According to recent studies, by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches. As consumers increasingly rely on voice artificial intelligence (voice AI) to answer questions and make life easier, it will be important for banks and credit unions to be part of this transformation.
Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana are becoming an increasing part of how consumers manage their lives, and the competition is becoming more intense as forward-thinking banking organizations start to introduce voice-first solutions.
For financial institutions, this new technology can improve efficiency, reduce costs, generate revenues and increase customer satisfaction. The advanced data capabilities of voice AI can enhance customer insights with each interaction. In addition, implementing voice AI to connect customer service and front-line personnel can provide an integrated solution, further enhancing the overall customer experience.
To better understand the future of voice AI technology and the benefit of building a branded solution, we reached out to Tara Kelly, CEO of SPLICE Software, (a CRM tech company servicing the finance, retail and insurance industries).
What are the First Step(s) to Building a Voice-First Capability?
Tara Kelly: First and foremost, security, security, security! Once you have that nailed down tight, it’s all about the customer experience and creating engagement. One of the most important things for any firm to look at is the quality and the timeliness of the data that will be used to support the voice dialogs. More than ever before, customers expect that their questions will be answered in real-time, and if the data isn’t available to support real-time, it will lead to a poor customer experience.
It only takes one bad experience for a customer to write off a technology. This is one place where financial services companies have a significant advantage over some other industries. Internet banking and phone apps pushed banks and credit unions into data warehousing and aggregation to enable real-time views of account data, when other industries were still viewing data as an operational initiative instead of a customer service initiative.
The next step is to model out the customer journey and identify key areas where a customer might want to get quick information — either without having to log-in to their online account, or to obtain information that isn’t generally available from an internet banking portal. So, for example, some key areas of focus would be account data and product information, since easy access to those saves customers time. Another key area would be any account opening or application status, because those are generally hard to get online or within an app.
Determining which questions to deliver via voice assistant may seem challenging, but it’s as simple as looking at what questions your call centers and operational staff are getting the most, and then making the information as easy for the customer as asking Alexa.
What is the Role of a Digital Voice Assistant as Opposed to a Chatbot?
Tara Kelly: I think the biggest differentiator of using a voice assistant is the level of intelligence and human connection that can be incorporated. Compared to chatbots, conversational AI solutions are personalized, automated messages that integrate data from multiple sources to deliver answers based on real-time information.
As a few examples, on the account side, you could build dialogs around clients asking Alexa “What’s my current checking account balance?” or “How much is available on my credit card?” On the product side, you could look at questions like “What’s the current rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage?” or “Can I use my Debit Card to make purchases overseas?” On the application side – where customer experience can make or break the deal (since the products haven’t been activated and don’t benefit from the “stickiness” of a lot of bank products) – you could explore dialogs for questions like “what’s the status of my mortgage application?” or “Has my appraisal been received, yet?”
These all rely on real-time data and could then be tied back to offer secondary functionality. For example, if someone asks for a mortgage rate, you could follow up by offering to have a mortgage specialist contact him or her to take an application, leading directly to a sales lead for the bank.
Read More: Will Voice Recognition Kill Online Banking?
Why Would an Organization Want a ‘Branded Voice’?
Tara Kelly: Well, the biggest risks are, of course, financial. The resources involved in developing a new technology offering are significant, and that’s without even considering the ongoing costs of maintenance and updates to keep the technology current. There’s also reputational risk, caused by launching an inferior, unbranded technology and having it disregarded in the marketplace, or the technology becoming outdated for users that adopt it.
There are also strategic risks in innovating around the device instead of the brand; this is going to quickly become very much like the website domain race for a branded website name. Building a strategy around a device, without incorporating your brand, can mean losing your company brand as the name of your app or skill. Your customers don’t call you by your full legal name when speaking. What do they say? That’s the name they will search for on these devices, and the name you need to register and own.
A great example of this in the real world is the number of companies that decided a few years ago that they HAD to have an App for the iPhone, but built it for the phone, not their customers. Then they saw low download rates and even worse engagement rates. Studies have shown that around 60% of mobile apps never get used, and over 75% of users stop using some apps altogether after 72 hours. When we look at the rapid adoption of voice-apps today, we see the same thing happening. Apps are not appropriately branded and user experience not always considered, resulting in lost money, lost customers, and lost opportunities.
It’s about delivering value and making the customer experience better, not just having a cool new “toy”
Voice-first technology should not be viewed as a channel, but as a way of way engagement. Dialogs should leverage API connectivity and combine data from different sources to elevate the customer experience. But once those connections are in place, dialogs should be leveraged across platforms. As technology continues to evolve, you should leverage dialogs to deliver the right message at the right time at the right point along the customer journey. It’s about connecting with clients and making their lives easier.
What are the Challenges and Opportunities of Branding a Voice-First Strategy?
Tara Kelly: The biggest challenge is racing to launch a voice-first solution without enough strategy and awareness marketing behind it, while the biggest opportunity is to make the voice app an extension of your brand. Voice apps shouldn’t be launched that can’t answer the key questions that customers are asking. And, if you’re trying to show customers that they’re more than just a number, why would you want to reinforce that idea by having a robotic, generic voice answer customer queries?
That’s why you need to leverage not only real-time data, but leverage AI to personalize the information. It’s about combining art & science to create stronger connections with your clients. Alexa may not be able to pronounce a first name properly, but it is possible to pre-record the most common first names, and say them correctly. And if a name isn’t available, then the dialog can use slightly different verbiage to ensure that your brand’s message is clear, consistent, and most of all, human.
Should an Organization Develop a Rules-Based Solution First, Then Move to a More Conversational Interaction?
Tara Kelly: Devoting resources to implement an already outdated technology would seem to be a poor investment. I think a better question to ask would be whether to build or buy. By building a best-in-class solution for voice interactions, you’re better able to keep up with the pace of technology.This may require an outsourced solution with a firm that specializes in voice technology.
So the short answer is, don’t settle for developing something that won’t even meet your customer’s current expectations. Either build for the next generation and budget to keep it up-to-pace with the speed of the market, or find a provider that can do it for you.
Should a Bank or Credit Union Develop a Device-Agnostic Voice Solution?
Tara Kelly: The same question surrounded the early days of building mobile solutions. Instead of building for the customer, organizations built solutions for an iPhone, Android, and other devices. You don’t want to build for today’s technology – you want to build something that can be leveraged today but scale for tomorrow. So unless you have a team of developers who have both the breadth of knowledge and the bandwidth to maintain all these different technologies while developing new ones, then your best bet is to find a solution that is flexible enough to work on the devices your customers are using now, but look deeper to understand their technology and how it can adapt for the future. Otherwise, you’ll constantly be chasing the next big thing, and your customers’ experiences will suffer as a result.