Three Reasons to Prioritize Digital Customer Service

Consumers and businesses are increasingly choosing to complete financial tasks in digital channels, but banks have largely failed to evolve their customer service and support strategies.

Traditional phone service models that banks have relied on for decades are notoriously frustrating and inefficient not only for the consumer, but for the agent as well. Forcing customers to leave the digital channel to connect with a service agent via a time-consuming phone experience is detrimental to customer satisfaction and loyalty. Not to mention, this channel hop leads to higher costs and inefficiencies for the bank. It’s time for banks to take a digital-first approach to customer service.

Digital customer service has experienced significant acceleration in recent months. Banks that modernize their customer service strategies with digital-first communication and collaboration capabilities will be able to enhance the customers’ and employees’ experiences. There are three top reasons banks should adopt digital customer service: modernize communications, boost operational efficiencies and increase customer engagement.

Modernize Communications
The coronavirus pandemic has amplified the use of digital this year, more than anyone could have predicted. With fewer customers visiting branches, digital banking usage has skyrocketed. While this shift made banks realize that the digital experience should be their top priority, many are neglecting the glue that makes digital transformation work: digital customer service.

For many consumers, this is the first time they’re relying on digital for more-complex tasks like opening accounts and applying for loans. Customers must have the ability to be met with full support and guidance within digital channels by bankers that can see their issue in real time and help them find a resolution.

Boost Operational Efficiencies
Contact centers have traditionally fielded simple requests, such as determining account balances and transferring money between accounts, but now self-service and automation allows most customers to handle these more straightforward tasks themselves. As a result, bank agents are typically met with more complex requests and inquiries. This has created a need for contact centers to become more sophisticated, with more highly-trained and specialized employees.

Savvy banks are recruiting AI to help with this transition — not just for customer-facing inquiries but agent training as well. Bots can speed up customer service by surfacing relevant information during interactions, alleviating agents from manually retrieving data from back-end systems. They can also recommend the best next action and pre-approved verbiage for customer responses, reducing time and effort for agents and increasing compliance with bank policies. As agents accept or decline the suggestions, the bank’s system can capture more data to optimize and improve bot recommendations for more accurate, targeted assistance in the future.

Digitizing customer service and enlisting bots to assist agents gives banks a way to save time, increase operational efficiencies and boost staff morale and satisfaction. This is especially important now, as they navigate thin margins and the pressure to do more with less.

Increase Customer Engagement
Today’s phone-centric customer service models typically include long wait times and disjointed experiences. Once customers connect with an agent, they have to spend time reauthenticating and providing context around the issue at hand. Meeting customers where they are in the digital channel instead — whether that’s through chat, video or voice — ensures that the agent can see the issue in real time, eliminating any guesswork. Agents should never have to ask ‘How can I help you?’ again. This more-seamless option leads to a better customer experience and increased engagement and loyalty.

Customers expect their financial services providers to know and understand them, just as big tech companies and major retailers like Amazon.com and Netflix do. Through digital customer service, banks can better, more quickly access relevant customer information necessary to tailor responses and interactions, ultimately boosting customer loyalty. In fact, it’s common for banks that leverage digital customer service to experience 20% improvements in customer satisfaction, reflected in net promoter and customer satisfaction scores.

Banks are increasingly realize that a phone-first approach to customer service will no longer cut it, especially in the increasingly digital world.  In fact, the most-advanced institutions are removing phone numbers from their websites entirely, replacing them with flexible, digital-first communication options. Those that embrace digital customer service will be well positioned to keep and grow customer relationships, increase profit margins and secure a strong competitive position.

Pivoting to Offense to Endure the Covid-19 Economy

Banks must plan for the economic conditions looming on the other side of Covid-19.

Banks must simultaneously figure out how to weather the public health crisis and serve their clients in almost entirely remote environments while preserving their financial health for months of economic uncertainty. The depth and longevity of this crisis requires banks to strategically reassess the immediate negative impacts, project probabilities of further disruption and re-engineer their delivery models.

We believe that the banks that take bold and decisive action around these key issues will emerge from this period with more-durable relationships, greater agility and resilience, steeper market growth and better profitability compared to their peers. Banks should prioritize a set of five stabilizing actions that will set the stage for resilience in any potential downturn. 

