In the banking industry, conversational assistant ( also called digital agent, chatbot, digital assistant or virtual assistant ) projects is the new black. Everybody is talking about, implementing one or wants to implement a Google like assistant. From robo-advisors to digital concierges, soon enough banking customers looking for product information or services will be soon engaged in conversations with digital agents intensively.

HSBC, one of the biggest global banks defined already the professional title for the responsible of this channel: a conversational interface designer. He is responsible for designing the functional scope and depth of the conversation the digital agents will be having with potential or existing customers.

Digital enthusiasts should be mindful that engaging a customer on a natural language interaction is extremely challenging and daring. The old bureaucratic and yet trusted forms, were purposely invented and perfected across centuries in order to minimize the “emotional element” and focus on the “case” as materialized in folders of documents rather than in a “person or individual life story”. The loan officer who decided about a mortgage does not need to understand about family hopes and sorrows, the loan form was there to keep the “objective and required” distance between the users and the officers.

To invite a customer to express freely his/her needs on a chatbot is breaking away this distance. The risks of this kind of communication are painfully well known to anybody who has tried to engage a stranger in a train or plane.

Chatting with a digital assistant about a loan with a customer will not necessarily need to start with identification of the enquirer. What would be the added value of a chatbot if its answer is a link about the conditions of the loan? Should not the digital agent try to gather information on the potential customer? Purpose of the loan, duration, age of the potential client.

Requesting the necessary information should not be as blunt and mechanical as filling a form. Because again what is the purpose of a smart assistant? The chatbot has to show in its conversational design a mixture of creative, linguistic, and human skills.

The information gathered during the conversation with the Customer should be carefully analyzed and reused in order to automatically fill any regulatory and formal document required to fulfill the process. After a digital chat it would be a huge faux-pas to just ask the customer to fill the old forms and key in all the information used during the conversation.

Digital senior management should seriously interview the next digital agent before offering such important client facing roles to them. You want them to show you the money!

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