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The Bank of Scotland is piloting a service that will enable customers to have real-time conversations with a software robot via text-based messages.
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The service will initially be available to 50,000 customers on an iPhone app. The robot is trained to answer common questions asked by customers and, being artificial intelligence (AI), it will also learn over time and be able to answer further queries.
Avoiding the disappointment experienced by customers when they are cut off from a customer service agent, the service will remember where a conversation has been interrupted and be able to continue it later.
“We are experimenting with how to use artificial intelligence to help our customers find the information in the simplest and most convenient way possible,” said Nick Williams, managing director, consumer digital, at the Bank of Scotland.
The bank is planning more such services and this is a first step in using AI and messaging technology, said Williams.
Banks are increasingly looking to automate services to support customers who bank via apps, and AI is key to this.
In a recent global survey of retail banks by consultancy GFT, 86% of UK respondents said they valued the role of AI in their digital transformations.
The survey found that banks had identified virtual customer assistants, or chatbots – which understands natural language – as the most useful AI technology, followed by the automation of processes.
The financial services sector is expected to see huge cuts in human resources staff as software robots take over many of their tasks, and this goes beyond customer services.
Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan recently told a conference in Frankfurt that a “big number” of the bank’s staff will lose their jobs as a result of new technology taking over. The bank has about 100,000 employees.
Cryan accused accountants of being like abacuses, saying the bank “won’t need as many people”. He added: “In our banks, we have people behaving like robots doing mechanical things. Tomorrow, we’re going to have robots behaving like people.”