Help Customers Confront the Crisis
Adversity contains implicit opportunity for customer outreach. Banks should contact customers to communicate that their bank is open and available for support. They should devise strategic outreach programs to solidify customer confidence and build long-term relationships.

Banks should then immediately focus on helping customers find ways to ease cash flow constraints and shortfalls in working capital and liquidity reserves. They should consider relief programs and creative, beneficial adjustments to loan structures such as permitting deferred payments, interest-only payments, re-amortizing payments or waiving select fees. Aligning their clients’ new needs with bank solutions and products will establish a foundation for post-crisis revenue growth.

Surgical Expense Reductions
Often, the immediate reaction during economic turmoil is to cut staff without strategic approach. While this can lower costs by the next financial period, this approach fails to strategically position the bank for post-downturn recovery and risks misaligned skill-sets or understaffing.

We recommend that banks understand which levers can be strategically pulled to quickly reduce costs. These levers range from identifying and evaluating paper-based processes, robotic process automation and aligning operations and personnel to the revised sales volume estimates. There are significant cost savings available even in credit risk management — simply by optimizing credit processes and better leveraging data.

Credit Risk Management Tailored to the Crisis
Banks had no visibility into the recession, and must assess not only the immediate impact on borrower financial and implied repayment performances but also the delayed impact on various segments of the economy. Ensure your risk management strategy reflects the new credit reality:

  • Consider proactively managing the portfolio renewal cycle by implementing mass short-term extensions on lines of credit, re-evaluating credit policy exception limits and increasing monitoring through frequently conversations with borrowers.
  • Leverage data to scale the identification of emerging portfolio risk and related triggers.
  • Consider creating a Covid-19 financial health assessment to facilitate financial relief and to identify potential credit downgrades.
  • Assess industry-based impacts on your portfolio to predict deteriorating credits in order to right-size loan loss reserves. 
  • Increase the frequency and detail of credit monitoring procedures for sectors that have been immediately impacted and those that will be impacted in the near term.

Align Resources with Client Need
Changes in spending will impact the creditworthiness of many loan applicants, so banks must take a hard look at realistic expectations for new business goals in 2020 and 2021. Realign banker-relationship manager priorities and shift from new business development with prospective customers to selling deeper into the existing portfolio, where possible. Client engagement will enable banks to manage risk while providing the client with much-needed attention, solutions and assistance. 

It will also be critical to scale up certain operational functions quickly to meet shifting client demand. Realigning  branch staff to handle call center volume and line resources to assist with spiking credit action volumes allow you to redeploy and scale your workforce to the new reality.

Create a Balanced Remote Workplace Strategy
Banks must leverage all available tools not just to maintain, but further, customer relationships and generate new business activity where possible. Empower customers to make deposits digitally by providing remote deposit capture hardware and services and consider waiving a portion of RDC equipment or service fees for a trial period.

Proactively run and distribute bank statement reports through digitally secure methods, rather than requiring customers to create and distribute these reports. Collaborate with bank customers to send check payable files to the bank for check printing and distribution.

We believe a bank’s actions in the next 90 days are vital to the survival, sustainability and long-term positioning for regrowth. Responding to customers with needed outreach sets the stage for new levels of customer loyalty. Shifting the bank’s focus inward toward operations with a keen focus on streamlining processes, proactively changing procedures and aligning the right people to the right tasks will ultimately lead to both a sustained and improved financial ecosystem.

Five Digital Banking Initiatives for Second Half of 2020

As the calendar nears the midpoint of 2020 and banks continue adjusting to a new normal, it’s more important than ever to keep pace with planned initiatives.

To get a better understanding of what financial institutions are focusing on, MX surveyed more than 400 financial institution clients for their top initiatives this year and beyond. We believe these priorities will gain even more importance across the industry.

1. Enabling Emerging Technologies, Continued Innovation
Nearly 20% of clients see digital and mobile as their top initiatives for the coming years. Digital and mobile initiatives can help banks limit the traffic into physical locations, as well as reduce volume to your call centers. Your employees can focus on more complex cases or on better alternatives for customers.

