New York-based LivePerson, a provider of bot platforms for brands, claims to have rolled out “the first financial industry hybrid bots in the world”, at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).
Announced in a trial in March 2016, RBS Assist, is the bank’s artificial intelligence (AI) chabtot service. It aims to provide customer’s with a better online experience by answering frequently asked questions (FAQs) about, say, online banking.
Back then, it was merely an internal trial. Now the service is being rolled out to customers, allowing them to communicate with a hybrid team of human and bot, working together, in one online conversation.
RBS Assist is powered by a combination of LiveEngage, LivePerson’s open platform, which integrates additional technology like cloud-based AI, and advanced self-service software from digital self-service provider Nanorep. It’s this self-service tech that enables RBS Assist to intelligently answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) by providing a search function that leverages the AI to understand questions based on context.
When customers message the bot from their smartphone or computer, the bot uses AI to analyze massive amounts of data to provide a quick, informed response. If the bot cannot find an adequate response, it passes the customer on to a human member of staff.
The idea is that the bot handles the routine admin tasks, while human staff members are free to spend their time with customers, answering more about complex questions. LivePerson says this “addresses the frustration of chats where the bot cannot help a consumer, who then has to call in to a support line, or go elsewhere for help.”
RBS keeps the human factor
In a blog post, RBS suggested that the human aspects of the bot make it unique to previous efforts to use AI in the financial sector.
“Whilst banks have been using artificial intelligence for some time, this AI is unique in that a ‘human’ like personality has been created for it,” the company said. “This makes it easier for employees to interact with and seek help from. Its unique psychological profile means it has a warmth to its personality, is approachable, creative and uses a combination of intuition and reasoning when answering questions.”
“Like humans, it has to be trained when dealing with new subject matter, but crucially, it learns from its mistakes and its answers become more accurate over time.”
RBS has had a rough ride in the last few years, facing everything from fines and technical glitches to the cancellation of its Williams & Glyn project, but last month the bank announced a change in fortunes and a return to profitability. Clearly, the launch of RBS Assist aims to add to the good news, but whether customers are happy chatting to the bot in the first place remains to be seen.
Just yesterday, research from Ask Your Target Market revealed that consumers aren’t yet confident in the ability of bots to perform complex tasks and answer difficult questions.
Hot on the heels of that research, voice technology company Nuance Communications announced that it is looking to change this attitude with the launch of its own industry-specific chatbots, starting with retail banking. RBS insists that what makes Assist special, however, is that it doesn’t work in isolation from other channels. Perhaps then the addition of the human factor is the key to changing customer perceptions.