Covid-19 and Rise of Conversational Banking
Besides the humanitarian burden and the tragedy that it caused, the outbreak of Covid-19 has profound effects on many industries and the banking is one of the most visible of them. Digital banking, specifically “conversational banking” seems to have permanent uptrend in this period.
Banks have to manage the remote working systems of their employees, continue to serve their customers properly, and even support more the financial wellbeing of the customers by satisfying their needs that rise because of this extraordinary situation. It is a tough task that has been emerged as an addition to the already challenging banking environment.
Accelerated digital transformation
There is not doubt that such a huge and global outbreak has already started to change customer expectations and accelerated the digitalization at a large scale. The dramatic and rapid change affects various fields of a bank organization such as human resources, information technologies, risk management, digital banking, branch management, corporate communications and marketing. According to McKinsey, the initiatives that bank leaders are most commonly adopting are “taking proactive steps to protect the health and boost the morale of their employees, establishing an interim operational model for branches, and developing a support model for remote working”. Even agile way of working has been adopted rapidly, which could take months in normal conditions in terms of both cultural change and technical requirements. Therefore, the corovirus made this difficult transformation, closer, easier and faster.
Remote, instant, enhanced service
From the perspective of an individual customer’s daily financial life, the main issues are to make safe and hygienic payments, receive service via digital channels, visit branches less, access cash when needed and get faster responses to their questions. They want banks to provide a ready access to the products and services. On the other hand, the banks’ abilities to provide physical experiences through branches, ATMs, POS, call centers has been limited by the current conditions. In some countries, working hours for the branches have been modified, in some countries different shifts has been implemented and some branched has been closed or staff has been reduced. Regarding the call centers, the situation is very challenging as keeping that crowded teams together may result in the virus contamination and is very risky. Therefore, banks are searching the ways of remote call center models. Delivering on customer expectations while adapting the operating model to the reality of the current pandemic will be an unprecedented challenge for banks. It is highly important for banks to make customer interactions with the bank as easy as possible. In such an environment, where the customer expectations have risen and queries have been varied, the adoption of conversational banking by the banks and engagement of customers in this new channel will be faster. Since the digital channels like internet branches and mobile applications are far away from satisfying the customer demands who expect to learn about something by talking to someone instantly. The customers search for an experience closer to the experience that they get from branches or call centers. Being more specific, many of the bank customers who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus, especially the elderly, are not active users of internet banking or mobile banking, but they can more easily use a conversational channel, like a chatbot or a voice assistant, as it is more natural, direct and intuitive. Therefore, the conversational banking and the tools like chatbots and virtual assistants will be adopted by more banks in a shorter time than normal conditions.
Conversational banking: Why now?
As CBOT, even before the covid-19 outbreak, we already believed that in the current environment where the relationship between human – technology is transformed to be natural, direct and intuitive thanks to the AI-based technologies, conversational platforms powered by AI will be a huge trend with more successful use cases. However, the pandemic accelerated this process. We observe an obvious rise in the number of users and the dialogues in our live chatbots and expect an uptrend in the usage. The number of users and messages has increased 5,4 and 3,9 times respectively in our banking chatbots since the outbreak of Covid. The top asked topics have been loan application, credit payment delay, online banking password setting and request. Now conversational AI is a must-have, just like a customer virtual assistant, call center virtual agent, or an HR / IT virtual assistant helping the employees dealing with this new way of working, all the remote working tools and many practical questions. We help banks to respond this huge trend of rapid digitalization, to satisfy the customer needs, to help the employees to work remotely in the most efficient way by providing them conversational banking products such as chatbots and human+AI solutions for call centers.
How CBOT faces this increased demand in conversational banking?
Since the outbreak, we have witnessed a rise in the demand for AI-based chatbots and every institution say that they need a solution which can go live very fast, in a very short period of time as the situation is extraordinary that requires rapid reaction.We are able to face this demand thanks to our domain expertise and experience in developing and deploying banking chatbots in a very short period of time. We have developed the necessary tools to accelerate the time necessary for AI-training and testing, and to design sophisticated dialogue flows without any requirement for any code. We think that it is a very important capability these days as the banks have to respond the rapidly changing conditions in the same manner. It is obvious that static Q&A type conversations will not be adequate to satisfy the customer expectations, but personalized responses with integration points into the banks’ systems, even advisory and proactive systems, will be required. We have our own NLP engine and machine learning infrastructure that we combine with our dialogue design and management skills. It is also important to be present wherever the customers need to reach their bank whether it is a messaging platform like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or a voice assistant like Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa or just bank’s website or mobile app. Having the experience of 6 banking chatbots in Turkey, we have invested a lot to solve these challenges and provide a conversational experience to the customers in the most effective and efficient way. The successful live use cases that we created with the largest private bank of Turkey, İşbank, ING, Garanti BBVA, QNB Finansbank, Fibabanka and Turkey Industry and Development Bank, helped us develop a deep expertise in the banking chatbots since 2017.
Struggle against Covid-19 and social responsibility
Considering that each and every organization can contribute to the global fight with the covid-19 pandemic, we, as CBOT, developed a chatbot, called “koronabot” hosted in www.koronabot.com, providing instant responses to the public queries on coronavirus and covid-19. The most popular news portal of Turkey, CNN Turkey, hosted this chatbot so that people could easily reach it and get information based on reliable sources. Koronabot, crawls the most updated information to inform people about the global or country based statistics as well as the information published by Ministry of Health in Turkey. Besides the local koronabot that helps people in Turkish, we have also developed another version in English that serves on www.botcorona.com and provides information according to World Health Organization updates. We designed and developed these chatbots that we consider as a social responsibility project within 1 week as we have to react this situation very fast to avoid the false and unconfirmed information spreading so fast.
All in all, we believe that the solution we provide to banks and other financial institutions is very crucial in this current situation as the remote services gained a vital importance in the operating models of the banks. We are ready to help the banks to overcome this crisis by keeping their employees and customers safe, leveraging the customer experience and increasing the efficiency in their operations.