Personal Banking: Meet Alexa, Siri and Cortana
by Michael Boukadakis, the founder and CEO of Enacomm.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer science fiction. It’s an emerging business technology that is beginning to transform industries, including banking. Oxford Dictionaries defines AI as the “theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.” Once a futuristic concept, one-tenth of companies in the financial services, manufacturing, retailing, and health and life sciences industries have already begun to utilize AI, according to a report from The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). And one in three companies is in the exploratory phase of this ultramodern technology, with an additional third having moved on to experimentation with different applications of AI.
While AI-powered algorithms can enable more exact decision-making to incrementally increase revenue, operating efficiency, and margins, AI technology can fully transform user experience now. In fact, EIU asserts that “AI’s impact is expected to be felt most strongly in the area of customer interaction.” Improving the customer experience is imperative for banks, credit unions and credit card companies to stay competitive in a crowded space where consumers vote with their wallets.
When AI is strategically applied, financial institutions can streamline customer service interactions, delivering responses more quickly and accurately. In addition to boosting productivity and efficiency, organizations are able tap into data gathered from customers during AI-enabled interactions to autonomously upsell products and services that patrons actually want, based on their individual needs. Forward-thinking banks and credit unions are aiming to upgrade the automated services that they deliver to customers by capitalizing on the promise of AI. Integration of AI Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs), such as Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Home, into self-servicing is a ripe opportunity for banks to differentiate from competitors by stepping up the level of customer service they provide.
VPAs provide hands-free voice control for multiple devices and services – from ordering a pizza to sending for a ride – using “skills” created by users or developers. These voice assistants are particularly useful for retrieving information without having to hold a phone, tablet or computer. According to a recent survey from Creative Strategies, people primarily utilize smartphone-based voice assistants like Siri at home (39%) or while in the car (51%). Wherever they are, banking customers and credit union members can now use any popular VPA with the sound of their voice to securely access their financial information in real-time and conduct almost any financial transaction, from making payments to checking credit card balances, reviewing transactions, and receiving information about their checking and savings accounts. Rather than searching through multiple screens, users can simply ask a question, whether related to account information or a bank’s products and services. And forget security concerns – integration of voice biometric authentication makes using a voice assistant for banking needs safer. All transactions are encrypted and no one – not even the cloud providers of the VPAs – can access them.
Giving millions of VPA fans – 74 percent of smartphone owners currently use VPAs frequently, according to Gartner – the ability to access their banks and credit unions to conveniently and securely conduct a range of financial transactions is a major benefit that both small and large financial institutions can offer. Catering to the demands of high-value, often on-the-go customers without increasing risk, VPA banking provides a competitive edge in consumer experience. It also saves financial institutions time and money by making it easy for customers to solve simple problems, such as activating a new card, without relying on customer service representatives, in person or by phone.
Competitive pressure is compelling organizations to defy long-held views that AI is still over the horizon, a notion often propagated on the big screen. Nearly half (44%) of those surveyed for the EIU report recognize the relevance of AI today, saying the delay of AI implementation would make their businesses vulnerable to new tech entrants. This realization is encouraging many to advance their own AI plans: three out of four (75%) survey respondents said AI will be “actively implemented” in their companies within the next three years.
It’s time for financial institutions to look at AI with a fresh pair of eyes. Allowing users to authenticate with their voice, without having to say both their PIN and account numbers out loud, is the breakthrough that was needed to make voice assistants safe for personal banking. Changing minds may be the hardest part of making AI an everyday reality; the technology is ready and waiting.