How have chatbots significantly assisted the financial sector during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of different technologies that could help financial companies overcome the abrupt changes driven by COVID-19

The changes in mobility and the impossibility of social contact caused by the pandemic forced banking to adapt to new health regulations, so digital services were a lifesaver for both banks and account holders.

So far this year alone, the demand for digital financial services increased 35% across Latin America and contactless transactions grew 40% in the region, where 13 million Latin Americans used online payments for the first time, according to the article : Realizing the digital promise COVID-19 catalyzes and accelerates transformation.

In this regard, it should not be overlooked that the great drivers of digital banking behind these numbers have been chatbots. As of last year, the use of transactional or high-precision chatbots began in Mexico, which in addition to interacting with the customer and resolving questions, can also access the bank's systems and databases, enabling them to make transactional queries, assist with purchases, provide information concerning account statements and even advise the customer on which financial service best suits to his or her needs.

"Chatbots not only fulfill customer service functions, for example, in Mexico we already have chatbots that are considered intelligent virtual assistants and interacting with them is just like being on the phone with a financial advisor or being at a bank teller window, and all this is done without having to leave home," noted Gustavo Parés, CEO of NDS Cognitive Labs, a Mexican company specialized in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Developing Artificial Intelligence has been of utmost importance in improving chatbots in the financial sector, as it has allowed them to perform far more specific functions in a shorter period of time. "Banking is a sector that is always competing in terms of use of technology to improve its transactions and enhance the end-user experience. Whoever is at the forefront as the most digital bank will undoubtedly be the one that will be able to attract and retain more customers. Furthermore, projections following the pandemic suggest that the demand for contactless financial services and assistance will grow even more," Parés added.

According to financial specialists, chatbots are expected to handle up to 85% of transactions by the end of 2020. NDS Cognitive Labs reports multiple advantages of this technology, including the following:

Financial advisor.

It provides the customer with accurate information immediately, which improves the user's experience, since it solves their questions in an agile and pleasant way. Chatbots are able to provide quality service without interruptions caused by high user demand and without time constraints. They are efficient financial advisors that serve a large number of users whenever they need them, avoiding long lines at the bank or on-hold calls. This has been of vital importance during the pandemic, as the "traditional" banking operation is not entirely feasible in the face of the new normal.

They work as a filter previous to a human service.

Some chatbots support customers in advance before channeling them to a human financial agent, which frees workers from routine questions and makes them more efficient, as they only focus on the most complex or specialized tasks. Chatbots collect all the necessary information from the customer and facilitate the work of advisors, reducing operating costs and labor force. Their databases also allow the bank to know its customers, their main questions, which services have the highest demand, and which have malfunctions or the highest number of non-conformities.

Marketing and customer acquisition.

Chatbots working as virtual agents have the ability to interact with the customer and know which service may interest them or which one best suits their requirements. They also work to attract new potential customers, for example, someone who accesses a bank's online portal and needs a credit card, but does not know which one to choose, all he has to do is enter the chat and the digital assistant will advise him and he will be able to reach a decision more easily.

These benefits have undoubtedly led banks to pay more attention to their digital services. COVID alone made 31% of financial institutions decide to further boost their online services by investing in technology that enables remote operations, while 64% of them stated that the virus will contribute to the use of banking technology, according to a survey conducted by Latania, the leading banking software manufacturer in Latin America.

Colapso de los call centers bancarios The end of bank call centers.

For many financial services users, particularly those under 40, their experience with a call center has not been the best, so it is not surprising that a chatbot is their most preferred option.

The aforementioned points to the fact that by 2022, 90% of bank-customer interactions will be done through chatbots, as estimated by the Chatbot Reporter 2019 study; the pandemic, however, could accelerate this projection.

This scenario, in addition to an increasing user preference for chatbots, could displace call centers worldwide, and although this will still take a few years, the first signs of such a transformation are becoming more and more evident. Some specialists predict that by next year, 85% of call centers worldwide could be replaced by chatbots.

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