Artificial intelligence

Chatbots Can Save the Day, Improving Digital Capability in the Face of a Recession.

next generation virtual agents

While consumers believe an upcoming recession is all but confirmed, experts are debating on what’s truly next for the U.S. economy, and all the while financial anxiety continues to mount across the US. No matter what comes next, banks, credit unions, and all other financial institutions must consider what the state of their customer service flow is and how a recession will impact it. There is no doubt that financial trouble on a national or global scale will focus consumer attention to their fiscal assets, and when consumers are more engaged with their money, they’re more engaged with their banks. We saw during the pandemic that even some of the biggest financial institutions such as Chase bank struggled with overwhelming call volume that they received, sharing warnings such as “Extremely long wait times if you call us.” While their first generation predecessors may have received heaps of negative feedback, today’s next generation virtual agents, which are powered by sophisticated Natural Language Processing and driven by AI, are a truly viable solution to the support challenges with volume.

Covid-19 Exposed CX Problems Across the Industry

While all customer-serving enterprises understand that customers are  the lifeblood of their business, sometimes customer experience is not given its due upgrades until backlash causes change. In almost every situation, improvements in the customer engagement experience need to be upgraded with additional capacity, capability, and features before they are needed. Not only will this impress customers with continual improvements to experience, but also it will prevent major cases of customer backlash due to outdated policies or procedures. This is no secret in the industry, with experts debating and finding  smart ways for banks to improve CX. Looking down this list, the majority of the callouts are on the engagement methods with the bank and their support teams, not with the actual financial products that any customer may have invested with the bank.

Recessions Make Everyday Life Challenging, Don’t Make Banking Even Harder

As consumer sentiment continues to decline this summer, banks should not be surprised if their customer base is less satisfied overall when looking at their personal financial portfolios. To everyday customers, economic downturn can make every interaction with a bank from withdrawing money for bills to checking bank statements and investments more frustrating. Add a poor experience trying to get access or support if they have a question or concern on top of that, and customers are primed to let out frustration about the economy as a whole in the form of blame on their bank.

How Can Chatbots Help?

First generation chatbots might have been a contributing factor to negative customer sentiment towards digital engagement with banks with a shallow knowledgebase of content and inability to personalize the engagement experience. Today’s virtual agents have grown significantly thanks to advancements in Natural Language Processing and the ability to embed them into existing financial infrastructure. Chatbots now answer a wider span of questions with ease and can complete more complex functions that customers may be surprised to see, such as account transactions typically handled by manual requests by the customer. A great example of functionality being paired with expeditious deployment in response to a crisis is’s deployment of a chatbot to a major Norwegian bank in response to the onset of Covid-19. In under 3 weeks they were able to bring a virtual agent up to speed from concept to live launch, with a targeted aim at handling potential mortgage referral requests from over 300K customers. While this is just one validation point of how quickly chatbots can be deployed, banks shouldn’t wait for an economic crisis to consider implementing a conversational AI tool that can increase customer satisfaction with their engagements now.

Act now, Don’t Scramble to React

A recession on a national or global scale is not something that any singular financial institution can prevent or even control the full outcomes of. While banks and credit unions do want to actively avoid financial downturn for both themselves and their customers, there are actionable steps they can take if a recession cannot be avoided. While it seems obvious that customer service should always be top of mind for these member-serving companies, Covid-19 showed us that even the industry leaders can sometimes be taken by surprise and left unprepared. Virtual agents that can provide a dynamic and scalable response to a short-term crisis or long-term need for better customer service should be considered now, before either becomes a critical problem.

Author: Bill Schwaab, VP of North America for

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