Guest Blogger

By Dr. Lingjia Tang, Co-Founder and Co-CEO Clinc

Some financial service businesses in the United States are deemed essential and must stay open to ensure continuity of functions that are critical to the public, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. While the financial services industry is experiencing pain points for a plethora of reasons due to the coronavirus, one particular challenge stands out for banks—the pressure put on their call centers and customer service teams. Due to stay at home orders and social distancing, consumers are not going to their local branch to get the support they need and are therefore using virtual means to contact their bank for questions, like if banking hours have changed, if they can defer payments, or even simpler asks like how to deposit a check virtually. Further, banks’ call centers and customer services teams are working at home, too, without the traditional support the office setting provides.

To remedy these business disruptions, automation technologies like conversational AI can help support customer communication and virtual banking services. Conversational AI can be deployed as the first point of contact when a bank customer calls into a service center and, depending on the depth of the inquiry, it can assist either through the end or up until the situation needs to be elevated to a human employee. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of solutions on the market today and very few are truly sophisticated and intuitive in nature. Automated chat solutions work best when the AI is capable of keeping up with the natural flow of conversation and understanding slang and messy language. Done correctly, such a digital transformation can alleviate a myriad of stresses caused by the coronavirus along with other disruptions, from reduced employee availability to mandated out-of-office operations.

Banks that have incorporated AI technology into their virtual communication processes are armed with a myriad of tools that can help solve the various business problems caused by disruptions like the COVID-19 health crisis. As those in the financial services industry conform to the ”new normal,” it is important that business leaders and decision makers become aware of the many ways AI technology can help banks build a bridge between providing customers with fast, two-way communications to maintain quality service, while not overwhelming call centers or putting the health of bank employees in jeopardy.

Current Disruptions to Customer Service Operations

As many U.S. citizens stay at home during the outbreak, banks are seeing a major uptick in customers checking in on their financials via apps, web portals and calling in to ask things like how to deposit a check or how to make sure they weren’t billed for cable since they just cut the cord, for example. Conversational AI can help initiate this process and answer questions to alleviate call center personnel’s time that can instead be dedicated to more advanced inquiries that demand person-to-person communications. With this added resource, call center staff can better and more efficiently perform their jobs.

Available 24/7, 365 days per year, conversational AI can deliver quick solutions to customers whenever they need help, directing them to the appropriate resources for approaching their given scenario until a customer service representative is available again. Conversational AI is also sophisticated and intuitive in nature, making it capable of keeping up with the natural flow of conversation and understanding of slang. This alleviates common call center frustrations that can result from robotic, unaccommodating virtual communications.

 Considering Tech for Business Continuity

The coronavirus is undoubtedly an extremely unique disruption to not only business but the world. This disruption is forcing businesses – especially those in the banking industry – to rethink their continuity plans and assess the technology in their toolbox that will help customer service teams and communication plans going forward. These are likely wrapped up in a business continuity plan which outlines the procedures taken to prevent damage, maintain productivity and recover in the event of a national emergency or disaster. While a health pandemic is not something a business could predict or necessarily plan for, there are major benefits to equipping a business with automated technologies – like conversational AI – to ensure bank staff and employees alike are prepared for any other massive disruptions.

When deployed strategically, conversational AI has the power to relieve pressure from an otherwise highly stressful situation and help banks to continue delivering financial solutions and guidance to their customers. Banking leaders and decision makers would be wise to reevaluate their current continuity plans and integrate AI tools to keep customers connected – even from a distance – without any sacrifices to the quality of service.

Dr. Lingjia Tang, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Clinc, is a professor of Computer Science at The University of Michigan. Dr. Tang’s research in building large-scale production infrastructure for intelligent applications is widely recognized and respected in the academic community. In addition to working at both Microsoft and Google, Lingjia received her PhD in Computer Science from the University of Virginia. Lingjia has 18 major publications and is an indisputable thought leader in her field. Lingjia has recently received prestigious awards including ISCA Hall of Fame, Facebook Research Awards and Google research Award.

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