2018 Voice Challenge

Which payments and commerce opportunities will one’s voice unlock for people, brands and the businesses that serve them?

To answer this question, PYMNTS.com launched the 2018 Voice Challenge with Amazon Alexa. We fielded several innovative teams throughout the event, all focused on developing and executing a prototype using Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa. The solutions were expected to solve problems, remove friction and add value to the payments and commerce ecosystem — and all in ways that take Alexa well beyond a cylinder on the kitchen countertop.

After careful review, we are pleased to share those that made the final cut, and it’s time for you tell us what you think.

Please vote for the submission you feel is the best fit for one of our five categories. Voting closes Friday, March 30, 2018, at 5:00 PM (EST).

Note: Participants are displayed in alphabetical order

About Alacriti’s Alexa Skill:

We live in a world of connected experiences. AI-powered conversational interfaces like Alexa not only transform consumer expectations, but also redefine how businesses connect with and support their customers.

For the 2018 PYMNTS Voice Challenge, Alacriti presents a series of Alexa Skills that enable fast and seamless bill payments and customer service. Alacriti’s Alexa Skills are powered by Ella, our AI-powered conversational bot that enables seamless customer interactions through virtual assistants.

The Skills can be customized to a biller’s unique business needs — a card issuer that would like to provide recent purchase history, for example. Other examples of our Alexa Skill set include rent payments, utility customer service requests, card payments and real-time business insights into cash flow and accounts receivables.

Alexa has transformed everyday tasks into rich experiences built with customers’ preferences in mind, and billing and payments are no exception. Using Alexa, businesses can access insights and enable their customers to manage bills and make payments in the most personal way possible: through the power of conversation. As people incorporate smart speakers and other emerging technology into their daily routines, Alacriti’s Alexa skill empowers businesses to use these platforms to better engage their customers and offer a smarter, more context-relevant payment experience.

Company Details:

Website: www.alacriti.com

Headquarters: Piscataway, New Jersey

Year founded: 2003




About Corporate One’s Alexa Skill:

On average, we rely on roughly 30 digital applications to help us manage various aspects of our lives, be it financial, social or other interactions. These applications generate extensive levels of data, which can be extremely valuable in creating inferences and insights to improve the quality of our lives. After analyzing the opportunity to make these interactions more impactful, we contemplated a series of questions regarding the design of an innovative user experience:

What if you could rely on a smart and intelligent personal assistant who is always there to remind you of upcoming birthdays or anniversaries, assist in the selection of gifts and then streamline the purchase and shipping process, all within a simple conversation?

What if the intelligent assistant also reminded you of your upcoming bills, provided consultation as to which bills were imperative to pay and how to maximize savings, and again, did so within a simple conversation?

Delivering an intelligent personal assistant user experience requires the ability to secure the right data, appropriately process that data and incorporate a world-class voice interaction interface for users. We used our data integration and processing ingenuity — and combined that knowledge with the social network and natural language processing ecosystem Alexa solves — to build the Event Driven Money Movement (EDMM) Skill.

EDMM is an Alexa skill integrating your social network with a financial profile to enhance your social and financial well-being. It encourages saving, simplifies bill payment, advises you on personalized financial products and provides a mechanism to always remember a suite of special life events including birthdays, anniversaries and graduations, while providing the guidance on purchasing the special gift for the recipient. Our target market for the EDMM Skill is the adult segment (aged 18+), driven to simplify their lives while managing social and financial experiences in an intelligent manner.

Company Details:

Website: www.corporateone.coop

Headquarters: Columbus, Ohio

Year founded: 1949

Corporate One:



About FIS' Alexa Skill:

Here we have a new way to use the FIS Alexa banking skill to make people’s lives better. The FIS MyBank Alexa skill unlocks the power of a conversation agent in a cloud-based ecosystem to serve customers across real-life situations. From day-to-day transactions to research, rewards and commerce, the combination of voice and visual elements make banking both conversational and personal.

