Voice Activation

Voice And Visual: Better Together On The Echo Show

There’s a lot that developers can do with voice, and that’s at the heart of the PYMNTS.com Voice Challenge with Amazon Alexa – but there’s even more that can be done with voice and visuals together.

At least, that’s what Keith Riddle, EVP, enterprise solutions development at Corporate One Federal Credit Union, said the company thought when it decided to dive in and develop a skill for the challenge. Indeed, Riddle said the visual component was one of the key criteria that the brainstorming team had to meet when choosing a skill to develop, the others being user-friendliness and omnichannel appeal.

“The visual display brings assurance to the end user about the information that’s available so they can discern what step they’re going to take,” Riddle said. “Visual supports a seamless user experience. We wanted to test that and play with the Echo versus the Echo Show to create an omnichannel experience.”

Corporate One operates as a corporate credit union, providing wholesale financial services to credit unions in the United States. As such, Riddle said the skill needed to offer a method of interaction that leveraged the experiences Corporate One already supports for credit unions – i.e. money movement and payment support – but do so faster, even in real time.

The ultimate goal, he said, is to achieve ubiquity of faster payments by 2020. But to do that, Riddle said small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) must be brought into the faster payments fold as well. He believes that credit unions, being so enmeshed in their communities, have the opportunity to be stewards and bring SMBs into the faster payments environment.

In a recent interview with Karen Webster, Riddle explained how voice and visual fit into that game plan, and what went into building Corporate One’s Voice Challenge skill.

Faster Is a Need, Not a Want

As the speed of transacting accelerates and the flow of data is enhanced as part of real-time payments, Riddle said this creates new opportunities for financial institutions to offer a more natural and intuitive experience for their customers using voice and visuals.

As an example, say a customer has a bill due today. A request for payment message could be delivered to his Echo Show, along with friendly advice to pay it now so he doesn’t get hit with a late fee. The customer can see the bill amount on his screen and can also access his account info to make sure he has enough funds to cover the payment.

When that customer tells the Show he would like to pay, the information can flow directly back to the biller for instantaneous reconciliation and settlement, Riddle said – no need for the customer to enter a digital experience.

Riddle said that these prompts, combined with same-day bill pay capabilities, give people a whole new way to manage their bills – especially millennials, who expect speed and instant gratification, and can often find even mobile banking too slow – while closing all the loops between the deposit account and the biller.

Skill As a Platform

Riddle said that Corporate One’s Voice Challenge skill is almost more of a platform, because it offers a foundation for integrating other value adds. He said the company plans to build up to a monthly subscription type of model, where credit unions pay the monthly fee and their members reap the benefits of a frictionless experience powered by this software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.

Riddle explained that credit unions can use the skill/platform to cross-sell their existing services or pull in data from different ecosystem partners and package it for delivery on a specific device, like the Echo Show. They can also accumulate data from disparate resources and bring all of it to the table when having a contextual conversation with a member via Echo or Echo Show, he said.

The contextual cross-sell is an interesting opportunity, because it lets credit unions put products and services in front of customers without being intrusive or pushy, noted Riddle. For instance, if a customer is using the platform to pay his Discover bill, that’s a strategic moment for the credit union to educate that member about how much he could save annually by switching to the credit union’s credit card.

“Timing is the biggest challenge,” Webster noted, “and you’ve demonstrated it with this skill.”

The Right Skill at the Right Time

Developers must consider not just what they can do with tech, but what they should do, said Riddle. Skills can sometimes be too future-oriented if developers fail to consider what people want and need from their devices.

Is it possible to create a personal assistant that anticipates customers’ needs and does everything for them? It’s certainly not as far-fetched as it used to be, but if such a skill was deployed today, Riddle believes it would be ahead of its time.

Consumers aren’t ready to let artificial intelligence take over their finances – they just want to know which bills need to be paid today, or maybe send a family member a birthday present.

Riddle said that such considerations were top of mind as Corporate One built its submission for the Voice Challenge.

“That’s why we chose this skill,” he explained. “It’s a building block that allows people to engage. We can evolve from that point.”



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.