A recent article by Finextra goes into great detail about why “Conversational Banking Is a Competitive Necessity in a Remote-Everything World.” This perspective is supported by research from Cornerstone Advisors stating that by the end of 2020, the number of mid-sized banks and credit unions that had deployed a chatbot had grown from four to 13 percent with that number expected to continue to rise. 

If you’re with one of the many financial institutions (FI) that is considering integrating Conversational AI, like a chatbot or Virtual Financial Assistant (VFA), into your digital banking mix, it’s important to go beyond the sentiment of “Everyone has one, so we need one too” and ask yourself the key question – “Why do we need this?” Think back fifteen years or so when social media came to prominence. Lots of businesses, including FIs, said to themselves “We need a Facebook page”, but without a real plan or having truly examined if it was right for them at the time. As a result, many businesses’ initial forays into social media failed miserably. 

To ensure that your journey into Conversational AI doesn’t suffer the same fate, it’s important to ask yourself some key questions so that you can effectively evaluate its power and if a good fit, enjoy a successful launch. Regardless of whether you’re a bank or credit union or where you might be in your digital banking transformation, here are a few questions to discuss with your team as you start to consider a Conversational AI project:

Question 1: Do you have an understanding of who your digital users are?

We know that your customers are increasingly digital. In fact, having an effective and efficient digital banking platform is no longer a “nice to have”, it’s a “must have.” That said, you know your customers’/members’ financial habits better than anyone else. Is the adoption of your digital banking offering growing? Has it plateaued? Is there a segment of your  base that simply won’t gravitate to digital banking? Conversational AI, in the form of a chatbot or VFA, has the potential to remedy many issues or opportunities that your answers reveal. 

Depending on how you answer these questions, your best option might be to start simple, as a means to further engage current digital users or convert traditionally non-digital ones. Identify the greatest need, even if it is simple. Some high ROI Conversational AI use cases that you might think are “too simple” to get started are:

  • Deposit Availability
  • Routing and Account Numbers
  • Hours of Operation
  • Last Five Transactions
  • Online Account Opening FAQs
  • Linking External Account Guidance

Once your users have embraced this type of interaction, you can then grow your offerings to take on more complex questions, transactions and insights. 

Question 2: Where are your digital customers?

In a post-pandemic world (and even pre-pandemic) customers are increasingly using mobile and web experiences for customer service and to learn about new products. While it may feel like a scramble to update your digital operations to meet this demand, the good news is that your existing, non-digital operations can tell you a lot about where to start. How? A simple way to do this is to have call agents ask one survey question at the start of any call – “where did you find the phone number to call us today?” That will tell you a lot about not just the tools that customers use to find you, but also about what types of questions different customer segments ask.

Your digital customers often use your digital channels to seek help or conduct basic transactions. These channels are “owned channels,” meaning you don’t have to pay an outside party to market within that property. So, if you do find that you have a lot of customers within online and mobile banking, you can display simple messages that let them know you have a new servicing option within that channel. 

Question 3: Do you have the resources to take on a “build” approach?

If you are a larger FI, you may very well have the technical talent and resources in-house to build a variety of Conversational AI use cases, but where you may run into issues is in building more complex flows, curating all of the conversational data that VFAs yield and ultimately, using all of the data at your disposal to improve upon what you’ve launched. A build approach means much more than just getting a product to market – you have to keep it in the market by continuously evolving it to meet your customers ever-changing needs. If you build it yourself, you also have to support it yourself. Think about that, you don’t just have to hire staff to build, but you have to hire staff to support it, which requires unique skill sets.  In a partnership approach (like working with a conversational banking provider like us), you have the option to not only be supported, but have your VFA optimized and curated, which allows you to perfect simple use cases and identify those highest value ones that you’d like to build and offer next.  

Even if you are hell bent on flexing your technological might, a good compromise rather than taking on an entire build, is to begin by clearly documenting the journeys that you want to solve with a dream state solution. One way to think about this is, “Our initial goal is to move low touch, low value questions out of our contact center. Next, we’d like to be able to generate new accounts and issue home loan pre-approvals using a Virtual Financial Assistant.”  

Now Get Started on Your Journey

If you can start to consider and answer the questions we’ve outlined above, you now have relevant data and actionable insight to guide you along your AI journey. If you’d like a list of additional questions to consider along your AI journey or if you’d like to learn more about how Conversational AI can enhance your digital banking experience while generating measurable operational efficiencies, we’d love to chat with you.

Warren Dunton – Director, Sales & Partnerships