Watch millennials Kim and Jeff use the FIS MyBank Alexa skill to navigate the home buying experience and the stressful loan process, and all from the comfort of their home. While Kim and Jeff already consider Alexa a member of their household, they are delighted to have her assistance wherever they go. Alexa connects to a live banker at the exact moment that Kim and Jeff need it.

While in the car, Jeff thwarts card fraud via Alexa with real-time alerts, keeping his bank account safe and his eyes on the road. He is able to provision a replacement card to his digital wallet at the speed of sound — and just in time to authorize the fuel pump and save money with a cents-off-per-gallon rewards program.

Proactive, contextual assistance from the bank they trust allows Kim and Jeff to focus on what’s most important to their family. The MyBank skill allows them to close on their dream home by giving them timely decision updates and processing the loan workflow in the background.

With intuitive banking and payments skills for Amazon Alexa, FIS is investing in ways to help customers live — and bank — smarter.

Company Details:

Website: www.fisglobal.com

Headquarters: Jacksonville, Florida

Year founded: 1968




About Fiserv’s Alexa Skill:

The only thing moving faster than technology is consumer expectations. Today, consumers are pushing the boundaries by demanding hands-free, always available access to everything, including their financial information. Consumers want to ask Alexa about account balances, make payment requests for bills that are due and more, all while multi-tasking through any number of daily activities.

The Amazon Echo family of devices including the Echo, Dot, Spot and Show, have become functional fixtures in homes, dorm rooms, kitchens and offices around the world. Amazon Alexa is always available, she never gets tired, and she is literally getting smarter by the minute.

We recognize Amazon Alexa as a reliable, efficient financial assistant to help consumers become more connected to their financial lives. Including Alexa in financial relationships can build engagement between consumers and financial institutions.

The skills showcased in this video extends voice banking beyond voice commands and responses. The Amazon Echo Show device is enabled to not only “echo” account information but also to display information on the device so users can interact with it. Developed using Amazon’s LEX platform – these skills connect consumers to their banking account information via any device Amazon creates. In addition, the skills can extend beyond a device to engagement mechanisms such as chatbots so users can engage with these same skills via a message application.

The skills Fiserv has developed for Amazon Alexa empower consumers with practical and convenient self-service options and position financial institutions with a competitive edge for the future.

Company Details:

Website: www.fiserv.com

Headquarters: Brookfield, Wisconsin

Year founded: 1984




About Linc's Alexa Skill:

This skill helps brands and retailers revolutionize customer care and build stronger, more connected relationships directly with their customers to improve loyalty. Branded to a specific retailer, the skill gives customers the ability to check the status of their orders using natural language or get help with an exchange or return in a matter of seconds. The customer doesn’t need to know an order number or the specific name of the product — Linc’s platform does all that work in the background.

Powered by Linc’s Customer Care Automation platform, an Alexa Skill is one of the touchpoints that brands can use to create a better experience for their customers. In addition, the platform powers Messenger chatbot, text, email and a web portal. It uses a unique integration method to avoid a lengthy project while still collecting an operation management suite (OMS)-level depth of data. That means brands can go live with their branded Alexa Skill in just four weeks, and that artificial intelligence (AI) can make real-time decisions with context.

The platform provides brands with an effective way to engage and serve customers on this new channel, and solves the skill-discovery challenge with organic opt-in via the order confirmation page and email. This gives every customer the opportunity to see the skill and choose to use it. The convenience of checking order status and getting help with a return keeps customers coming back to the skill and using it frequently. The platform also supports product recommendations to convert these customer service touchpoints into opportunities to generate new revenue.

For brands looking to go beyond essential customer service through voice assistance, Linc’s platform also supports customized conversation development. It offers the specialized AI, the robust unified customer profile data and the rich understanding of the customer’s context the platform has at its foundation — and all for use in these unique interactions.

