By Ravi N. Raj, CEO and Co-Founder of Passage AI
It’s no secret that chatbots have already made a big impact on the banking industry. From answering frequently asked customer queries that tied up employees in the past, to allowing customers to have their questions about their account answered, conversational AI has woven itself into the fabric of fintech. That said, there’s an exciting new level this technology can reach, and it’s coming quickly thanks to more widespread integration of voice-based services.
In fact, according to a recent report from Google, voice is already used in 20 percent of all searches made, and it is expected to rise to 50 percent by 2020. As voice-powered technology continues to improve in accuracy and more services are offered, there is no doubt that more businesses — particularly financial institutions — will shift their strategies to include voice engagement.
Voice-powered chatbots will be able to perform all the same functions as their text-based cousins, but will also be superior in many ways. Because these chatbots will be even better at learning and adapting over time, they will be more capable of understanding a customer’s exact needs and propose more comprehensive solutions to any problems they might have. Voice technology will not only save time, it will help ease any reservations that some people might have about interacting with an AI powered chatbot instead of a live agent. Talking to someone, even if that “someone” is actually a bot, is preferable to filling out forms or typing in information, and it won’t take long for that to become the new normal.
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Customer service is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ways in which conversational AI can make an impact on the world of finance once voice becomes a regular feature in the next wave of chatbot tech. Using a combination of machine learning, omni-channel deployment, and NLU/P, voice assistants will go beyond answering questions to actually managing banking operations.
Already, companies are devising ways to integrate AI into all phases of their businesses. Some of these areas, like call centers, are obvious choices for voice to transform. But it’s not hard to envision a not too distant future when any service offered by your local branch is something that can be tackled by AI instead. From there, it won’t seem like much of a leap to see the same tech used to handle even more, like financial advising.
Consider the simplest bank transactions, like accepting payments and performing balance checks. These are interactions already well-suited for chatbots to handle, but also ones with the potential to be improved by voice-enhanced AI. Instead of merely handling what a customer requests, next generation tools will analyze patterns of behavior and anticipate additional needs before the customer even realizes it. Logical next steps and related services can be suggested without even having to ask for them, truly giving people what they didn’t even now they wanted. Tomorrow’s voice assistants might even call customers to follow up, knowing from previous experience — not to mention a mountain of data — what is likely to be needed next. The end goal of chatbots is not to simply replace humans and lower customer service costs, but instead to improve overall productivity and allow agents to add more value to their enterprise by freeing up their time from answering mundane, repetitive questions.
And while bankers’ hours have already been eradicated in an age of mobile and online banking, voice-based services will be true, 24/7 affairs. Customers can look forward to getting whatever they want at a time that is most convenient for them, without worrying about whether their bank is open or closed or if someone is available to help. The associated worry would be whether AI will cost too many bank workers their jobs. However, Kent Mackenzie, Deloitte’s global head of fintech, recently suggested that bank managers might go from being able to spend 20 percent of their time with customers to 60 percent, implying that these technologies can supplement the human element instead of replacing it.
To be sure, there are challenges to overcome before banks can throw their arms open to what’s coming next. Accuracy is a hurdle that is tricky even for chatbots built around text to clear, but one that needs to be improved before voice can take root. Security is another area in which constant improvement must be made, even though voice has some inherent advantages over text or data entry as we currently use them.
Speed, efficiency, and excellent customer experiences have always been pillars of the banking industry, and all of them can be made stronger once voice and AI converge in the near future. What’s most enticing is that the benefits will be shared by customers, banks, and the companies that provide the technology, a rare but definite case where everyone involved will win.