The conversation surrounding the use of voice banking in financial services has become impossible for institutions to ignore. Consumers of 2018 are relying more and more on digital technology to perform everyday tasks; their fondness for mobile banking continues to grow; and digital assistants such as AlexaTM and SiriTM are gaining swift popularity. Some banks understand that voice banking will likely be a significant part of the financial industry’s future landscape and are tapping into the services and major benefits that this technology can offer.
It’s not that banking by voice is new, it’s just improved. Accuracy has improved through better algorithms advanced by artificial intelligence and accessibility is greater by virtue of the growing ubiquity of the aforementioned digital assistants. This all leads to increased consumer acceptance.
Capital One has been one of the earliest adopters of these enhanced voice banking capabilities, having partnered with Amazon to provide banking services through the Amazon EchoTM. Customers can ask for balance and transaction information and can even pay bills through the Echo. USAA, Wells Fargo and others have piloted or launched bank innovation technology such as voice banking through Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.
Some banks — mainly in the U.K. — are even using voice bank technology to authenticate customers. Canada-based TD Bank uses this technology to validate calls to customer service, and Barclays and HSBC allow customers to use their voice as a verbal password. These systems monitor for more than 100 unique identifiers in a person’s voice; they even work when a user has a cold.
Most of these early adopters, as usual, are the larger banks that can build their own voice solutions in-house. Mid-size banks will have to wait until their solution providers catch up. They may not have to wait long, though — IBM’s Watson product, a question-answering computing system, has integrated close to 1,000 Alexa skills into its solution. Banks might eventually tap into this service for only a few hundred dollars a month.
Advantages for Both Consumers and Banks
These technologies offer consumers convenience, of course. They can perform banking tasks just by calling out commands, and they won’t have to remember their password or security questions. But these innovations also benefit banks—driving cost savings, efficiency and customer satisfaction while also enabling valuable data collection and an enhanced financial services strategy.
As the technology matures, for example, banks can replace call center staff with 24/7 voice-enabled services. This capability will dovetail nicely with 24/7 real-time payments services, as noted in another recent blog. And with each customer interaction, the bank can gain more insight into that customer. Eventually, banks can make targeted offerings to customers based on AI-driven marketing technology. In this scenario, a bank could offer products and solutions specifically and uniquely tailored to each customer and his/her real-time circumstances, such as location, incorporating it into the conversation.
Expanding into Payments
Today, voice banking is mainly used to perform simple tasks like checking a balance, but soon consumers will begin to use it to make payments — that’s where banks could the real benefit of using such bank technology. While voice banking is currently used by only a tiny percentage of bank customers, an April 2017 study by BI Intelligence predicts that the use of voice payments will nearly quadruple over the next five years and reach 31 percent of U.S. adults, or 81 million consumers, by 2022. Early-adopter banks will be well-positioned to capture a sizable piece of this payment pie.
Finding the Right Solution
Eventually most banks will jump on the voice technology trend to keep up with fintech innovation. Whether they choose to build or buy a voice banking solution, banks first need to map out the customer journey to determine when customers will want instant access to information that can’t be easily obtained through a banking portal, such as loan application status, or without logging into an online banking site or mobile app. Then they can build a solution that truly answers their customers’ needs ahead of the competition.