A Little Less Conversation,
A Little More Action, Please

The texting generation

A 2017 Salesforce study pointed to a much higher percentage of millennials (44 percent) who prefer to communicate with advisors via text messages. This does not seem like a tall order.

After all, this ‘texting generation’ has a strong affinity for eschewing tactile face-to-face or ‘voice-to-voice’ communication for a minimized mode of interaction. Whilst brands are pushing for the development of natural language processing (NLP) to produce bots with sophisticated chat abilities, artificial intelligence (AI) enables the technology to take it a step further by making the chatbot a reliable resource and aggregator of information on-demand. And in turn, transforming a pivotal point in the customer decision journey.

Chatbots in the world of banking and finance

In the banking world, the conversation around chatbots takes on an added layer of complexity with the intricate process of balancing compliance with communication for client advice. The integral part of effectively addressing client inquiries is not simply to inform, but also to disclose – material information that the client is entitled to and should be aware of.

From an operational standpoint, AI-powered communications can help to eliminate basic human errors like the omission or inconsistent presentation of critical information. For most transactional communications, a single chatbot inquiry is estimated to save up to four minutes in call duration compared with traditional call center inquiries, according to a recent report by Juniper Research.

It is no wonder that the research house found that chatbots are expected to create over US$8 billion per year in cost savings for global banks by 2022!

The Open Vault and our Consumer Secured Lending team saw this opportunity. In April 2017, launched 'Emma' – our first chatbot and AI-powered home and renovation loan specialist at OCBC Bank. Through a prompted conversation with customers, 'Emma' collects data that will help to compute their affordability via an in-built total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) calculator. This approach 'Emma' complements the service provided by our frontline staff, by answering basic queries around the clock so that they can focus on customer engagement. In a click, cold leads turn into pre-qualified leads for mortgage specialists to follow up on. By handling simultaneous interactions anywhere the bot has increased the scalability of our business and will allow us to expand beyond our current suite of products in the future.

A little less conversation, a little more action, please

With the further development of emerging AI and NLP capabilities, there is a greater expectation for chatbots to internalise human psychology and process social intelligence. To create this personable experience, we built 'Emma' with personality.

Here’s some food for thought –

Going through the journey of innovation, many companies have found that the key to promoting mainstream adoption is prioritising certain primary features over others.

In the context of a banking transaction, we must first ascertain what would move the needle for customers to switch to chatbots as their main channel for preliminary enquiries.

Would the text-savvy millennial generation really expect chatbots to talk like humans in order to get comfortable with a chat interface? Or would they first look for the bot to display an exceptional ability to deliver the right responses with reliable accuracy and consistency?

Ultimately, an impactful customer journey needs to be accompanied by a certain situational awareness that makes customers feel as though all touchpoints are personalized and designed to address their unique sets of needs and preferences.

This is what voice assistants such as Siri, Google Now and Amazon Echo are trying to accomplish over time as they build a wealth of data on their users.

The success of 'Emma' started off with delivering a coherent and consistent customer experience. In doing so, we tapped into a massive opportunity to connect with a growing segment of text-savvy and tech-savvy customers who trust technology.

But are we on the right track? We think so. Since its launch, our chatbot application had closed more than S$100million in home loans. With 'Emma', our team can focus on the conversations that matters most – getting the bank a little more action on the home and renovation loans front!

The Open Vault at OCBC Team