CPaaS and Conversational AI Transform Banking Post-Covid

Covid-19 has brought new challenges to banks and financial services and redefined customer expectations. Due to confinement regulations, concerned customers can no longer access their branches to manage their finances or ask for assistance.

Customers, therefore, turn to contact centers, but the abundance of calls and lack of access to bank employees, who are also confined, means that the limited staff at these centers are often overwhelmed. Long queues ensue, which in turn leads to poor customer experience and threatens brand loyalty.

Banks have explored new channels to help their clients, whilst customers have also turned to omnichannel self-service methods to manage their finances 24/7. This is where communications platforms step in to help conversational AI platforms – combine with APIs to automate customer service interactions and smoothen the journey for both customers and banks.

Covid-19: A new outlook for Banks

The sudden emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has been hard on the financial market. Banks must deal with new challenges that go beyond the decreasing value of financial assets. One of these challenges is tackling operational obstacles and addressing the lack of access to people, employees and facilities as a result of confinement regulations.

During the last global crisis, banks were subject to fierce criticism. Now, however, these institutions can play a central role in helping customers make better use of digital channels and build new experiences to help them manage debts, adjust budgets and make use of new government programs.

Social distancing has brought new methods of consuming, communicating and working. Because of this, banks are now facing a new landscape and a behavioral transformation from customers and the industry.

There are hurdles to overcome. Whilst mapping digital strategies used to take some time, the urgency of the current Covid-19 pandemic means that banks must scale their initiatives promptly to stay ahead of the curve.

Banks need to maintain contact with their customers

A key starting point that needs assessment is the role of contact centers. Banks must re-assess how and where contact centers are leveraged, how to deliver quality customer experiences and how to use different digital channels to support increasing demands for customer service.

Before the crisis, financial services relied heavily on large off-shore and on-shore contact centers to provide customer services and sales. When Covid-19 induced lockdown, workers have been unable to access facilities, IT teams have faced difficulties processing back-offices processes and many banks have suddenly been unable to utilize their locked-down centers overseas.

Onshore centers haven’t fared much better. Many enterprises were not equipped to address vastly increasing demands for new domestic call centers, while handling a sharp reduction in staff, and with no way to hire or train new recruitments.

With this scenario taking place, the ability to provide services to customers at a distance is still vital and a long-term necessity. Consumers are unlikely to flock to branches again, and banks with the strongest digital solutions will be in the best position to satisfy consumer requests.

Once the crisis is over, one-third of retail banking customers plan to increase their use of mobile and online banking services. However, just because consumers won’t be visiting their branches, it doesn’t mean that banks will not need to interact with their customers, and by no means does it signal the end of legacy contact centers.

Contact Centers: To call or not to call?

During times of crisis, contact centers are crucial. When it comes to finding solutions to urgent and complex issues, concerned clients initially prefer live interactions, with 58% of customers preferring to solve issues by calling for support rather than using different channels.

But many banks have been ill-prepared to manage the sudden increase in call volumes combined with the sudden shift in remote-work models. It is difficult to meet the inbound demand and customers are experiencing long wait times.

With the risk of disconnecting with their customers, banks must take the right steps to promote alternative digital solutions to facilitate processes, provide effective customer attention and deliver the right tools to encourage self-service capabilities to customers who seek them.

Interestingly, while many customers want live interactions to solve their crisis related queries, there has also been a 65% increase in visits to self-service resources like online help centers.

Whilst most queries are considered urgent, not all of them are particularly complex. Part of the digital solutions banks have considered consist of turning to automation and chatbots who can prioritize queries, triage for urgency and be always available, providing more time and accessibility for human agents who can handle complex issues.

New customer demands in times of uncertainty

The premise before Covid-19 was clear: customer experience in banking is primarily about making and keeping customers happy. This increases their loyalty, the use of services and increases revenue.

Customers still want all this, but with Covid-19 introducing increased concerns regarding clarity and transparency, they additionally seek support when using unfamiliar tools and services and a wider variety of channels. This, of course, is in addition to modern customer expectations of immediacy, personalization and quality customer satisfaction and experience.

To meet these demands and handle the surge in call volumes, banks must accelerate the enhancement of digital processes to address as many requests as possible without live intervention. This way they ensure that their capacity-constrained experts working remotely are not the ones picking up inquiries that don’t require an emotionally intelligent response.

Automating processes and maintaining engagement with conversational AI

Financial services understand the importance of automation and services that are provided 24/7 and that withstand the obstacles being given by Covid-19 or similar crises.

Automating processes and interactions saves time and resources and allows human agents to deal with questions that require a high level of expertise. But how can these processes be automated to maintain the customer happy and in communication with their bank?

Refining FAQs is only a first step. Contact centers must find ways to reduce customer wait times and manage customer frustration, knowing how to redistribute contact volumes over several channels, and how to manage their workforce remotely.

