In the face of an uprising by technologically savvy, nimble upstarts – such as Revolut, Monzo and Deliveroo – which have automation and digital service at their core, more and more businesses are rightly looking to technology to help engage and retain their customers.
NatWest’s new in-branch artificial intelligence (AI) trial is the latest initiative intended to bolster more traditional approaches to Customer Experience. Its ‘digital human’, Cora is now on hand in selected branches to help consumers with their everyday retail banking queries, from ‘how do I log in to my online account?’ to ‘what do I do if I’ve lost my card?’.
There has been huge strides in AI in recent years, making it more human-like and responsive when it comes to responding to customer needs. Consumers are increasingly switched on to what technology can make possible, though there are still plenty of people after more traditional, face-to-face experiences. As such, brands like NatWest need to ensure they’ve asked themselves whether they are maximising their investment in this technology and using it as a business-supporting tool, rather than as a gimmick or an attempt to appear switched on.
Banking on trust
Whether it’s AI, virtual reality, or augmented vision, making the investment in technology isn’t enough. On the high street, AI works best when it’s a seamless part of the Customer Experience, unnoticed by consumers but influencing their contact with a brand from the outset.
People fundamentally seek out interactions which feel personal and respond to their needs, regardless of whether they’re speaking to a sales assistant or a machine. This can be a challenge for any robotics programme, but NatWest claim their investment in detecting emotion and voice intonation so that customers feel Cora understands their needs will go a long way in addressing this.
More than anything though, the key hurdle to overcome for any AI channel is trust. NatWest’s Cora won’t just be helping users order replacement bank cards and change their address. She could also be involved in customers’ major milestones, like the first step on the journey of making a mortgage application.
Other brands use AI to help customers handle insurance claims or strengthen users’ cybersecurity. Customers need to be able to trust this technology to deliver a service just as good as, if not better than, the human alternative, or indeed the self-service options available today. This means that a smooth interface will need to be more than just friendly and approachable to succeed – it will also need to engender feelings of consistency, safety and reliability.
Using AI to achieve more
It’s a truism that the service provided by employees will always play a vital role in underpinning brand loyalty and customer retention, and even with a rise in automation in the sector this isn’t going to change any time soon. Good AI is there to empower staff, not supersede them. By using intelligent technology to tackle basic queries, a brand’s employees are freed up to focus on more nuanced interactions which offer valuable contributions to customers and, therefore, to the business.
It won’t be long before the companies that have failed to make any investment in intelligent technology find themselves irreversibly behind the curve – what remains critical is that the investment itself is intelligent too.