Rhys Powell, UK Managing Director and Group Commercial Director, EBO.ai
Kit from Knight Rider, Jarvis from Iron Man, Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey – all three are super-intelligent AI minds capable of doing things that humans can’t. But what if technology isn’t reserved for science-fiction anymore? And what if bringing AI into the financial services sector can bring about more savings than in any other industry?
AI has been disrupting the way we work for a few years now, and the financial services industry has a lot to gain by embracing it. The technological opportunities in financial services are abundant, but have not yet been realised, at a time when competition, customer expectations and technological development are all on the increase. As customers’ demands and expectations continue to evolve, so too does the need to match them.
One of the biggest costs and challenges for a financial services business is providing a highly responsive level of customer service. Gone are the days of staying on hold for hours; today’s consumers want answers, and they want them now, regardless of the time or their location.
As a result, banks that do not innovate to meet these demands are expected to lose between 10% and 40% of their revenues by 2025 in wealth management, consumer finance, mortgages, lending to SMEs and retail payments as fintech challengers step in, crowd the market, force down prices, and squeeze margins.
Whether in-house or outsourced, contact centres have been the traditional way for financial services businesses to manage customer, and potential customer, enquiries – but there is a better way. While two thirds of customers prefer trying to solve an issue on their own, 59% will use three or more channels to get their question answered, meaning phone calls are a last resort for many. Fortunately, AI can give them what they’re looking for.
Bots are the answer
Whilst AI comes in many forms, bots are one of the most commonly known, and they can be the perfect customer-facing employee. Bots will always be friendly, efficient, knowledgeable and unflappable, and able to handle ever-increasing workloads without making a fuss. They can even spot opportunities to up-sell and help companies manage new sales leads.
Also, unlike their human counterparts, bots can answer questions on nearly any topic. This constant availability of expert knowledge is an incredible benefit. And, again unlike their human counterparts, bots never miss a day of work due to illness or holiday, nor do they ever take a break – they just keep helping customers, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Furthermore, the more information that firms feed them, the better and more efficient they will become due to their constant learning capabilities. As a result, customers that might get frustrated listening to grainy pop music on repeat while waiting to get through to a call centre can instead experience quick, effective, even enjoyable conversations with the business they’re trying to contact.
By managing queries through a bot, all conversations are recorded in an accurate, easily accessible way, immediately and automatically, including how the customer was feeling at the end of the conversation. In doing so, businesses can build a deeper understanding of what their customers need and want.
Alongside these benefits, bots can also become a powerful extension of a company’s brand by consistently delivering a strong, all-round positive customer experience that is always in tune with the messaging and values a company wants to portray. Growing businesses have perhaps the most to gain from this, since this is often when the volume of customer interactions increases, and the importance of brand recognition and consistency is paramount. Smaller businesses can also benefit greatly by employing bots, as they often tend to find it difficult to recruit and train enough staff to manage customer interactions quickly and effectively.
Customer interactions are a vitally important thing to get right. In a time where customers deliver feedback instantly, and when bad online reviews of a product or service can cause immediate reputational damage, failing to provide good customer service has poses a very real danger to you reaching your business goals.
Your employee of the month – every month
Bots can help organisations of all sizes handle large volumes of routine customer interactions more efficiently, regardless of sector, leaving people to focus on the productive work that will lead to increased profits. Of course, there will always be a need for an element of human interaction, and some customers will always prefer to speak to a real person but often they are the minority.
AI can be implemented across many areas of financial services. In banking, the most common enquiries (balance checks, information on transfers, account queries, or changes in personal details) can all be automated through a bot, for example. In insurance, AI can be used to assist customers in obtaining quotes, upgrading coverage, answering questions about their current or prospective policies. When it comes to investments, AI can act as a robo-advisor and even provide real-time predictions based on its analysis of big data and complex algorithms.
People remain a company’s greatest asset. We are not, or ever will be, at the stage where bots can think freely or come up with ideas, and these are fundamentally what fuels a business. A company is only as good as its employees. However, by allowing bots to take on the mundane, routine tasks in a way that customers can get on board with, a bot can become a very strong asset to the team. With some estimates showing that AI could save financial services firms a total of $1 trillion – it’s time to embrace the future.