Next innovation in financial intermediation
Financial intermediation is innovating rapidly to keep pace with the way today’s consumers demand to be served. We have moved from paper-and-phone to online and then to data on apps and now transactions on apps. But the world is already one step ahead – AI enabled voice recognizing chatbots that consumers can talk to, give instructions to and get information from. Siri, Cortana, Alexa – the list is endless and global consumer response is strong. As chatbots from majors like Google, Apple and Amazon scramble to collect newsfeeds from multiple sources to provide on their chatbots, it opens up an interesting possibility for Indian financial intermediaries to explore and exploit…..
"An estimated two-thirds of consumers in developed markets will use virtual personal assistant services”. Gartner
Does this statement sound too futuristic? Does it sound like something you have seen in sci-fi movies?
Well, Artificial Intelligence is no longer a buzzword. AI is already in the minds of the customers. In today’s digital-centric market, the customers are aware and have familiarized themselves with AI-based self-service channels.
The rise of bots in the service industry has enabled enterprises to reimagine the way they deliver customer experience. With advancements in technology, we have come to expect more from these bots. They are touted as the next big thing in customer interface.
Why should this pique your interest, as a financial advisor?
Services like offering loans, handling requests for details on balance, requests for statements, and setting up of credit cards – especially by the millennials, expect financial transactions to be as fast as their shopping transactions online. Offering financial advisory services on par with this would make them more loyal to your institution. It is not the millennials alone, the baby boomers too nowadays, have come to rely on apps and voice automated services to handle their enquiries. This proves the need to harness virtual chat and voice assistants into the industry.
With human-like ability to cater to the needs of customers and with the power of automation, chatbots can sometimes provide better services, by simulating a live agent. They can initiate conversations, deliver information and take actions. Going forward, with machine learning and well-developed platforms, they would be able to detect emotions, personalize interactions and perform transactions. This will help deepen the customer’s connection with your establishment, with little or no human interaction using a cost-effective process.
Siri, Cortana, Alexa – the list is growing rapidly
With the advent of smartphones and with technological advances happening, most of us would be familiar with, as well as would have used chatbots.
Take, for instance, Siri, the intelligent personal assistant, a chatbot developed by Apple. It answers queries, makes recommendations and performs actions by means of delegations to internet services. With constant usage, Siri adapts to the user's language, preferences and searches. With machine learning happening, the results are phenomenal.
Cortana, the virtual assistant from Microsoft recognizes voice, sets reminders and answers questions, picking up answers from the Bing search engine. This virtual assistant too adapts to the user’s language and preferences.
Google Assistant, a virtual assistant created by Google is available on mobiles and smart home devices. Unlike Google Now, which we use on mobiles, this assistant is capable of two-way conversations. The Google Home speakers enable the users to speak voice commands to interact with services through Google Assistant. Both in-house and third party services have been integrated into this assistant, enabling it to recognize up to six voices and accomplish a host of tasks including receiving chosen updates, controlling smart devices, playing music and audiobooks, managing schedule appointments and play your favorite shows.
Another very interesting bot is Alexa, developed by Amazon. Available across the world, Alexa is capable of fulfilling a number of tasks. It can recognize voice, manage alarms, stream music, give you traffic updates, play audiobooks, order take-out food, give you audio updates from your favorite sports teams, and so on. It is also capable of controlling smart devices if you have a fully wired home. With Alexa at home, you can turn on the air-conditioning, switch on the fan and control its speed, play your favorite music, switch on the TV to the channel of your choice, and most interestingly, get live cricket scores.
For those of us who haven’t yet fully grasped what Alexa can do in our own homes, here is a rather lengthly (13 mins) though detailed demo posted by an Indian fan of Alexa – which is now available across the country (Click Here).
Chatbots in Customer Services
Chatbots are fully capable of handling conversations with human beings. Sometimes they outperform humans with reference to the procurement of information and speed of answering.
In customer service, chatbots can basically be used to augment what human agents have to offer their clients. These bots can offer suggestions to their human colleagues on the response to be provided to customers or can bring forth relevant information for the human to act upon. When customers call up a call center, instead of going through the unfriendly and impersonal Interactive Voice Response System, chatbots can provide a more personalized and customer friendly interaction. If the bot is unable to carry on the conversation further, the call is passed to an agent seamlessly. The chatbot and humans are capable of working in a collaborative fashion.
You can always have an executive to handle service related calls. The challenges are; is the person available round the clock? What if the person resigns from the job after getting trained? What if you are unable to find a replacement quick enough? If you automate the customer care part of your work, you will have no worries. The bot is always there and available 24/7. Only those questions that require human answers are passed on to you. The rest is answered by the bot itself, building efficiency for your company and saving your time.
How can Chatbots be used in Financial Services?
We know that chatbots are a trend now, in every industry. The financial industry is not far behind when it comes to the use of chatbots. With the investors' preference to a phigital experience, now would be a good time to integrate financial services with these chatbots.
As financial advisors, you know that almost 60-70% of your time is spent answering telephone calls on frequently asked questions like values of individual portfolios, transaction executed, requests for duplicate statements and so on. The financial advisor is a one-man army, attending numerous calls. Very few calls are the really important help needing ones, where customers could call up questions like the state of the markets or on what he should do, with reference to his portfolio and so on.
Food for thought on the next innovation in financial intermediation
Maybe like Alexa, collecting the flow of news from across domains, like it updating you with the cricket score; you can ask the bot, the status of the market, and the bot would give you the current status. This could be a generalized news and going forward, there can be personalized news flow services too. It could possibly give you status and values of your individual portfolios and execution of transactions, along with the market status. With machine learning happening, these bots over a time, may become smarter and pick up data from your usage and give you suggestions on the funds to invest in.
Maybe you can collaborate with Google or Apple to become a provider of market updates. You can get the bots to say "ABC Wealth Management reports that Sensex closed today at....". This generic information, which is promotional in nature for the distributor or advisor becomes informational for the consumer. This kind of a service would concrete his relationship with you and would serve as a means to build up your brand value.
You can customize the bots and with adequate data protection built in, the investor can confidently ask for his portfolio valuation and transaction details. This could be provided by the financial advisor through tie-ups with Google or Apple. This might be a futuristic idea, but worth putting on the table as food for thought.
With the embracing of new technologies, that elevate customer interaction and experience, customers can easily undertake various actions on their account independently, with no wait time and complete autonomy. All this can happen with minimal investments.
With bots being part of our lives and them being used in our homes and workplaces, it’s important to integrate them into business to provide more value to investors. It is imperative to empower bots to help customers now, if not it could prove to be a costly mistake in an automated future. With an entire generation that grew up texting, coming of age financially, this new digital disruption, the bots, look like they are here to stay.
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