Company Details:

Website: www.letslinc.com

Headquarters: Sunnyvale, California

Year founded: 2013




About PSCU’s Alexa Skill:

PSCU strives to create smooth and consistent experiences across our solutions. Regardless of the channel the member chooses, we want them to complete their financial transactions with as little friction as possible.

PSCU created the Credit Union Real Time Information Skill (CURTIS) concept to give credit union members the ability to seamlessly accomplish day-to-day financial tasks. With CURTIS, our members can check balances, transfer funds between accounts, set controls and alerts on their cards, use loyalty rewards and pay bills using their voice by utilizing their Alexa-enabled devices. CURTIS is also integrated with Amazon Pay to reimagine the “path to payment,” making it easy to complete transactions anytime, from anywhere.

Our vision for CURTIS is to help our credit union members remove obstacles that get in the way of what matters in life — living it.

Company Details:

Website: www.pscu.com

Headquarters: St Petersburg, Florida

Year founded: 1977




About Semafone's Alexa Skill:

Using voice tokens called Three Little Words (3LW), Semafone’s Alexa PHONE CONCIERGE skill creates a security framework to augment phone calls with secure data services. This simple process creates a time-based, single-use voice token wrapped up neatly into 3LW. These 3LW have been securely created by the back-end server to supply across the voice channel, separating it from data channels and establishing a computer-telephony integration (CTI) connection.

By asking a merchant to securely register a payment request, the customer can easily authorize the payment by supplying a 3LW voice token to approve a registered card — in this case, the pre-enrolled and registered one-click payment mechanism. As a result, the payment channel shifts from a phone-based, card-not-present (CNP) transaction to a lower-risk eCommerce transaction.

Semafone’s PHONE CONCEIRGE skill offers reciprocal caller authentication using 3LW. It is often difficult for merchants and customers to authenticate each other during phone calls. Customers are not sure if it is really their bank calling, and merchants have lengthy (and weak) knowledge-based verification Q&A scripts. Customers, therefore, are more inclined to ignore inbound calls from a legitimate source. This means the merchants/banks and their customers lose out when refusing to take important calls.

Semafone’s skill validates a phone call between two entities, unknown to each other but known to Semafone’s backend server. When a merchant/bank calls, the customer says, “Alexa, ask Phone Concierge who is calling me.” Alexa provides 3LW to the customer, which the merchant submits for authentication through Semafone’s backend services.

After both parties are authenticated, providing peace of mind that both identities have been validated, the conversation continues as normal. Once adopted, the use cases for PHONE CONCEIRGE and 3LW are limitless.

Company Details:

Website: www.semafone.com

Headquarters: Guildford, Surrey

Year founded: 2009




About USAA’s Alexa Skill:

In 2016, USAA was proud to participate in the PYMNTS Alexa challenge with a submission focused on helping members save and invest their money in a simple and meaningful way — and all while utilizing Amazon Alexa devices. This year, the team from USAA challenged itself to approach the competition from a non-banking perspective to see if it could solve everyday member problems through an entirely new creative lens.

The result is an end-to-end reimaging of how USAA can utilize today’s myriad Alexa-enabled devices to help members with their car ownership experiences. Being involved in a car accident can easily be one of the most stressful events a person can go through as an adult. The last thing someone wants to worry about after a crash is getting the car fixed or, even worse, having to replace a car they love.

What if USAA could make this process, along with all the other parts of insuring and replacing a car, a bit little easier?

For example, what if you could pay your insurance premiums or make a loan payment for your car each month on an Amazon Alexa device? Even better, how can USAA keep you updated when an insurance company pays your claim, or your body shop, after an accident? The concept doesn’t end there. From getting an update on the status of a claim to shopping for a new vehicle in the event of a total loss, all the way to getting an insurance quote started on your brand new car — USAA and Alexa give you the ability to handle it all using just your voice and without ever having to lift a finger.

Company Details:

Website: www.usaa.com

Headquarters: San Antonio, Texas

Year founded: 1922