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There’s no question about it – the world of banking is becoming more self-service oriented, with greater automation to service the needs and demands of today’s digital-savvy consumers. 

The buzz of chatbots continues to grow louder as large banks like Bank of America with Erica  and USAA with their Automated Assistant, to smaller mid-tier banks and credit unions, alike (Umpqua Bank and Teachers Credit Union) have found success with variations of chatbots in banking, virtual assistants, and AI. 

If you are thinking about adding a chatbot to your digital channel strategy (hint: you probably should be), here are 10 things you need to know before committing to a chatbot for banking. 

1. Consumers expect more than a simple Q&A.

“The more consumers interact with AI, the better they expect it to be. Consumers today aren’t satisfied with simple ask and answer conversations. They expect a chatbot or virtual agent to really understand them, anticipate their needs, and do more than just provide information. They want action.”[24]7.ai, Meet the New CX Power Couple: Bots and Agents

You are going to need a lot of content to support your chatbot. Specifically content that follows what we call the “three A’s” — it not only answer a question, but provides additional information and calls to action. Additionally, your chatbot will need to be continuously iterating to improve and enhance content to provide better answers to your consumers.

“Good private bankers not only fulfill a customer’s explicit requests, they also anticipate and suggest courses of actions…” – IBM, The Future of Banking: A Financial Concierge for Everyone

Pro Tip: Follow the three A’s method to ensure you’re chatbot provides answers that are as effective as possible.

Best Practices for Optimal Support Content
1. Answer the question

Your answer clearly and succinctly answers the question.

2. Provide Additional information

Supplement the answer with other relevant information, and link directly to it.

3. Make your content Actionable

Give customers related actions to take with prominent calls-to-action.

2. A chatbot won’t reduce your need for live agents. As a matter of fact, you may need more (and, you’ll need them in a different way).

Gone are the days of using automated customer service tactics to stave off consumers, and in are the days of using it to assist a better overall customer experience

While the overall volume of calls to your contact center may drop, the type and nature of calls that need to be handed off to a live customer service representative will likely demand more attention and time. 

As many reports cite, the key to delivering a successful conversational banking experience will be finding the sweet spot between bots and live agents. 

As chatbots take on more consumer requests, and continuously improve with AI, the nature of the contact center employees’ job will change. The two should augment each other. 

“This means enabling active learning in the context of customer service, with agents using collaborative training to continually improve AI models and AI sitting alongside the agent guiding them through an interaction, then using data collected from that interaction to build additional learning into the model itself,” suggests a [24]7.ai report. 

Additionally, while bank contact centers may see a decline in overall volume of calls, the average call duration will likely remain the same or increase as agents will need to field more complex questions and conversations beyond the typical Tier 1 support questions.

“Most view bots as a way to augment or reallocate human labor, not as a way to replace employees,” – CCW Disruptive Technology Review: Disrupting The Chat Experience.

3. You can’t launch a banking chatbot without first having a centralized knowledge base and content approach.

A chatbot is only as good as the content it disseminates, and that content needs to come from somewhere – a single source of truth. For many institutions, this is their knowledge base or intranet.

Centralized Content Assembly line for Knowledge Management

“Chatbots and virtual agents can only give accurate responses if they are backed by a knowledge base with accurate content. Using a single knowledge control center for both your customer-facing and contact center chatbots creates consistency across channels and allows organizations to more easily keep content up-to-date.” – Creative Virtual, A Chatbot for Your Contact Center

4. A chatbot requires a lot of content, but it doesn’t need to be perfect – yet.

The beauty of AI is that it is continuously learning from interactions within the chatbot to improve. So, go for it. Crawl, walk, run. It’s a phrase we like to use here at Engageware to emphasize the importance of just getting started somewhere.

Pro Tip: Start with your top frequently asked questions (FAQs). Not sure what your top FAQs are? Talk to your call center

Customer Engagement: The Critical Factor in Developing and Retaining Customer Relationships

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5. Chat content should not be limited to just text.  

“Do not view chat as an exclusively text-based platform,” heeds Brian Cantor, author of the CCW report, Disrupting The Chat Experience. “A modern chat program also empowers customers to connect via rich media like audio and video.”

In the case of banking support content, rich media like diagrams of a check to point out routing number, and how-to videos of how to set up online banking can be tremendously helpful to consumers. A picture is really worth a thousand words and utilizing graphics or tutorials to depict where to find something or how to complete an action could help a customer understand the answer faster and save them a call to your contact center.

Pro Tip: Take a look at the top questions you receive in the contact center or in branch and determine which might be better answered using a graphic or video. Here are two great examples of how to add images or step by step tutorials/videos to your content.

Example of visual answers using graphics and step by step guides to help customers answer their banking questions.

6. The hand-off between a chatbot and live agent needs to be absolutely seamless.

The chatbot needs to be able to recognize – and fairly quickly so – when the conversation needs to be handed over to a live agent. The consumer’s chat history needs to be passed through so that the customer doesn’t need to repeat themselves and start their inquiry all over again with the live agent. 

“What companies need to do is leverage what the AI has learned and pass it along to the agent, who can pick up where the bot left off and turn what may be a frustrating experience into a satisfying one.”[24]7.ai report.

7. Your chatbot should allow for a feedback loop.

Both consumers and employees should have an easy way to provide feedback on their experience with the chatbot and the quality of the content and services received. This will help ensure your chatbot content stays accurate, complete and up-to-date. This feedback loop should be directly integrated with the central knowledge base from which your content is centrally maintained. 

example of a banking chatbot showing the option to leave feedback on how helpful the content is

Pro Tip: Analyzing feedback data can not only help you improve your existing chatbot content but it can help you find additional questions to add that your customers are looking for. 

8. Select a chatbot vendor that intimately knows and understands the banking Industry.

Apart from selecting a chatbot vendor that is experienced and has a good track record of implementations, consider selecting a chatbot vendor that has a deep understanding of your industry vertical (in this case, banking). This will prove especially valuable in determining what content needs to be developed to support the chatbot, and the initial guided conversations. 

9. Your consumers will appreciate it.

Last but not least, be rest assured that despite initial reservations or criticisms, your consumers won’t turn their backs to you because you are further automating self-service. In fact, most of them would probably rather interface with a chatbot before resorting to making a call.

“A growing number of customers actually prefer not to have to speak with a human unless they have a complex issue or query. They care more about the convenience and accuracy of their experience than whether they were engaging with a virtual agent or live agent,” states the Creative Virtual report on A Chatbot For Your Contact Center.

10. Satisfactory chatbot experiences will further build and reinforce credibility for your other digital channels. 

What better way to make the Customer Self-Service come full circle than by letting a banking-specific chatbot speak for all the great support content you may already have?

“If chat agents can demonstrate clear recognition of customers, communicate wholly accurate information and quickly provide valuable resolutions, they will provide assurance that customers can use the digital channels they prefer in their everyday lives without decreasing the likelihood of resolution,”CCW Report.

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