Data-led digital experiences allow you to promote attractive interest rates, keep customers informed about upcoming payments and empower them to budget and track expenses in simple and intuitive ways. 

2. Improving Analytics, Insights
Knowing how to leverage data to make smarter business decisions is a key focus for financial institutions; 22% of our clients say this is the top initiative for them this year. There are endless ways to leverage data to serve customers better and become a more strategic organization.

Data insights can indicate customers in industries that are at risk of job loss or layoffs or the concentration of customers who are already in financial crisis or will be if their income stops, using key income, spending and savings ratios. Foreseeing who might be at risk financially can help you be proactive in offering solutions to minimize the long-term impact for both your customers and your institution.

3. Increasing Customer Engagement
Improving and increasing customer engagement is a top priority for 14% of our clients. Financial institutions are well positioned to become advocates for their customers by helping them with the right tools and technologies.

Transaction analytics is one foundational tool for understanding customer behavior and patterns. The insights derived from transactions and customer data can show customers how they can reduce unnecessary spending through personal financial management and expert guidance.

But it’s crucial to offer a great user experience in all your customer-facing tools and technologies. Consumers have become savvier in the way they use and interact with digital channels and apps and expect that experience from your organization. Intuitive, simple, and functional applications could be the difference between your customers choosing your financial institution or switching to a different provider.

4. Leveraging Open Banking, API Partnerships
Open banking and application programming interfaces, or APIs, are fast becoming a new norm in financial services. The future of banking may very well depend on it. Our findings show that 15% of clients are considering these types of solutions as their main initiative this year. Third-party relationships can help financial institutions go to market faster with innovative technologies, can strengthen the customer experience and compete more effectively with big banks and challengers.

Financial institutions can leverage third parties for their agile approach and rapid innovation, allowing them to allocate resources more strategically, expand lines of business, and reduce errors in production. These new innovations will help your financial institution compete more effectively and gives customers better, smarter and more advanced tools to manage their financial lives.

But not all partnerships are created equally. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency recently released changes surrounding third-party relationships, security and use of customers’ data, requiring financial institutions to provide third-party traffic reports of companies that scrape data. Right now, the vast majority of institutions only have scrape-based connections as the means for customers to give access to their data — another reason why financial institutions should be selective and strategic with third-party providers.

5. Strategically Growing Customer Acquisition, Accounts
As banking continues to transform, so will the need to adapt including the way we grow. Nearly 30% of our clients see this as a primary goal for 2020 and beyond. Growth is a foundational part of success for every organization. And financial institutions generally have relied on the same model for growth: customer acquisitions, increasing accounts and deposits and loan origination. However, the methods to accomplish these growth strategies are changing, and they’re changing fast.

Right now, we’re being faced with one of the hardest times in recent history. The pandemic has fundamentally changed how we do business, halting our day-to-day lives. As we continue to navigate this new environment, financial institutions should lean on strategic partnerships to help fill gaps to facilitate greater focus on their customers.

Using Data Platforms to See Customers

Customers leave behind valuable breadcrumbs about their interests, needs and intentions across their financial lives.

What’s their current financial health? Are they shopping for a new credit card? Even: Are they considering switching to a competitor?

Unfortunately, this wealth of insights is more-than-likely locked away across a series of legacy, on-site systems, stuck in siloed data warehouses and generally difficult to access due to antiquated reporting systems. Understanding and acting on customer signals has become more important in recent months as customers seek financial partners that understand their unique needs. What does it take for a bank to unlock this treasure trove of data and insights? More often than not, a customer data platform (or CDP) can help banks take an important step in making this a reality and craft a 360-degree view of their customers.

I spoke with Brian Knollenberg, vice president of digital marketing and analytics at Tukwila, Washington-based BECU, about his recent experience of setting up a CDP for one of the country’s largest credit unions in the country. 

The Need for CDP
When Knollenberg joined the $22 billion credit union, he saw that creating a marketing performance dashboard using slow-batch processing across multiple systems took 12 manual hours to produce. As a result, the data stakeholders needed to make key decisions was a week out of date by the time they received it — much less take action on it.

