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Enabled by AI, Self-Service Is the Future of Banking

Guest post by Sudharshan Krishnan*, VP New Markets and Solutions, Personetics

Self-service banking is adapting to the digital age – though many customers believe that change isn’t coming fast enough. Here we look at the challenges banks face and how AI can be used to transform self-service banking.

Digital problem resolution is key to satisfaction and loyalty

A survey by Ath power consulting found that four in every five consumers prefer to conduct their banking via digital channels. Yet the firm also found that satisfaction with digital banking dropped significantly in the past year as customers began to expect more from their digital interactions. The latest J.D. Power report shows that unsuccessful problem resolution is highly correlated with this low level of satisfaction and high level of customer attrition. And while the branch has traditionally served as the go-to channel for handling problems, younger customers now prefer to resolve problems online or via social media.

Banks that take a more comprehensive digital approach are well positioned to increase satisfaction and fight off future customer attrition, but the payoff can be even more immediate in terms of reduced costs. According to Bain & Company, the top 25 US banks could save as much as $11.4 billion annually in aggregate by increasing digital interactions to the levels of some of their European counterparts.

Pillars of AI in Self-Service Banking: Conversational. Personal. Predictive.

By allowing customers to interact with the bank through natural language conversations, chatbots provide an intuitive channel for customer inquiries, facilitating user friendly interactions and delivering a better customer experience than the age-old FAQs and the dreaded IVR. While bank chatbots are still few and limited in functionality, over three quarters of all banks have active chatbot projects in place.

While the promise is great, a chatbot, just like a human banker, is only as good as the knowledge it possesses. To be helpful, a banking chatbot must understand the context of the bank’s services. Furthermore, it must understand the particular needs and situation of the customer, and incorporate this understanding into the conversation.

To truly delight customers, how about pre-empting them before a request is made? Better yet, how about alerting the customer in advance to avert potential problems altogether? A robust AI solution is predictive – monitoring a customer’s transactions and forecasting future cashflows to anticipate issues ahead of time – then prompting the customer with information, insight, and tips that can help eliminate fees and avert troublesome situations such as over drafting the account.

AI as an Augmentative Strategy

Implementations of AI-powered self-service at some of the world’s largest banks have shown that as many as 88% of incoming inquiries were resolved without requiring the help of a person.

However, as much as chatbots and AI can revolutionize self-service, they should not be viewed as a complete replacement for human bankers. A smart chatbot would know when the time is right to move the conversation to a human-led channel such as the call center or the branch.

There’s No Time to Waste

With practically every major bank getting ready to launch a chatbot solution, the bar for self-service banking is about to be raised once again. Financial institutions that fall behind in delivering new service capabilities will risk customer loyalty and face a cost disadvantage.

With that in mind, banks cannot afford to sit on the sideline or embark on multiyear transformative projects – the time to act is now.


*Sudharshan Krishnan is responsible for growing new markets and working with leading financial institutions to deliver Cognitive Financial Services Applications that are trusted by millions of customers – providing personalized guidance, conversational self-service, and automated money management programs.