Robots have been demonized for a long time. And understandably. Hard to believe, but it’s been 50 years since HAL, the spaceship’s computerized brain, threatened to kill the Discovery One astronauts in the film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” It’s one of the earliest films that I can remember that warned us about how Artificial Intelligence could very well be “an experiment gone horribly wrong.”
In years since, robots have continued to be characterized as malevolent, destructive, and emotionless job-stealers. Manufacturing jobs would disappear as robots could work much more efficiently, safely, accurately, and less expensively than human beings. In the meantime, their view of the world -- one of course where robots ruled -- would supplant that of their creators. They would then revolt against the human race and take over the world.
My, how times have changed. The kind of thinking (aka Artificial Intelligence) that made HAL a monster is exactly the kind of thinking that today’s community banks are utilizing to supplement their service to customers.
Until now, customer service was largely built on human interaction. Whether a mega financial institution or a community bank, the standard for quality customer service is extraordinarily high. Customer service representatives must be patient, efficient, knowledgeable, and quick to address customer questions, concerns, and complaints. Maintaining this high standard is labor intensive, and certainly not cheap. And during these pandemic days, finding and keeping individuals who can deliver this type of service has become almost impossible. So, say hello to CHATBOT!
Okay, what exactly is a chatbot? The latest tactic in “conversational marketing,” a chatbot is a “software robot” that chats with customers on your various customer experience touch points such as websites, messaging apps, and devices. A chatbot mimics conversation through text (e.g., 1800flowers.com) or voice (e.g., Alexa). If you’ve just spoken to your Google Assistant, well, you’ve just chatted with a chatbot. So, are people really using chatbots?
Absolutely, and there’s plenty of consumer research to prove it. Recent research from Survey Monkey and Drift show that “only 38% of consumers actually want to talk with a human when engaging a brand. This isn’t to say they always prefer chatbots, but it highlights just how many ways there are to get answers today that don’t involve live human conversation — text messaging and self-service portals, just to name a few.”
Chatbots can learn and evolve, as well. IBM’s Watson, for instance, “uses machine learning algorithms and asks follow-up questions to better understand customers and pass them off to a human agent when needed.” Pretty clever, isn’t it?
According to an August 13, 2021 article by tech consulting firm, CapTech, “back in 2019 40% of consumers in the U.S. were using chatbots to shop with retailers. In addition, 77% of customers said chatbots will transform their expectations of companies over a five-year span.” The article goes onto say that “aside from meeting consumers’ needs… there are other advantages to chatbots… Businesses spend over $1.3 trillion per year to address customer requests, and chatbots could help reduce that cost by 30%. In fact, virtual customer assistants help organizations reduce call, chat, and email inquiries by 70%, while 90% of businesses report recording large improvements in the speed of complaint resolution.”
According to a Juniper Research study, healthcare and banking industries in particular, which manage large volumes of human interaction, are set to benefit most from the AI-driven chatbot technology. “We believe that health care and banking providers using bots can expect average time savings of just over 4 minutes per enquiry, equating to average cost savings in the range of $0.50-$0.70 per interaction.”
In closing, a chatbot might seem like a small contribution to your ability to service customers, but there are certainly big benefits to be realized for the banks that use them. Just be careful if it starts asking for a salary increase and better benefits…
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