This speed-to-value lag wasn’t limited to just marketing dashboards; it was just one example teams encountered when trying to access timely customer data across legacy systems. His team recognized that the organization needed current data, individualized for each customer, to make timely decisions. They also needed a way to easily syndicate this across critical customer and stakeholder touchpoints. 

Knollenberg also recognized his team’s expertise was better suited to modifying processes rather than building a robust enterprise-grade tool that could ingest and process terabytes of data in near-real time. He needed a solution to transform this data hindrance into an asset, and looked for a partner with direct experience in tackling these challenges to streamline implementation.

CDP Benefits
Implementing a CDP has extended the BECU team’s ability to tackle more difficult data challenges. This included building out performance dashboards that update every 24 hours, personalized customer communications and the ability to modeling member financial health.

This last use case empowers BECU to aggregate a score based on behaviors, transactions, and trends to identify which members could benefit from proactive outreach or help. He said financial health scoring has been extremely helpful during the coronavirus pandemic to identify potential recipients of proactive outreach and assistance. Having this information readily available enables marketing, customer service and even product teams to create bespoke experiences for their members and make informed business decisions — like offering a lower rate card to a member showing large carried balances with an outside card provider.

Lessons Learned
Before tackling any new data program, Knollenberg recommends companies first identify the overall effort versus impact. He finds that while companies often invest ample time and effort into developing comprehensive strategy and goals, they often miss when planning for the execution realities to properly implement them. Spend time scaling up your bank’s execution capabilities, determine how you’ll realistically measure potential impact and test-drive product solutions via a robust proof of concept.

The best financial brands know that putting their customers first will result in returns. Building out a customer data platform for your bank can unlock powerful new insights and opportunities to engage with your customers, if done right. As you start on this journey, make sure to identify what specific use cases are most impactful for your business, and find the right software partner that will work with you to execute it properly. Once unlocked, your bank will be able to service customers at a truly personalized level and drive a greater share of wallet.

This Bank Is Winning the Competition for Deposits


deposits-3-15-19.pngFrom the perspective of a community or regional bank, one of the most ominious trends in the industry right now is the organic deposit growth at the nation’s biggest banks.

This trend has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. Yet, the closer you look, the less ominous it seems—so long as you’re not a community or regional bank based in a big city, that is.

The experience of JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves as a case in point.

Deposits at Chase have grown an average of 9.4 percent per year since 2014. That’s more than twice the 4.6 percent average annual rate for the rest of the industry. Even other large national banks have only increased their deposits by a comparatively modest 5.3 percent over this period.

This performance ranks Chase first in the industry in terms of the absolute increase in deposits since 2014—they’re up by a total of $215 billion, which is equivalent to the seventh largest commercial bank in the country.

If any bank is winning the competition for deposits, in other words, it seems fair to say it’s Chase.

But why is it winning?

The answer may surprise you.

It certainly helps that Chase spends billions of dollars every year to be at the forefront of the digital banking revolution. Thanks to these investments, it has the single largest, and fastest growing, active mobile banking base among U.S. banks.

As of the end of 2018, Chase had 49 million active digital customers, 33 million of which actively use its mobile app. Eighty percent of transactions at the bank are now completed through self-service channels, yielding a 15-percent decline in the cost to serve each consumer household.

Yet, even though digitally engaged customers are more satisfied with their experience at Chase, spend more money on Chase-issued cards and use more Chase products, its digital banking channels aren’t the primary source of the bank’s deposit growth.

Believe it or not, Chase attributes 70 percent of the increase in deposits to customers who use its branches.

“Our physical network has been critical in achieving industry-leading deposit growth,” said Thasunda Duckett, CEO of consumer banking, at the bank’s investor day last month. “The progress we’ve made in digital has made it easier for our customers to self-serve. And we’ve seen this shift happen gradually across all age groups. But even as customers continue to use their mobile app more often, they still value our branches. Convenient branch locations are still the top factor for customers when choosing their bank.”

This bears repeating. Despite all the hoopla about digital banking—much of which is legitimate, of course—physical branches continue to be a primary draw of deposits.

Suffice it to say, this is why Chase announced in 2018 that it plans to open as many as 400 new branches in major cities across the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Three of Chase’s flagship expansion markets are Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. This matters because large metropolitan markets like these have performed much better in the ongoing economic expansion compared to their smaller, nonmetropolitan counterparts.

