How NLI Solves that Pesky Issue of Apple Pay (and a few other problems besides)

Apple Pay

Banks are getting it in the neck from all quarters. Apple and Facebook are threatening prime turf, the move to mobile banking means less interaction with customers resulting in fewer opportunities to sell products and services, whilst laws around issues such as accessibility are creating headaches in solving the first two and complying with the latter. Natural Language Interaction (NLI) is a key component to a strong mobile strategy that will resolve all of these issues.

NLI is the technology that companies such as Shell (Ask Emma), MPS’s online bank Widiba and Vodafone’s Julia use to deliver their own digital interfaces that help customers and deliver actionable business intelligence back to the company. Typically they do this by allowing the customer to converse with a device or app using everyday language, just as if they were talking to a live adviser.

The conversation is analysed in real time and the correct action taken, whether that is to ask for more information, help filling in a form, moving money from one account to another and so forth. Aside from being faster and quicker than navigating through a website, it’s these features that also make it an ideal interface for users with accessibility difficulties.

But that’s not all; people reveal a surprising amount of detail when they talk naturally. By analysing the conversation, it’s possible to work out not just a specific request, but the sentiment of the customer and other life changing events such as moving home, going on holiday, starting a new job.

Exactly the sort of information that allows you to understand your customer better and know what services to offer them at any given moment, even though the two of you may well no longer talk face to face.

The problem for banks is that if Apple, Facebook et al get their own way, it is they who will increasingly own the customer relationship whilst banks will be relegated to becoming merely a conduit for the financial transaction. This is because these technology giants will be the ones having the conversation with your customers through their own natural language interfaces such as Siri. However, by implementing your own natural language banking app now, you can gain back control and remain the trusted advisor your customers want you to be.

Why take this step now? Because the devices we use to communicate are changing rapidly. Already more people go online using their mobile than their laptop. 4G uptake is exponential (Britons ‘love smartphones and selfies’) and report after report is citing speech as being a main user interface for mobile devices by 2020 (Tractica expects speech recognition to achieve 82 percent penetration in smartphones, tablets, and wearables in five years). You might just think that the smartwatch is fad only fit for fitness freaks, but it is now starting to gain ground in fashion markets too. And there is no doubt that as devices get smaller, natural language will increasingly become the only sensible way to communicate.

Once a consumer has to make a choice between talking to their wrist and taking action immediately whilst something is on their mind, or waiting till they get to a coffee shop to tap away on their mobile phone – or for those real luddites, their laptop – which way do you think your customer will choose when they want to communicate with your business?

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