The best AI chatbot platforms allow customers to manage requests in a faster and more efficient way and act as a listening channel from which banks can better understand their customers and subsequently facilitate the delivery of personalized information, offers and services. The benefits are palpable: higher lifetime value of customers, the ability to contextualize products and services, and increased brand loyalty.

When choosing the best conversational AI platform to deploy these chatbots, banks are no longer looking for artifacts that serve single solutions. Rather, they need enterprise-strength, industrial-grade applications that are human-like, capable and robust. These platforms must also provide scalable, multiuse, omnichannel and multilingual facilities for which they will need control over.

Customers are turning to different channels like WhatsApp

As mentioned, a key feature in conversational AI platforms is omnichannel capabilities. With customers unable to physically access bank branches, and with phone lines being swamped and with long waiting queues, people are turning to alternative channels for support.

Many digitally native customers have opted to avoid wait times entirely and solve their queries via channels that provide 24/7 assistance and without human intervention. They visit the corporate website and use self-service resources like online help centers and FAQ pages.

Reports show that since late February, support tickets coming in over WhatsApp for numerous sectors have spiked more than 100%, with chat (34%) and text messaging (30%) seeing significant gains. For large companies, tickets through WhatsApp increased as much as 166% in May.

Source: https://www.zendesk.com/blog/zendesks-benchmark-snapshot-impact-covid-19-cx/

This shows that customers increasingly want to communicate on their preferred channels, whether it’s WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Teams or voice. But it can be complex to deploy and manage all these different channels.

CPaaS: Connecting CAI applications with their customers on any channel

By using CPaaS (Communications Platforms as a Service) technology, banks can easily integrate links to real-time communications functions directly into conversational AI applications and manage it from a single platform.

If application programming interfaces (APIs) allow applications to communicate with one another, brokering access to different applications or data, CpaaS operates as a back-end communications platform where you can embed voice, chat and video capabilities into your customer-facing applications.

This provides banks with the ability to communicate with customers via the platform of their choice, which takes customer experience one step further.

With CPaaS, instead of connecting a different API for each individual channel, platforms such as Vonage allow banks to connect directly to their customers on their preferred communication tool using a single API.

Additionally, Vonage produces communication layers that can integrate and automate workflows when communicating with the customer.

Best of breed technologies to deliver the best possible customer experience

With Covid-19 serving as an accelerator for digital transformation, banks must act promptly to combine best of breed technologies to future proof their strategies and investments.

By providing the best possible customer experience, banks make it easier for customers to use their services, manage their finances and increase brand loyalty and business value.

According to Temkin Group, a moderate increase in customer experience generates an average revenue increase of $823 million over three years for a company with over $1 billion in annual revenues.

For this, the customer needs to be understood. This includes having to speak the customer’s language and engaging on their terms, when and how they want and through the channel of their choice.

Teneo and Vonage: Conversational AI meets CPaaS

The combination of conversational AI platforms like Teneo, which automates interactions and uses a differentiated customer experience, with CPaaS like Vonage is a perfect match.

Conversational AI platforms can be integrated into self-service sites with legacy call center applications and escalate queries to agents when necessary while communicating with customers on their terms and in one seamless experience.

Customers want their interactions with their banks to be like a single conversation with the brand, although they may be speaking with different agents on different channels. They want continuous, coherent and consistent conversation.

Teneo allows channel-agnostic solutions that can be rolled across any channel, providing tailored responses that are best adapted to each platform. Importantly, the ability to provide personalized information from one channel to another also adds to the consistency and gives a personal touch that makes the user experience easier and more valuable.

This helps customers solve their issues quickly and seamlessly and balances intelligence self-service with human interaction. Also, the automation and features of conversational AI don’t necessarily end when an issue is escalated to an agent. AI can still guide human agents by providing customer details, sentiment analysis, and even use whisper assistance to help them.

Teneo already provides connectors that enable enterprises to deliver conversational AI applications to numerous channels and services. By developing a connector that can benefit from Vonage’s CPaaS capabilities, enterprises can easily integrate their conversational AI applications into their existing Vonage platform.

Built with scale in mind, Vonage works with Teneo’s connectors and makes it easier to manage multiple channels, integrating chatbot interactions into the omnichannel experience and providing a single data source for all conversations across all channels.

The customer will subsequently be interacting in the language of their choice and their preferred channel with a conversational chatbot that uses Teneo’s platform and connectors, and Vonage can ensure that all the channel flows are seamlessly integrated accordingly.

Better capabilities for an optimal banking experience

The deployment of conversational AI platforms with CPaaS means that customers will be able hold seamless, omnichannel and conversational interactions with their bank. Chatbots will help banks deliver personalized and contextually aware information round-the-clock, and help human agents when it is required.

Vonage’s platform can then be used to surface the results of these processes on the customer’s preferred channel. The combination of new technologies to make better connections between banks and their clients at a moment where there is most distance can benefit both parties.

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Author:
Andy, who lives with his family in the UK, is Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at Artificial Solutions. A regular speaker at industry conferences and events, Andy delivers insight on the rise of AI, the challenges businesses face and the future of intelligent conversational applications.

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