By Sheraz Sharif, Head of Data and Cyber Security at Aion Digital
Customer support is one of the most essential areas to respond to your consumer needs, address their concerns, build community, relationships, and loyalty around the business brand. Just like everything else, customer support was directly struck by Covid-19 because of its operating model.
For most establishments, customer support is still primarily managed through manual means, it requires human interaction which means high cost and inconsistent results. However, customers need for immediate results are growing more with each day. As per estimates, 65% of consumers still utilize call center channels to connect for inquires. Another interesting stat is that nearly 50% of consumers expect a response on questions or complaints within an hour, with 18% expecting an immediate response.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted customer support significantly, it presented an opportunity for banks to innovate and amplify the existing digitization trend. That is where Conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) played a vital role by transforming the way banks provide customer support and interact with their client-base as a first touch point. In addition, the advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP) have enabled conversational AI technologies and widened their reach, leading to tools such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Home which are part of many consumers’ everyday lives. According to estimates, more than 70% of consumers worldwide used a chatbot or virtual assistance for customer support in the past 12 months.
Conversational AI is considered a digital workforce made available 24×7 that can handle questions from customers. Using this technology, customers are engaged immediately without having to wait to connect with a human agent. Some interesting stats indicate that 61% of consumers feel that having Chatbots in customer service is the way of the future and 70% of millennials report positive experiences with Chatbots [Aspect Consumer Experience Index].
Ultimately, customer experience (CX) is improved due to stronger, more effective, and efficient services. In fact, 33% of customers say getting their issue resolved in a single interaction is the most important aspect of customer service [American Express]. Conversational AI can learn languages, accents, and even new vocabulary through deep learning capabilities and captures data that can be used for refining analytics results. These results include user segmentation which is identified by recognizing the users’ needs and preferences. These needs and preferences are based on conversational data, personalized offerings, bot usage metrics, user types, channels used, sessions length etc. These analytical results are now so refined, that 72% of consumers expect advisors to know who they are, what they have purchased and have insights into their previous engagements (Microsoft).
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It is worth mentioning that banks do not have to develop their own AI and natural language understanding capabilities from scratch. To enable customer interaction, a pre-built conversational AI solution is available, in fact, 80% of customer engagements can be handled by bots [Accenture]. Chatbots already understand hundreds of different intent requests using pre-built speech recognition technology which could be tailored based on customer needs. Careful consideration must be given to the cyber security aspect of Conversational AI by applying security and anti-fraud measures to communication between customers and the bank.
By deploying AI, not only were banks able to mitigate the impact of branch closures but they were also able to boost their customer experience and services digitally. 66% of online adults say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer experience [Forrester]. Financial Institutions must consider which solution will work best for their customer base, their business needs, and most importantly their internal infrastructure for AI readiness.
The conclusion is that Covid-19 has accelerated a trend that has already been in motion to “Go Digital”. Soon, we will be seeing an upward trend of banks transforming their customer service into 100% digital channels by facilitating conversational AI interactions. By 2030, 70% of companies will have adopted some form of AI and most enterprises will be using a full range of AI technology [McKinsey]. Artificial Intelligence is not here to replace customer support teams, but to make them more effective by responding in a timely manner and by helping them understand their customer base. This is also done by utilizing conversational AI data, such as customer pain points, repeated queries, sentimental & behavioral data. At this point in time, AI can compile information quickly but does not replace or replicate real human-relationships. The use of AI in support teams helps them become strategic and work smarter. It is important to note that some of the recent bank branch closures were not solely an after-effect of the current COVID-19 pandemic, but also response to a new trend in consumer preferences to connect to a bank.
§ American Express WellActually Customer Service Research