By Krish Gopalan

COVID-19 has created a customer service shortage within the financial industry as fewer bank employees work at the local branch and more customers call in for help. As a result, customers are spending more time than ever waiting on hold with their banks.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bloomberg reported banking customers were waiting more than 20 minutes to speak with a contact centre agent. That compares to an average wait time of only 20 seconds in 2018, according to a study from MyBankTracker.

Currently, most financial institutions use online chatbots and automated voice messages for customer service. While many of the tools use artificial intelligence (AI), including machine learning, they do not have any of the empathy and advanced thinking that newer AI applications possess.

With the new technology, AI agents can have the same human-like characteristics as people. The technology can even detect moods and accents over the phone. It is this personalized customer service that most banking consumers won’t even know isn’t from a human. This new machine learning technology can even detect over the phone whether a customer is from New Jersey, Arkansas, India or even the United Kingdom solely by their dialect.

And if a customer prefers to speak with a woman or a man, the voice on the other end of the line will also present a voice from their favourite gender. For example, a married couple with a joint banking account might prefer speaking with someone from their own sex. In this situation, AI will automatically send a male voice to the husband and a female voice to the wife, making them feel like their customer service is more personalized. It can also organize the couple’s mortgage needs if they own a home.

Entering new conversational era
Flaist, a FinTech startup, has incorporated the new AI in its EVA virtual assistant platform. EVA provides a multilingual and multi-dialect customer service agent who has the same empathy and human-like characteristics that responds to the personalized needs of customers.

EVA’s language detecting technology is extremely valuable across Europe, Asia and the Middle East where dialects are critical to communication. Currently, financial institutions on those continents aren’t able to differentiate among dialects and accents. EVA instantly bridges the cultural gap among countries whose customers may communicate using the same language but with different customs and dialects.

The communication is shared over a secure cloud platform, so that customers’ data is never in breach, and in compliance with countries’ data regulations. It seeks out trends from the data of each customer and allows for more thorough, accurate advice without the risk of receiving biased information from in-person operations.

The AI can also be programmed as a personal finance management tool for customers who need help with financial planning and budgeting. In Canada, student loan customers can seek information about the student loan repayment suspension program and discuss the various repayment options. And the interaction with EVA can be in English or French, or perhaps a mix of both languages. And when business customers need help with specific issues, like U.S. Small Business Administration loans, the AI can be programmed to share information for them.

Making AI affordable
In the past, smaller institutions did not have the money to utilize the top tech tools. The EVA technology was specifically designed for those smaller institutions such as community banks and credit unions that do not have the multi-million-dollar IT budgets that the larger financial institutions have. Now, these institutions can customize EVA as an app, widget or through popular communications platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

The plug-and-play technology can reduce an IT customer service budget by 25 percent and can increase revenue potential by 48 percent. As a white label platform, the AI can be customized with a financial institution’s logos and colors, allowing customers to associate the technology with their banks.

Krish Gopalan is the founder and CEO of Flaist, the AI-powered digital platform. His goal is to democratize the digital transformation process for banks and financial institutions. He has a strong background in both IT and engineering, working in both startups and large enterprises.

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