validation is a major help for our contact centre colleagues,” says Feenan.

With the cost to handle each call estimated at €1.75 a call, having the bots working together to help automate simple business processes, such as bank account changes, while providing technical troubleshooting and answers to FAQs, is helping to significantly reduce operating costs, in addition to easing pressure on contact centre staff.

BOIPA reports that the customer experience has been improved in particular by the bank account change functionality, because it is designed in such a way that customers cannot proceed to the next stage of the process unless they have provided a signature and uploaded the required documents.

“When merchants call in to change their bank details, contact centre agents sometimes forget to ask for proof of banking documentation while they’re on the phone, this can result in a three or four step process, where merchants have to call back and might deal with different agents, which can take up to three days. The bot creates a more seamless process for the customer,” reports Feenan. “Similarly, inbound emails are too free-form. The bot restricts incoming information to precisely what is needed, resulting in less room for errors and greater efficiencies throughout the process.”

This assertion is borne out in the data as 100% of merchants using the bot for bank account changes attach proof of banking in the first interaction, compared to just 40% of those who request bank account changes via email. Of that percentage, just 20% of emailed documents are correct, and, as a result, emailed bank account change requests require at least twice as many interactions with customer service agents.

“The bot definitely makes it smoother for the merchants,” agrees Doyle. “Our call centre can take five to ten minutes to handle an identical request. We’ve designed the bank account change process so that the bot won’t let the customer progress to the next stage until they’ve provided all required documents. Visually, it’s much easier for the merchants and it lives up to our model of modern customer service.”

Meeting compliance

The bots seamlessly integrate with BOIPA’s back-office systems, providing an interface for customers to upload electronic signatures and other personal documents without the bot itself storing any sensitive data. Designing the bot to pass customer data through to BOIPA, without retaining it, was vital for meeting the organisation’s strict security policies and industry rules and regulations around data handling. “For me, this demonstrates the flexibility of the platform, it allows us to transform customer engagement while still adhering to the rules and policies of our organisation,” concludes Doyle.

Future plans

Encouraged by the success of its first bots and the flexibility of the ServisBOT platform, BOIPA/EVO is hoping to make multi-lingual versions available in its other European markets in 2021 and is exploring ways of using the bots to gather customer feedback by making them more interactive.”

Global Banking & Finance Review


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