How banks can build trust-based relationships: AI and Automation in a post-Covid-19 world
While COVID has put the brakes on a lot of things – normal schooling, visiting family and friends, holidays and music festivals, commuting and meetings in the office - it has enabled and accelerated the uptake and development of a number of other trends.
Trends such as wide-spread home working, remote learning, virtual medical consultations and social care provision – many of which felt a long way from routine before the crisis.
And one thing that has been clear is that new technologies have been instrumental in enabling this.
AI is at the front of those technologies.
Businesses using AI have been able to capitalise on the lessons learned pre-crisis, to deliver truly transformational services and experiences at pace.
If we look at retail for example – what started with self-service check outs and offers based on personal data, has progressed to AI being used to map peak usage, manage customer flows, provide automated grocery delivery for the vulnerable, create cashier less stores and repair fractured, threatened supply chains.
Concepts that may have felt alien a few months ago, suddenly don’t seem so strange. Social distancing has become a forced reality and these forms of automation are now seen in a different light. The real power in AI, however, isn’t in the tasks it completes but the connections it can create. There is real power in understanding and adopting AI in this manner.
Take chatbots as an example. Used well they can be much more than a ‘question and answer’ relationship. Leverage conversation with the customer to improve the service offered. We can answer questions but also have the conversation inform the service, the products, the wider information offered, improve security and reduce cost.
In recent years retail banks have felt pressure to transform digitally to compete with challengers, neobanks and fintechs. The current crisis is accelerating this need - and necessitating retail banks to move to a digital relationship with their customers.
AI also provides a means of allowing an open, two-way flow of information between the human and machine which at the heart of designing and delivering better solutions and services.
AI allows them to do this efficiently and at scale while offering service 24 hours a day. AI also provides a means of allowing an open, two-way flow of information between the human and machine which at the heart of designing and delivering better solutions and services.
Advancements in natural language processing (NLP) machines are playing an increasingly integral role in this as they master contextual of language. Being able to understand the context as well as the content is a game changing element of AI. EI meeting AI. It is one thing to see your surroundings but quite another to understand it. As AI becomes increasingly sensitive to the emotional resonance of what users are saying, a natural by product is increasingly trust-based relationship.
Prior to Covid-19, retail banks were already under huge pressure due to new competitors, ongoing regulation and slowing profit growth.
Embracing new technologies is the best route to address these challenges and can gain competitive advantage. While some regulation has been temporarily relaxed in response to the crisis – and may herald more permanent changes later – it’s almost certain to accelerate product offerings, such as insurance or wealth management through digital channels. Traditionally banks may not have been as agile as tech companies in launching new services, but their reach and depth allows them to address their customers’ changing demands very effectively.
How AI is being used in healthcare is leading the way in changing customers adoption of this technology.
The track and trace approach to managing Covid-19 is a compelling example. Countries such as South Korea and Singapore, who got out in front of the Covid-19 the fastest, have closely monitored, traced, and tracked their populations. As a result, their infection and death rates are significantly lower and day to day life has been far less affected.
By comparison, when similar forms of data were considered in the UK in the past, they were deemed to be too intrusive. Biometric passport data has been watered down due to privacy concerns for example. Covid-19 may change all that – it has been established that data can be used responsibly and that there are positive outcomes for both sides then resistance will reduce.
The tension at the moment (June 2020) isn’t around how data will be used by AI systems, but more the delay in implementing the track and trace system.
AI is also transforming virtual health and social care, moving thousands of low risk appointments and requests online, identifying vulnerable members of the community and protecting shoppers as they increasingly turn to online shopping.
Similarly, for banking, social distancing measure and enforced branch closures have driven more customers to online and mobile banking. Covid-19 has super-charged the pace of digitisation to drive more traffic and volume to digital channels and contactless payments when customers do venture out, now that the high-street is slowly re-opening.
Covid-19 has super-charged the pace of digitisation to drive more traffic and volume to digital channels.
Current estimates suggest that productivity can increase up to 40% when organisations capitalise on AI
While economic pressures might limit ongoing investment in the short-term, there are clear demands for AI in all aspects of our lives. And in a climate of increased cost constraints and higher demand from customers for additional value and personalization, AI’s ability to improve the service AND reduce costs will keep it at the forefront of investment priorities.
Current estimates suggest that productivity can increase up to 40% when organisations capitalise on AI – and crucially this does not come with a human cost.
It is essential that organisations start to organise around this transformation. By focusing heavily in cleansing and perfecting their data and refocusing their talent strategies on data and AT skills. This is where organisations need to re-focus their investments around those priorities.
And to do that, the Board and executive committee need to be on board and as educated in the value of this strategy as the managers tasked with delivering it.
AI isn’t about replacing - it is about transforming. We are limiting ourselves in thinking about AI and automation as simply replacing people, costing jobs, simplifying processes. It is about an end-to-end reinvention of the way we think about and interact with technology.
If nothing else Covid-19 and the shockwaves it has sent through our lives have provided an opportunity to abandon old ways of thinking and operating. What was once strange is now normal, and the sooner we fully embrace AI the sooner we can harness its capability to transform services and solutions for the better, for everyone.
Emerging trends such as AI and RPA are aimed at enhancing customer experience and matching performance with that of innovators in the banking industry.
The bottom line is that you will be an AI business or not be in business at all.