Of all the industries out there, it seems both the banking and credit card industries have been eyeing chatbots for quite some time. And each week recently, it seems that another bank or card company announces that they’re jumping in.
At Money20/20 last week, Mastercard announced its Facebook Messenger bot — MasterCard KAI — which will cater to U.S. consumers wanting answers to questions related to their accounts, purchase history, rewards and benefits. According to the release, Mastercard is partnering with Kasisto, which created artificial intelligence (AI) platform KAI Banking, to power branded virtual assistants and smartbots for financial services.
Also at Money20/20, Bank of America announced its own chatbot — Erica — which will operate through audio and text and be hosted on the bank’s mobile app. With her ability to analyze a customer’s personal financial data and generate recommendations, Erica is slated to launch in late 2017.
Some experts say this may be progress in some aspects, but the verdict is still out whether this is really increasing productivity or efficiency.
“While it’s great to see top players embracing chatbots, the use case and/or experience so far offered by any of such bots has not been something that would really wow the end user,” said Abhimanyu Godara, founder and CEO of personal chatbot platform Bottr. “Appears to be driven mostly by desire of some CxO’s agenda to ride on the bot wave!”
Other experts say this is affirming of the way consumers will engage effectively with payment and banking businesses.
“Mastercard’s move into chatbots is significant because it further validates the core value proposition of chatbots: scalable, one-on-one user engagements,” said Erez Baum, cofounder and CEO of Imperson, a conversation technology company. “It proves that brands and institutions across all industries are looking to chatbots as a way to engage with consumers on messaging apps, a growing medium where people spend a majority of their time.”
And others say this is happening, so those that want to compete in the space need to get a chatbot.
“We’re going to see a lot of banks and financial services companies investing in smart messaging technologies to answer account questions, offer financial advice and handle some transactions,” said Scott Horn, CMO of 7, a CX company powered by AI. “Keeping customers in digital channels helps contain costs and increase customer satisfaction because they can get immediate answers.”
Horn said that, in the next couple of years, chatbot banking will easily become commonplace for simple tasks. That said, he quickly followed up with the fact that AI is still critically dependent on humans for the foreseeable future, and human bankers will still be the decision-makers, leveraging chatbots to make informed decisions.
In fact, some experts in the space say that it may be tricky or strange to add a chatbot now, but in the long run, it may indeed pay off.
“Launching a bot can be very positive: 71 percent of people who have used them for customer service report overall positive feelings on their usefulness,” said Rurik Bradbury, citing research from his company LivePerson, a provider of mobile and online messaging business solutions between brands and consumers. “However, the key is to use them at specific points and for specific, obvious purposes. A majority of people would rather wait a short time and chat with a human, rather than use a bot. And a large majority — 80 percent — prefer to be told whether it is a human or a chatbot they are talking to.”
Either way, there is likely another crop of banking and credit card chatbots set to pop up soon, whether you want them — or use them — or not.