The divergence in economic fortunes is surprising. A full 99 percent of population growth in the country since 2007 has occurred in the 383 urban markets the federal government classifies as metropolitan areas. It stands to reason, in turn, that this is where deposit growth is occurring as well.

Chase isn’t the only big bank expanding in, and into, large metropolitan markets, either. Bank of America Corp. is doing so, too, recently establishing for the first time a physical retail presence in Denver. And U.S. Bancorp and PNC Financial Services Group are following suit, expanding into new retail markets like Dallas.

The point being, even though the trend in deposit growth has led analysts and commentators to ring the death knell for smaller community and regional banks without billion-dollar technology budgets, there’s reason to believe that the business model of many of these banks—focused on branches in smaller urban and rural areas—will allow them to continue prospering.

Strengthening Customer Engagement



Fintech companies are laser-focused on improving consumer engagement—but there is room for traditional banks to gain ground, according to Craig McLaughlin, president and CEO of Extractable. In this video, he shares three ways banks can strategically approach improving the customer experience at their own institutions.

  • The One Trait That Sets Fintechs Apart
  • Improving the Customer Experience
  • Understanding Digital Strategy

How Data Can Build Trust With Customers


data-12-17-18.pngIn mid-August, driven by a cyberattack against ATMs that withdrew close to $11.5 million, the FBI sent out a warning to financial services companies that their organizations could be targeted. In another bleak headline, an Australian bank lost data on 12 million of its consumers—containing financial records from 2004-14—without disclosing it to customers.

Misuse of customer data is beginning to sound like business as usual to consumers.

Bank directors and senior leaders face a constantly evolving list of risks that can erode trust in their organizations. As we explored in the [first part of this series], these kinds of risk incidents drive other negative impacts, including increased expenses and customer attrition that stall bottom-line growth.

To combat the trend of declining trust, it’s critical that dedicated teams are enabled to address risk and regulatory compliance. However, effective recovery demands the entire organization to restore trust through a holistic risk-mitigation strategy focused on protecting and using customer data in a trustworthy way.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer highlights technology as a key enabler of trust in financial institutions, with fraud protection, use of technology to resolve customer issues, and mobile apps all cited as top drivers. Successfully deploying each of these elements commands a concerted focus on protecting customer data. Little things like requiring a complex password can signal the bank has the best interests of the customer—and the protection of his or her personal information—at heart.

By focusing on building trust through digital experiences and data, bottom-line impacts also will follow. For example, in a Forrester study on customer advocacy, customers of online banks performing well in customer advocacy tend to be more loyal: 80 percent of these customers believed they would choose that bank for their next financial product.
Bank directors and senior leaders can strengthen their bank’s business model, mitigate risk, and build trust through digital elements by empowering cross-functional teams to adhere to the following considerations:

Examine customer expectations. Customers’ digital expectations are relatively brand-agnostic. But it’s not a standalone channel, and how interactions are integrated into a more complex digital experience should be considered when forming a strategy.

Many studies have shown consumers prefer a combination of human and digital touchpoints. To build an effective customer engagement strategy, banks must enable customers in whichever channel they prefer. Doing so builds confidence, and ultimately trust—whether that be transferring funds or setting up a new account.

Mitigate risk by balancing security and design. While security measures have become increasingly important and key to establishing trust, they can also create user experience challenges. With voice-enabled search expected to comprise 50 percent of all internet searches by 2020, consumers will demand comparable capabilities from their banks—all supported by simple, streamlined interfaces. By ensuring that risk management, technology and digital design teams are finding common ground, banks can deliver a more seamless experience and reduce security concerns—giving customers the peace of mind that their finances and identity are protected.

Be a good custodian and user of customer data. Start with building a data management program with governing policies and procedures that support customer trust. Most consumers are on high alert for unapproved uses of their personal information. Banks should only ask for customer data when leadership can articulate where and how it adds value in a transparent way.

To start, banks can look across sub-sector domains like wealth management. Vanguard, one of the top customer advocacy performers in Forrester’s study, uses customer data to offer personalized investment advice to customers via mobile app, while also clearly defining the ways it uses that data on its website. By responsibly and transparently using data, banks can establish customer trust through tailored experiences.

