By Alaina Webster, Managing Editor
Begin a conversation about technology, and you’ll immediately hear that artificial intelligence will be driving banks in the near future. From chatbot companies, to the fintechs that help integrate the chatbots into core and legacy systems, a push is being made to establish AI as not only useful but inevitable. Phrases like “Banks MUST” and “Consumers EXPECT” are tossed about with abandon (sometimes even in this magazine). But is AI inevitable, and do customers really expect it?
It depends on whom you ask. A recent SAS survey contends that U.S. adults aren’t that wild about banks using AI to interact with them. About 60 percent don’t mind AI monitoring their online financial behavior to prevent or identify fraud, but over half of the 500 people surveyed were not comfortable with banks leveraging AI to access credit histories and recommend credit cards; using household income and wealth information to provide investment advice; reviewing spending habits to suggest purchases or services; or using chatbots to fulfill basic account requests.
In fact, the survey found that consumers were confused as to what actually qualified as AI. “When asked if they could explain the concept to a friend or colleague, the survey found that fewer than half of the respondents … said they could,” a release stated.
Security was also a concern, with only about a third of respondents feeling confident that personal data being accessed by AI systems was being stored securely.
Anand Subramaniam, eGain’s senior vice president of marketing, disagrees, however. “Consumer attitudes depend on whether they trust the business and think the business is adding real value to them,” he counters. “To earn this trust, businesses should be transparent about their data policies and provide consumers more control on what they can do with the data… if businesses do a better job of communicating the value of their products and services in improving the lives of consumers … they have a better chance of getting their offers accepted.”
Subramaniam maintains that customers like to self-serve where possible, but they don’t want to repeat themselves when/if they need to switch to a live agent. “Consumers want their questions answered, problems resolved or advice provided effectively, efficiently and consistently,” he says. “AI can help automate self-service and augment human agents at the same time with process guidance.” He points to a survey by Forrester Consulting, which found that lack of knowledge and inconsistent answers given by human agents were the top irritants for consumers. As examples of AI done right, he references eGain’s client list: a multinational banking client went from third to first in terms of net promoter scores when its agents began using AI guidance to answer questions, and a U.K. telecom company improved its first-contact resolution score by 23 percent employing AI reasoning technology.
Age is another factor affecting AI enthusiasm — both the SAS survey and Subramaniam agree on this point. SAS reported that for respondents under 40, 42 percent felt confident that their data and information were protected – only 31 percent of older respondents agreed. Referencing a Chatbot.org survey conducted on behalf of eGain, Subramaniam notes, “Where 22 percent of Generation Z and 15 percent of millennials rated [chatbots] as ‘very effective,’ only 12 percent of boomers and the silent generation gave them the same rating. Having been born digital and social, the younger generation is more comfortable sharing data and information about themselves.”
With younger generations embracing AI, it probably is “inevitable” that banks will make use of it in the future. For now, it seems they may need to continue straddling the line between tech and tradition.