Brexit and the Financial Services Sector: Time to Transform Customer Service with Voice Technology

By Gary Williams, Director of Sales and Consultancy, Spitch

October 31 marks the latest deadline in the seemingly endless Brexit debacle. Many companies and industries are still scrambling around trying to prepare for an uncertain future- the financial services industry is no exception.

In the financial services sector, an industry largely regulated by EU rules, Brexit would also mean potential changes to regulations and the implementation of new compliance processes. Much like for other organisations, Brexit preparations for financial services companies will also require carefully managing relationships with partners and international money – but it is crucial that they also think about their customers.

The lack of clarity over what Brexit will actually entail means that ordinary consumers are in the dark over the likely effect on, say, their savings or pensions. Naturally, they will call their bank or investment company to try to get answers and reassurance – and this is where the industry faces both challenges and opportunities.

If companies cannot provide a great call experience – with short waiting times and informed contact centre staff – then they’ll face the ire of their customers and risk losing them.

The corollary, of course, is that businesses can strengthen their relationship with customers and win over others by improving their call centre operations, reducing queues and making sure that advisers can answer the most complex questions accurately and without delay.

IF COMPANIES CANNOT PROVIDE A GREAT CALL EXPERIENCE – WITH SHORT WAITING TIMES AND INFORMED CONTACT CENTRE STAFF – THEN THEY’LL FACE THE IRE OF THEIR CUSTOMERS AND RISK LOSING THEM

Forget Brexit – this should be the ambition of any customer-focused industry, whether it’s financial services, retail, travel, or any other. We all know what irritates and infuriates customers when they call to complain or seek information: long waits, complicated voice menus, ill-informed advisers. Identifying the problem has always been much harder than fixing it but, thanks to technology, the financial services industry is now in a position to do so.

New developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and natural language Machine Learning (ML) can bring significant benefits by improving voice-driven customer experience through pioneering speech recognition technology.

AI and natural language processing (NLP) are now delivering real value to organisations. Industry analysts Gartner predicts that by next year half of analytic queries will be generated using searches based on natural-language processing. Meanwhile between 20-25% of searches made with the Google Android App in the US are already voice searches, according to Google.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) AND NATURAL LANGUAGE MACHINE LEARNING (ML) CAN BRING SIGNIFICANT BENEFITS BY IMPROVING VOICE-DRIVEN CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

One key development is in voice-driven customer service, a perennial bugbear of callers. Today, AI is far more capable of understanding voice commands; what’s more, it can now also identify callers’ intent and sentiment, perform voice biometrics non-intrusively, transcribe calls and flag issues in real time. AI can also ensure that the caller doesn’t lose focus and that they remain interested in what is being communicated to them via a speech-enabled Interactive Voice Response system.

Voice-driven technology can also provide rich data and insight which will empower them to improve their operations and deliver better, more personalised services.

For example, one international insurance company sought to improve customer service by requiring its employees to listen to archival contact centre conversations. The company deployed an AI-powered omni-channel communication platform that helped to identify which calls were going wrong and where, and suggested changes to business workflows. The technology also helped the team to compare the efficiency of different marketing campaigns and to assess agents’ performance against several key criteria.

INCREDIBLE AS IT MAY SEEM, AI CAN EVEN UNDERSTAND CUSTOMERS BETTER THAN HUMAN AGENTS

In Switzerland, meanwhile, a car insurer is improving the customer experience by shortening call queues with an AI-powered self-service system. The system extracts the required details before giving customers the option to have their vehicle fixed by their local garage, a partner garage or a drive-in; in the case of the first two options, the system will automatically issue a ticket to get the work done. A crucial part of the system is that a caller can get through to a human at any stage by saying “agent”, ensuring the smoothest customer experience possible.

Incredible as it may seem, AI can even understand customers better than human agents. It’s now capable of understanding callers’ sentiment and intent, their speaking habits, conversational linguistics, dialects, idiosyncrasies, slang, foreign accents, intonation, emphasis, intention and enunciation.

That’s not to say that humans will no longer have a role in the contact centre. Many people prefer speaking to a real person, especially when dealing with complex queries. Rather, we should see AI as an augmentation of people’s skills and experience.

It’s impossible to predict what the future holds, but one thing is for certain – customers are continuing to demand exceptional customer service. Whatever the outcome on 31st October, financial services companies need to unlock the power of AI- and NLP-based technologies to provide the highest levels of customer service. Financial service companies and banks needn’t fear Brexit – as long as they use it as an opportunity to ensure they are equipped with the tools to deliver the outstanding customer service their customers expect and deserve.