Get intimate with customers
While smart vision systems prevent unlawful access to a customer’s bank accounts, some smart machines are finding their way into customer service to help people get quick answers to common questions. These virtual customer assistants have moved beyond the monotone, robotic sound of old sci-fi films to speak in friendly, humanlike manners.
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group in Japan offers one such example: a virtual customer assistant, fluent in 19 languages, quickly interprets the consumer’s emotional state as he or she is greeted. At the Commercial Bank of Dubai, a virtual customer assistant named Sara is available 24/7 to help website visitors fill out forms and get up-to-the-minute answers to questions about saving and investing. And customers don’t even need a keyboard or a mouse to “talk” to Sara; rather, they wave at or tap on the screen to dive deeper into a topic or initiate a new one.
Sample vendors in this technology space include EmotionScan, which helps bankers understand how customers feel about their money. Taking a page from the Suze Orman playbook, the software analyzes the facial expressions of customers or prospects as they listen to a series of scenarios designed around topics of cash flow, budgeting, mortgages, retirement, debt and saving. Facial response analysis helps the system interpret emotions, such as a customer’s level of interest or anxiety, to guide the interaction.
Aldebaran Robotics, part of SoftBank, which markets Nao (a humanoid robot), can implement similar scenarios. Creative Virtual, another provider of smart machine technology, uses its V-Person technology to power “Ask Sara” at the Commercial Bank of Dubai. We expect that virtual customer assistants, designed to handle all common questions and queries, could eventually be deployed as replacements for call center operations.
Offer personal advice
The application of smart machines goes beyond general contact center management to offer virtual personal advice. Personal relationship managers at DBS Bank in Singapore, for example, use IBM’s Watson tool to ensure the quality of the advice they give to private bank customers. Similarly, Standard Bank in South Africa calls on the natural language-processing ability of Watson to gain insights from large amounts of unstructured data.
The bank also uses Watson to speed handle customer queries about their specific situations. Says Vuyo Mpako, head of innovation and channel design for Standard Bank, “The ultimate beneficiaries of the project will be our customers for whom the process—known as ‘cognitive computing’—will undoubtedly bring many benefits as we continue to identify innovative ways of doing business and build a bank for the future.”
The ultimate beneficiaries of the project will be our customers for whom the process—known as ‘cognitive computing’—will undoubtedly bring many benefits as we continue to identify innovative ways of doing business and build a bank for the future.
At Ally Financial in the U.S., Ally Assist, launched with analytics firm Personetics, gives contextualized answers to an individual’s question, submitted by voice or text. Ally also offers predictions and feedback to help individuals manage their cash flows and budgeting, based on real-time analysis of their own spending histories. Ally also uses its knowledge of a customer’s behavior to alert him or her to make a payment.
We expect the growth of similar scenarios as virtual assistants are deployed at various levels of financial services. For example, we foresee their use in arranging events (e.g., in polling participants to determine the best time and location for a meeting), as well as in job training and professional development. Virtual assistants might even be used to help bank employees identify and connect with work, career or hobby buddies.