Forget mobile apps—banks need to start talking to customers

As part of our guest blog series, Accenture Nordic Banking Practice Lead Satu Pulkkinen explores how banks can take the next step in evolving customer relations. 

First came online and mobile banks, with Nordic banks leading the way. The next wave of digital banking? The conversational bank that operates within messaging applications. Technology that can see and hear us, continuously growing ecosystems around increasingly popular messaging applications, as well as the amazing progress of artificial intelligence (AI), are enabling personalized, fully digital banking assistants that you can talk to anytime, anyplace.

Technology is an integral part of our daily lives. Increasingly, devices that used to simply respond to our commands and actions can now also hear and see us. We use mobile applications for almost everything, especially instant messaging. Since the beginning of 2015, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and WeChat have become the world’s most used social media applications.

Over 60 percent of customers prefer messaging applications over email or phone calls. And we are moving on from using several different mobile applications to services that are integrated within ecosystems of those applications.

Towards digital assistants with human understanding

The development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, like machine learning and deep learning, has progressed at such a pace that the chatbots many Nordic banks use today are already starting to look outdated. As AI technologies continue to mature, bots will become even more human-like.

The increased volume of data and number of analytic tools create the possibility of offering individualized digital services on a mass scale. This has already led us as customers to expect each digital interaction to be as good as our best last experience—regardless of the brand or industry in question.

The result is a bank that can talk

Conversational banking exploits these technology trends in an intelligent way. Banking bots within messaging applications and virtual assistants (like Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant) connect cost savings brought by the previous generation’s online and mobile banks, with the personal touch previously provided by bank clerks.

Read the report
Read the report

What is behind all this progress? Talking is natural for people. Complex language and communication separate humans from other animal species. Stories form the cornerstones of civilizations. Talking is, therefore, genetically encoded in all of us.

In much the same way, messaging applications are natural to current mobile devices. These applications are easy and funand effortless to use, even on the move. We can type or speak and we can hold one- or two-way, personal or group conversations.

Therefore, brands have rushed to embrace messaging applications. For example, Facebook Messenger has over 33,000 bots offering customer assistance and counseling as well as providing interactive experiences. And we seem to like them: over 60 percent of consumers use messaging applications to communicate with brands.

Paying the bills or looking for investment tips—all accessible from your couch just by using your voice

For example, in the future, a bank bot could interact like this: “Hi Satu! I noticed that there’s €100 left over in your bank account. Should we put it in a fund that matches your expected return by only investing in environmentally friendly companies?´´

Capital One in the US is one of the first financial institutions to move into conversational banking. It offers its customers an opportunity to check their account balances or pay bills just by talking with Amazon’s Alexa—and without once touching a device. The customer just has to link his or her bank account to an Echo device. Once that’s set up, the bank literally obeys the customer’s voice.

Now it’s time for Nordic banks to move on from online and mobile banking and start talking to customers. Who will be the first?

Satu Pulkkinen, Nordic Banking Practice lead at Accenture

 

 

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