Banks are finding ways of harnessing technology to transform customer service by automating customer queries, minimising human intervention and extending services to accomplish financial tasks over chat or voice conversation.
Prominent lenders like HDFC BankNSE 0.41 %, IndusInd BankNSE -1.02 %, Kotak Mahindra BankNSE 0.03 % and Yes BankNSE 0.20 % are adopting chat bots and voice bots for customer care. The shift started over the last 12 to 15 months, but with improvements in natural language processing and advancements in artificial intelligence, bankers say they are on the cusp of an automated future. “We started the journey on ‘bots’ about 1.5 years back, and have handled close to eight-million queries since the launch. We have achieved close to 90% accuracy on the service,” said Nitin Chugh, head of digital banking at HDFC Bank. “Beyond being a simple banking assistant, we have brought in bill payments, movie-ticket bookings and other capabilities into Eva, our chat bot.”
Eva appears on the net-banking portal of the bank. Banks need to keep teaching these bots all the queries that come in through multiple channels and how to handle them. This makes their responses more accurate with time. Since bots do not judge customers and there is no fatigue, they can keep serving them with equal ease, said bankers.
Kotak Mahindra Bank is also pushing its bot to expand its scope of operations. In its first phase, the bank has taken the entire Interactive Voice Recording tree on to the bot, which has increased the efficiency of its operations. “For every customer interaction through the bot, we have managed to reduce the number of steps by three to four and overall it has helped reduce customer journey by 45 to 50 seconds,” said Puneet Kapoor, senior executive VP at Kotak Mahindra Bank.
Having started in February 2018, the chat bot has already handled 1.6-million queries and clocked 91% accuracy. “Our IVR conclusions in the first phase itself got pushed to 9% with the bot from around 3% in the normal procedure; with phase two, we are already seeing it getting pushed to 14%,” said Kapoor.
In phase two, these applications will slowly develop capabilities to lock in complaints and solve them as well. Banks are slowly integrating these services with their core banking systems to let them accomplish tasks.
Highlighting the reasons behind this shift in trend, Ravi Shankar, cofounder of tech startup Active.ai, said banks need to be on social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and others because that is where millennials spend maximum time and that requires banks to be conversation-friendly. “Messaging apps have more than 300 million users in some cases, banks are still in the 25 million user base range,” he said. “Banks need to use conversation-based AI platforms to engage with customers within their natural environment.”
Citing an example, he said, there could be a search bar within the bank application like a Google Search which could list out available services for the customer, and banking interactions could be done through text, emojis, gestures, etc. “The future is the AI era for financial services,” he said.
What this has managed to bring in is cost efficiency as well as time accuracy, coupled with better customer service. Bankers said that as the number of customers goes up, if these bots can manage the incremental load of serving them, the savings on the extra manpower can be the net savings for the organisation. Yes Bank, for instance, allows customers to book fixed deposits, recurring deposits through its banking assistant Yes Robot.