Future Branches Boston 2020

July 23 - 24, 2020

The Westin Copley Place, Boston, MA

Could Chatbots Hold the Answer to the Human/Technology Imbalance?

brought to you by WBR Insights

Technology is improving each day, so it's only natural that banks will begin to use it more and more. Online banking, for instance, is quicker and more convenient for customers, and younger generations especially tend to find it appealing.

However, many banks still seem to be lagging in their digital transformations - at least, from a customer perspective. A recent study of millennials showed that 86% were dissatisfied with their ability to access financial services from traditional banks on their mobile devices.

Nevertheless, there are many people who still prefer to carry out certain banking transactions not online, but in physical locations. The truth is, there will always be people who prefer, in varying proportions, either the digital or face-to-face services their bank offers - so it's important to ensure an equal balance between both exists to keep all customers satisfied.

What Does the Research Say?

Recent research, conducted on both younger and older generations, has helped to illustrate the need for a balance between technology and human interaction.

"Research [from the Clydesdale Group] gives us the clear message that 81% of consumers would still want to speak to someone, or to visit a branch, no matter how advanced technology gets," reports Scottish Financial News. "And customers are almost twice as likely to oppose all processes turning digital in banks compared to supermarkets, fast food restaurants or clothes shops. Only dealings with health professionals can match dealing with money in terms of concerns about digitalization."

There are obviously times when using technology - instead of physically visiting a branch - can be easier or more convenient. There's no need to travel to a branch to carry out simple transactions when you can sit at home or at work and do it on your phone or computer.

However, there remain certain, more complex transactions which are better carried out through one-on-one interaction - where customers have a real hand to shake and voice to listen to.

It's far more reassuring to have a human being in front of you when you're discussing more important financial issues such as mortgages, business loans, or making plans for retirement. And it's this which drives the need for both online and offline banking services, which, ideally, will complement each other and work together to ensure all consumers receive the best experience possible.

Chatbots

One answer to this can be found in AI-powered chatbots. More and more businesses are using chatbots as a way of boosting the power of their customer service capabilities. Customers can access chatbots though popular messaging services such as Facebook, or through proprietary systems found on company websites, and interact with them to find answers to a range of common queries.

However, the technology hasn't quite lived up to its promise yet.

"For all the buzz around bot customer service capabilities, chatbots aren't [yet] the answer either," said Unblu COO Jens Rabe. "At this point, most are interactive voice-response systems that provide generic FAQs without a pathway to an agent. According to Forrester, 60% of chatbot deployments in 2019 will not have effective live-agent safety nets attached to web chat sessions."

However, as AI becomes more sophisticated, these chatbots can handle ever more complex questions. Aside from this, the software can communicate in a manner which is becoming increasingly like interacting with a real person. If anything, chatbots are the ultimate expression of balancing technology with human interaction as the AI itself is a composite of these two factors.

It's incredibly likely that the time when AI reaches such sophistication that it can pass the Turing Test - developed by renowned British war hero Alan Turing to establish the point at which AI becomes indistinguishable from a real human - will soon come. It's at this point that the role of chatbots in banking will come into its own, and discussions about the balance between technology and humans in banking will become far more interesting.

Final Thoughts

Most banks give customers the option to either visit a branch or do their banking online - and the ones which don't are falling behind and will only fall further if they fail to adapt.

All businesses, whether they are banks or not, should keep up to date with digital technology. Not only does it improve service, but it also projects an image of a company which is modern and forward thinking. Such businesses are more attractive to customers - both current and prospective.

As Mark Curran, Director of Payments and Open Banking at CYBG puts it: "At CYBG we have a clear vision of the type of bank we want to be in the future. We are committed to investing in technology to continue to increase convenience and functionality, but we will not lose sight of the fact that the customer is what matters the most and there needs to be a balance between digital progression and human contact."


AI and chatbots are set to be hot topics at Future Branches 2019, taking place in November at the Hilton Austin, TX.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.