By pairing a holistic data and risk management strategy focused on digital, banks will not only reverse the trend of waning customer trust, but also strengthen a business model equipped to thrive in the heightened risk environment in which retail banks operate today.

This article is the third in a series on building trust in financial services. Read the first two on building customer trust through experience design and creating empowered, more rewarding employee interactions.

Building Trust With Customers Starts Inside The Bank


customer-11-27-18.pngRecovery of trust from customers after the financial crisis is beginning to stall due to a number of recent risk- and fraud-related incidents. Following news of a leading bank’s employees’ fraudulent account activity, customer advocacy scores in a recent Forrester survey dropped six points from 2016 to 2017—a trend Forrester correlates to decreased customer loyalty. As banks seek to restore the trust with customers and loyalty, they may be overlooking the role employees play in building trust and keeping risks at bay.

Employees play a key role in the customer experience (CX) as the group that directly interacts with customers about credit card disputes, investments, and financial advice. While a dissatisfied employee can be a weak link, one that is engaged, trusting, and trusted can set the stage for higher business performance.

The potential payoff in building an employee experience that increases trust is monumental. In fact, 20 years of research by the Great Place to Work Institute, which produces the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” found that trust between managers and their reports is the primary defining characteristic of the best workplaces. This trust drives bottom-line performance, with the advocacy group Trust Across America reporting the most trustworthy companies consistently outperform the S&P 500.

Banking leaders may be challenged in building employee trust in part due to the risk management practices that pervade the industry. Practices put in place to limit risk often hamper employees’ creativity, ingenuity and effectiveness. By finding a balance between risk management and a culture of trust internally—in which employees are empowered to act in the best interest of the organization and customer—firms can build trust externally with customers.

The benefits to the bottom-line are also substantial. For example, work teams performing in the top quartile for employee engagement outperform those in the bottom quartile by 10 percent in customer satisfaction and 22 percent in profitability.

To solve this challenge, bank leaders should encourage those with accountability for customer interactions to look inward at how interactions, processes, and tools create a culture of trust where employees are trusted and empowered to act on behalf of customers, collaborate, decrease fraud and—ultimately—mitigate risk throughout the organization. Ask yourself these questions:

Are employees limited in how they can serve customers? Though these limitations are often viewed as a way to mitigate risk, in reality, they increase the chance customers will lose trust in your bank. Ensure your staff are experts on the lifecycle of the products they work with, and use their expertise to meet customers’ needs. Also, consider revisiting your organization’s risk assessment to identify opportunities to service customers where it doesn’t weaken your organization on the regulatory front. This empowers your bank to strike a balance between customer and risk management needs.

What silos exist in your company? Consider how your products and services are organized and how they may prevent employees from having and creating positive customer interactions. Multiple groups may be working on customer-facing solutions simultaneously or solving customer challenges inefficiently due to a lack of internal visibility. Eliminating the functional mazes they must navigate to do their work supports meeting customer needs, which, in turn, builds trust.

Are you making it easier for employees to work for your bank? The employee experience must be designed and developed holistically to empower success, supported by training that equips them to navigate challenging or unforeseen situations. Take a comprehensive view of employee technology, tools and processes. For example, transactional training may not be enough to help staff understand their role and the bank’s culture – and how they come together to impact the customer experience. Put simply, banks should invest in their employees, focusing on long-term learning experiences.

Are you building in risk abatement throughout your organization? Risk management shouldn’t only happen at the last possible opportunity – at the point of customer interaction. Rather, it should be built into every step. Give staff the autonomy to solve problems to create a culture in which employees trust leadership and each other. They will be more likely to repay you by preventing risk incidents, as they feel empowered to do the right thing by the customer and the organization.

Your bank can produce more powerful customer experiences, and ultimately mitigate risk, by removing the unnecessary steps employees must take to successfully complete their work. Creating a culture of trust with employees who are empowered to meet customer needs can help banks, in turn, reestablish trust with their customers.

This article is the second in a series on building trust in financial services from North Highland consulting. Read the first article on building customer trust through experience design and the role that digital design plays in strengthening your business model.

