Digital Vision: Digital Banking

Greener Banking

The journey of voice assistants in digital banking

Ben Murphy, Chief Digital Officer, Financial Services & Insurance, Atos

Voice assistants can be a vital tool in digital banking, putting customers at the heart of the banking experience. However, successfully delivering this requires real expertise in digital transformation and a knowledge of end-to-end digital retail banking solutions.

Natural communication, it’s speech. Our larynx has evolved for voice, while our thumbs have also evolved, but, not for smartphones. Smart assistants are therefore becoming integral parts of our homes: playing hit songs, turning bedroom lights on, even turning the thermostat down. And, they are also entering the business world, with ownership of voice activated speakers growing rapidly.

Voice interaction is simple, right? Consider, while I’m making a cup of earl grey, my wife with her always impeccable timing says, “don’t forget, it’s your brother’s birthday!”. Now, caught in the perfect storm, do I stop making the drink that we all so desperately crave, or do I keep on and forget, again? I know the way forward, easy. I call out my home voice assistant and order a gift to be delivered tomorrow.

We’ve had to learn a number of lessons at Atos having supported the arrival of the first retail banking voice applications in the market. Here are a few:

Designing voice app user experience with digital banking in mind

When prioritizing user experience in voice interactions, we create significantly different challenges to that of designing a user experience for web or mobile devices. When we use mobile or web, we in turn are forced to use language which the device we are using understands. Whereas difference in language and the understanding of intent are crucial elements of voice app user design; yet understanding the context of how and what a customer is looking for is vital. Lessons learned included:

Clarity. Why build the app?

Do we need a visual user interface? If so, we have to have a thorough understanding of the device landscape (e.g. for multi-factor authentication).

A consideration of hardware and intent is key. As people will interact uniquely, so too will hardware. How can we ensure that the parameters within the hardware define how a device hears? Ask anyone learning a language, how can we differentiate ‘where’, ‘were’ and ‘we’re’?

Understanding details and flushing out complications, using process maps and conversation flows.

Simplicity. For every addition, we must take into account error and silence handling, along with systems and development checks.

Familiarity is key to breeding success in customer experience

With our familiarity with online banking, we’re now accustomed to certain expectations. Go to login to your bank account, the login button should be top right, we should be able to click through to the next login page, and the button to take us back should be on the left, correct?

If we don’t manage to meet these ‘familiarity standards’, then the customer satisfaction of our digital banking journey will be impacted. In voice applications, these shared standards are wholly left to be defined. Early movers will either find themselves leading the charge, or quickly knowing how to pivot to meet these new standards. There’s an early bird advantage.

Agile is perfect for us to learn, test and deliver rapidly in a digital banking arena

Was Voltaire correct? Is perfect the enemy of good? Should we release quick and learn, or spend years cashing perfection? I’d say that agile is the mandatory delivery method. I’d also suggest using a simple prototyping tool when designing. It’s quick to add text to an online tool and to then hear it. Paramount to this is devising an early test strategy. How should we test? What data should we use? What about test environments? How can we best represent use cases and various customer journeys?

The definitive route to understanding what does and doesn’t work? Trial and error. Multi-variant testing is a common principle employed by many with an online presence. We should expect an increase in this kind of testing if we are to fully understand if voice channels can meet the often-competing needs of different demographics.

Diversity and inclusion in a digital age

If banks are to fully serve customers via voice assisted channels in the longer term, there will rightly be concerns about how best to address authentication (end point and multi-factor), registration and logging, and redaction of data.

However, let’s not lose sight of the huge benefits that voice activated applications can gives us. For a huge number of retail banking customers, an app is by far the preferred method of choice – it’s available on demand and 24/7. Yet, for those who live with sight loss, there is far more at stake.

Treating customers fairly, and in particular the digitally undeserved segment of the population, there is a clear use case for voice apps on voice-controlled speakers.

The popularity of voice activated apps in recent years goes some way to point to their importance for retail banking. Ultimately, I expect that the user experience and the underpinning technology will harmonize on anything that can use voice as the means of customer service, given the clear advantages that voice can offer.

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Carlos von Prabucki, Head of Financial Services and Insurance, Southern Europe, Atos