Consumers warm to banking bots

Consumers are increasingly open to the concept of automated customer service including the use of bots, according to a global survey. 

With a growing focus on the customer user experience, an increasing number of large brands have implemented bots into their customer service businesses. The survey by global cloud provider Liveperson found people are increasingly more accepting of these technologies. 

The survey of over 5,000 people in six countries including Australia revealed that customers are happy to interact with bots for their banking needs. 

In Australia, 75 per cent of consumers preferred to interact with customer service bots for simple tasks while 50 per cent of people believed bots are used by companies to offer faster or better customer service as opposed to a cost-savings measure for the company. 

Forty-two per cent of Australian respondents rated their overall perception of bots as positive while 47 per cent rated it as neutral. This is compared to global averages of 38 per cent and 51 per cent, respectively.

Rurik Bradbury, the global head of research and communications for LivePerson said there were a number of organisations that are approaching bots in an innovative way. 

“To us the innovation is not the flashy 'sizzle' of unusual features or approaches - it’s having a bot that actually works,” Bradbury said. 

He cited UBank’s RoboChat which was launched in May as an example. It is Australia’s first virtual assistant to help potential home buyers and refinancers complete their online home loan applications. UBank uses the LiveEngage platform together with IBM Watson as a virtual “staff member” that will assist customers with quick online responses.

“Other examples of innovative bot usage we’ve seen include the Royal Bank of Scotland and Vodafone, in the UK, who have both created very effective bots, which can handle up to 90 per cent of incoming questions,” he said.

Consumer acceptance

According to RFi Group managing director of consulting, Alan Shields, the industry needs to be open to technologies such as chatbots. In particular these technologies are being developed (and being accepted) outside banking and financial services. 

"Expectations (with those technologies) are being formed in businesses such as the retailers. Therefore, you need to bring those technologies to banking."

He cited his own experiences of using technology in sectors such as the utilities and airlines industry. For example, using chatbots to make bookings through JetStar.

"We know people now use WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook messaging."

In terms of consumer acceptance of these technologies, RFi Group research revealed that one in four people were comfortable with using a chatbot for their banking needs.

However, the sector needs to be reminded that it should not lose focus on the customer relationship in the rush towards technologies such as chatbots, a point highlighted at the recent AB+F roundtable, Redefining the customer experience, sponsored by IBM.

"As we move towards bots and AI we need to make sure that we don't lose sight of the relationship with the customer," Gabrielle Dracopolous, customer advocacy director for Citi said. 

According to LivePerson’s Bradbury, chatbots are most effective for use in contact centres, and embedded within banking apps, as they are well-suited for addressing high volumes of routine, transactional tasks.

“They provide an easy, efficient and convenient solution for customers who simply want to find out standard information about their bank and account information, as well as conducting common transactional activities,” he said. 

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