As consumers, we’ve become used to frictionless digital experiences, from ridesharing apps that let us call a car with a single click to delivery services that drop groceries off at our front door. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that financial services customers want a digital experience in some, if not all, aspects of their interactions with their bank or credit union.
In the financial services world, a shift toward a more digital experience requires a multi-channel approach that serves multiple functions—from completing transactions online or on a mobile device to getting fast, accurate answers to common questions. Artificial intelligence (AI) presents an opportunity for financial companies to embark on digital transformation in several different ways, including improving the overall customer or member experience.
One of the growing trends in credit union digital transformation is the use of AI-powered software to improve the member service experience. Generally speaking, credit unions maintain a solid reputation among members, given the focus on a notably high level of service, cost-effective products, and a more intimate feel than national or global banking centers. However, a lack of technology-driven tools among many credit unions leads members elsewhere over time.
Credit union members expect no less than the best from their financial institution, and this includes the ability to get things done through the channels most convenient to them. Incorporating credit union AI into the member service experience helps move the needle in the right direction, and chatbots are an essential part of the equation.
The Rise of the Credit Union Chatbot
Recent research from Survey Monkey and Drift reveals something that should get the attention of credit union contact center leaders: a mere 38 percent of consumers want or need to speak with a human agent when interacting with a company. They prefer getting responses to questions or concerns quickly, and chatbots present that opportunity.
Over the last few years, consumer comfort with chatbots has increased, and the preference for immediate interaction, even with a chatbot, continues to climb. Research shows that consumers want technology-driven tools provided by their financial institutions, and this includes credit union chatbot applications.
What Exactly is a Chatbot?
The easiest way to think of a chatbot is as an AI-powered virtual assistant. A credit union chatbot interacts with a member in real-time through a combination of automated responses to common questions. Typically, chatbots are set up with a dialogue tree, where a customer inputs a straightforward question or phrase (such as “What are your branch hours?”) and the chatbot responds with a pre-programmed response. Some chatbots employ machine learning, so that as more members use credit union chatbot applications, the chatbot gets better at identifying user intent and providing the appropriate response.
Chatbots used in credit union member service offer a reliable source of information to many different questions, but that does not mean they are bringing an end to the human element of member service. Instead, credit union chatbots team up with human agents, delivering the best-in-class service members want.
Human Agents and Credit Union Chatbots: Better Together
In 2017, Juniper Research published a study explaining the cost savings associated with chatbots across various business applications. The report highlighted AI’s ability to replace human workers and the often mundane tasks they complete when it comes to the service experience. The combination of time and capital saved by using chatbots instead of human agents reaches an estimated $8 billion per year by 2022.
However, many argue that the point of implementing chatbots is not to eliminate human workers, but instead, to create digital-first experiences for customers that ultimately free up the expertise and skill of customer service agents. When implemented correctly, credit union AI has the opportunity to do just that – allowing chatbots to respond to frequently asked questions and giving member service representatives the time and energy to complete more complex requests.
In an ideal world, credit union chatbots would eliminate the run-around members often go through when trying to get help. Members don’t have to wait until business hours to go into a branch location or get on the phone with the member service call center to find the information they need. But there are cases that even the most sophisticated chatbots can’t handle; this is where real humans join the conversation and take the lead.
With the combination of a credit union chatbot at the forefront and human service agents ready to handle complex issues, credit unions can deliver a more robust and enjoyable service experience from start to finish.
Empowering Human Agents and Chatbots Through Knowledge Engagement
Improving the digital member experience is paramount for all credit unions, especially as consumers become more comfortable with businesses moving to an online experience. Adding a credit union chatbot sets the stage for improvement in this area of member service. Members can resolve basic issues on their own with the help of a chatbot, and transition to a human agent should things become more complex.
But both chatbots and human agents can only be helpful if they’re delivering the right information to the right member at the right time. And that’s where a knowledge engagement platform comes in.
A knowledge engagement platform acts as a hub for all information that call center agents and customers might need. It can be either internal (i.e. something that human agents can search when they need to answer a complicated question) or member-facing (i.e. a self-service knowledge base that members can search themselves).
Here are a couple ways a knowledge engagement platform could be used in combination with a chatbot:
The Self-Service Dialogue Tree
A member might engage with a credit union chatbot to find a specific piece of information (for example, they might want to learn more about applying for a mortgage). They might navigate through some pre-written options with the chatbot and eventually click the option “I’d like to see a sample mortgage application.” When they click this option, the chatbot could be programmed to share the link to a post in the member-facing knowledge engagement platform with a sample mortgage application that the member can download.
The Quick-Responding Human Agent
For issues that are too nuanced to be resolved through a dialogue tree, a chatbot can bring a human agent into the conversation. From there, the agent can chat with the member to get a better sense of what they’re looking for. Once the agent understands the member’s question, they can search their credit union’s internal knowledge base to find an answer that they can then share with the member over chat.
Ideally, the information that the member needs will already exist in the knowledge engagement platform. Many knowledge engagement platforms also allow human agents to post new questions when they can’t find a piece of information. Subject matter experts are notified when an agent posts a new question and can provide an answer to share with the member. This allows the credit union to grow their knowledge base over time so that it becomes less and less likely that a chatbot or human agent will be stumped.
The Future of Chatbots in Credit Unions
Chatbots—especially when paired with a searchable knowledge engagement platform— give rise to an improved digital-first experience that members crave while freeing up valuable time of member service agents that can then be used for high-level service issues. It’s a win-win scenario for credit unions willing to lean into the growing need for digital transformation.