Considering Conversational AI? Make Sure Your Solution Has These 3 Things


AI-10-9-18.pngThe pace at which consumers adopt new technologies has never been faster. Whether it’s buying coffee, booking travel, or getting a ride, or a date, consumers expect immediacy, personalization, and satisfaction. Banking is no different. According to a study by Oracle, when banks fall short of their consumers’ digital expectations, a third of consumers are open to trying a non-bank provider to get what they want – and what they want, increasingly, is a digital experience that’s smart, intuitive, and easy to use.

Conversational AI—a platform that powers a virtual assistant across your mobile app, website, and messaging platforms—is core to providing the experience consumers want. Whether you choose to build or buy a conversational AI solution, it needs three key things.

Pre-packaged Banking Knowledge
A platform with deep domain expertise in banking is what gives you a head start and accelerates time to market. A solution fluent in banking and concepts such as accounts, transactions, payments, transfers, offers, FAQs, and more, is one that saves you time training it about the basics of banking. Deep domain expertise is also necessary for a virtual assistant or “bot” to hold an intelligent conversation.

Your conversational AI solution should already be deeply familiar with concepts and actions common in banking, including:

  • Information about accounts – so customers can check balances and credit card details such as available credit, minimum payment and credit limit.
  • Information about transactions – so customers can request transactions by specific accounts or account types, amount, amount range (or above, or under), check number, date or date range, category, location or vendor.
  • Information about payments – so customers can move money and make payments using their bank accounts or a payment service such as Zelle or Venmo.

Human-like Conversations
Most conversational AI systems answer a question, but then leave it up to the customer as to what they should do next. Few conversational AI systems go beyond answering basic questions and helping customers accomplish one simple goal at a time, and that’s sure to disappoint some customers.

A conversational AI platform should be able to track goals and intents so bots and virtual assistants can do more for consumers. It should go beyond basic Natural Language Understanding and combine deep-domain expertise with the ability to reason and interpret context. This is what gives it the ability to help customers achieve multiple goals in a fluid conversation – creating a “human-like” conversation that not only understands what the customer is texting or saying but tracks what the customer is trying to do, even when the conversation jumps between multiple topics.

Platform Tools
Under the hood of every Conversational AI platform are the deep-learning tools. Effective analysis of data is at the core of every good conversational AI platform—understand how it collects and federates, builds, trains, customizes and integrates data. This will have a huge impact on the accuracy and performance of the virtual assistant or bot.

After you deploy the system, you want to be empowered to take full control of the future of your conversational AI platform and not be trapped in a professional services cycle. Make sure you have a full suite of tools that allow you to customize, maintain and grow the conversational experiences across your channels. You’ll need to measure engagement and continually train the virtual assistant to respond to ever-changing business goals, so you’ll want an easy way to manage content and add new features and services, channels, and markets.

Above all – is it Proven in Production?
There is a huge difference between a proof of concept or internal pilot with a few hundred employees to a full deployment with a virtual assistant or bot engaging with customers at scale in multiple channels. A conversational AI platform is not truly tested until it’s crossed this chasm, and from there can improve and grow with additional use cases, products and services and new markets.

During the evaluation, ask for customer engagement metrics, AI training stats, and business KPIs based on production deployments. Delve into timelines related to integration – are the APIs integrating with your backend systems fully tested in production? Understand how the system is trained to extend and do more. What did it take to roll out new features with a system already deployed?

If the platform has been deployed in production several times with several different financial institutions, you know it has been optimized and tested for performance, scalability, security and compliance. You can have confidence the solution was designed to work with your back-end and front-end ecosystem, channels and infrastructure. Only then has it been truly validated and proven to integrate and adhere to many leading banks’ rigorous and challenging regulatory, IT and architecture standards and technologies.

There’s just no way to underscore the value of production deployments as a way to separate the enterprise-ready from the merely POC-tested solutions.

Bold Leadership Required: Innovating From the Outside In


In this video, Thomas Jankovich, a principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, outlines four aspects of a successful approach to innovation, including bold leaders who can make the decisions required to transform the bank and shepherd the organization through the process. He also explains the key mistake that institutions too often make.