Banks and insurance companies replace voice response systems with robotic chatbots
Bangalore, October 2 2017: For nine months now, users of Facebook Messenger have been able to utility bills, avail travel services or make movie bookings by just chatting with a cool robotic tool: HDFC Bank's chatbot, OnChat. The Artificial Intelligence-driven, chat tool has made so many friends, that the bank has been able to turn one in four users into customers... an amazing conversion rate considering HDFC had achieved a rate of just 1.4% or one in seventy, by earlier traditional methods.
Businesses led by banks and financial institutions in India are only just realising the untapped potential of leveraging the smart new tools of Internet and social media to acquire new customers and retain old ones. And innovative startups are helping them do just that.
Nitin Chugh, Group Head, Digital Banking at HDFC Bank, explained at a media event earlier this week that OnChat which replaces conventional mechanisms like Interactive Voice Response ( IVR), is clever enough to understand language combs like Hinglish and sends personalized reminders and notifications to customers. For its foray into 'conversational banking' HDFC turned to Bengaluru-based startup Niki.ai whose creative team harnessed Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to craft the tool.
It is a fast learner: If after two attempts the chatbot fails to understand the user, it ploughs back the experience to refine its tools.
Said Niki.ai CEO and founder Sachin Jaiswal: "In partnership with HDFC group companies, we are also working on creating an insurance bot and a stock broker which will take the overall banking experience to another level, through simple conversations.”
For its existing banking customers, HDFC Bank offers another chatbot, EVA -- Electronic Virtual Assistant -- on all its digital platforms including Web and mobile. The banking bot was built by Senseforth AI Research.
Explains Senseforth CEO and Co-Founder Shridhar Marri: “EVA currently handles 50,000 plus semantic variations for thousands of banking related intents. Eva tracks and analyses everyday customer issues and gains a deeper understanding of their behaviour patterns...EVA never sleeps and her learning never stops!”
HDFC is not alone in hitching its wagon to the intelligent agent trail.
- ICICI Bank and its insurance mate ICICI Lombard have also turned to Senseforth to create chatbots for them.
- The State Bank of India (SBI) is soon to launch its own chatbot, SIA or SBI Intelligent Assistant to take on customer queries and introduce to the bank's various products . SIA was created for SBI by another startup, Allincall led by IIT Mumbai and Kharagpur alumni.
- Axis Bank turned to Singapore - headquartered Active.ai to develop its customer-facing chatbots. Active.ai does most of its development in Bengaluru.
Finacle, the banking solution from Infosys, now offered by group company EdgeVerve, has global customers for its core banking tools. Niki.ai has also developed a chat-based e-commerce solution for Infosys Finacle. The chatbot named Niki will be offered by Finacle, as a smart-purchasing tool along with its own suite of banking solutions.
Says Sanat Rao, Chief Business Officer, Infosys Finacle: “As AI technologies mature, they present an opportunity for banks to automate interactions and enhance customer experiences. This partnership will enable Finacle to provide a virtual assistant that banks can use to expand their commerce footprint through a large pre-integrated ecosystem. This will further help banks to enhance their revenues as well as improve customer stickiness.”
Today's banking customers spend significant parts of their life using mobile devices. Chat comes naturally to them. Yet for the most part, the mobile banking experience has been underwhelming. That may change when more banks and financial institutions embrace new user interfaces like chatbots. Suggests Sudhir Nain, Editor, The Neobanker and himself a designer of fintech products in his blog : "A truly digital bank reimagines the way people access their services on mobile devices." Goodbye, menus, icons and click. Hello bankbot!