Building Customer Loyalty Through Empathetic AI

//Building Customer Loyalty Through Empathetic AI
Building Customer Loyalty Through Empathetic AI

Since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, financial institutions have accelerated the launch of digital solutions powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to handle additional traffic to customer service centers and compensate for lost branch revenue.  While these services fill urgent gaps in functionality and provide additional sales and servicing options, hasty implementations and programmer bias can negatively impact the user experience and value to the customer.  Empathetic AI or Artificial Empathy (AE) has become the branded term for driving necessary user experience changes to make this technology truly viable.  This means involving product, UX and subject matter experts throughout development that understand the customer’s state of mind during a digital journey. This expertise is essential to enabling experiences that not only help users complete their tasks, but do so without frustration.  

For financial institutions, AE will prove especially important as face-to-face interactions continue to decline while digital ones rise exponentially.  The level of trust between a customer and their financial institution is more layered than any other digital relationship they have.  In addition to trusting the financial institution with their deepest personal and financial data, the customer accepts it as the single access point to their actual funds making every interaction very significant. With great power comes great responsibility. Fortunately, the data that comes with that responsibility is an invaluable tool to helping financial institutions make digital experiences more personalized and empathetic, which will serve to not only keep trust intact, but also allow you to grow and strengthen relationships. 

Taking a step back from technical feasibility, let’s look at the problem we are ultimately trying to solve.  Less face to face interaction with the customer means reduced control and opportunity to nurture the relationship in ways that benefit your organization. This has been a growing problem for financial institutions since extending services into the digital realm, which was originally meant to augment their physical presence, not replace it entirely. Yet here we are in a world where disruptive financial institutions that were born in the digital era, can offer most users the same products and services as traditional financial institutions with less frustration.  More Millennials than ever before along with Gen X, Y and Z’ers now identify digital only financial institutions as their primary checking and deposit relationship.  In order to avoid losing further market share to faster moving upstarts, financial institutions will need to foster higher levels of loyalty and seize all engagement opportunities for customer retention and growth.  This means looking at what worked in the past when building physical relationships and applying it to the present when building digital ones.   

Welcoming : Personalized  

Receiving a personalized greeting when entering an establishment creates immediate rapport with a provider. This used to be possible within a branch, but given staffing requirements and people’s proximity to multiple branches it is much less of a reality in the physical world than in the digital one.  Providing digital users with not only personalized greetings and services tailored to their needs but also anticipating what they want versus having to ask for it is the norm. With only a few seconds to make an impression, they must be quickly directed to relevant information and solutions to become engaged, and without blocking access to critical functionality which leads to frustration.   

Proper use of AE can make a big impact in this area by not only presenting a service they may be interested in, but also presenting it at an opportune moment. The good news is the people who demand these experiences are also the ones for which you have the most data. For example, you can easily identify which of your users expect to see their balances each morning on their Apple Watch before breakfast. 

Respectful : Inclusive  

Showing someone respect is the quickest way to earn their loyalty. Wasting someone’s time is the quickest way to lose that loyalty and business in turn.  There are no physical lines In digital, so regardless of the balance in my account I log in at the same speed as everyone else and typically have access to the same tools and services.   From a relationship management perspective this allows a much wider net to be cast and provides opportunities to assist more customers with building their net worth and accomplishing their goals in a meaningful way.  Using the right data and unbiased decisioning, financial institutions can build stronger relationships with customers who might have otherwise been overlooked or potentially marginalized in the real world.   

One of the biggest challenges with implementing AI in the financial world today is potential bias that has been built unintentionally into business logic and historical source data. Financial institutions need to take extreme caution in this area as any perceived bias from the community can be met with heavy fines and a diminished public image. As part of AE requirements, removing programmer and data set bias from the equation is crucial to fostering a sense of inclusion with customers from all walks of life. This ensures relationships stay healthy and opportunities during the digital journey are not lost due to poor experiences based on background or status.  

Caring : Preemptive  

Financial education and wealth management have been a growing part of the fintech sector in recent years as more customers expect these services.  Providing customers with access to knowledge and guidance for building and managing their personal wealth creates a huge opportunity to foster deeper relationships. The data gathered from these services is crucial to seeing what users value and what products could help them with their financial goals now and in the future.  This is again another place where AE can make a huge impact by not only providing customers with content that applies to them, but also anticipates what they need to get where they want to go. 

Until the world of digital finance was opened to customers, they had little insight into how finance actually worked and only those with the right education and experience could truly leverage financial products and solutions.  Once the doors opened, people were quickly given control over many tools and services, but there was little in the way of training or education available, let alone direction on which applied to individual circumstances.  Providing tools that not only educate but also suggest relevant ways customers can achieve their goals using your products and services, will go a long way to building loyalty as each moves through the different stages of their life.  This will be key for traditional financial institutions who need to update their organizations and technology to compete with the digital upstarts of today.  

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