Virtual assistants and chatbots are all around us. They’re in apps, on websites, and in e-commerce stores. They help us book appointments, choose a product, answer our questions, and do just about anything else that can be automated.
But what about virtual banking assistants? How do they fit in this story? Does every bank have one, and are they useful at all in the financial setting?
Virtual banking assistants save time and money for both banks and their clients. They make mobile apps even more practical, and all the major banks now have a more or less advanced virtual banking assistant that is voice-activated or text-based.
12 Reasons Why Banks Invest Into Virtual Banking Assistants
Virtual banking assistants or virtual financial assistants are becoming somewhat commonplace thanks to advances in technology and specialized companies that offer turnkey solutions.
Most major banks have some version of virtual banking or financial assistants that are either voice-controlled or chatbots.
There are some stark differences between the two. The main being that chatbots only communicate via text.
Although it’s undeniable that virtual assistants are a couple of levels above chatbots, both have their merits and use cases.
The following are the top uses for virtual assistants. There are many more beyond the following twelve reasons why banks have started investing heavily in them.
1. Customers Want and Expect Them
The pandemic was a much-needed kick in the butt for many traditional businesses. The demand for everything digital skyrocketed, and it was the push they needed to start or accelerate digitizing and modernizing their services.
Many people that have never used a mobile app, let alone done any sort of digital banking, now had to learn how to do it as there wasn’t any other choice for them.
To make things easier, many banks implemented virtual banking assistants into their apps that made it easier to perform everyday banking tasks like paying bills and transferring money.
VBAs also work great for visually impaired people that can now talk to their banking app and can, without help, do most things by using only their voice.
Obviously, any improvement to the lives of disabled people is and should be one of the top priorities of mobile app developers.
2. VBAs are Relatively Easily Implemented
The great thing about so much of the technology today is that it’s relatively easily implemented into existing products and services. Virtual banking assistants are no exception.
There are SaaS companies that specialize in building virtual assistants for traditional and challenger banks, as well as credit unions. This makes it easier for banks to implement VBAs without burdening their internal teams with the added workload.
For instance, Finn AI’s Banking Assistant provides quick and informative answers to hundreds of the most common support, product information, and how-to questions up and can be running in four weeks or less.
3. VBAs Make Navigation Much Easier
I’m pretty sure that even the banks with the clunkiest mobile apps think their customer journey is at a satisfying level. However, let me assure you, that is not the case.
Too many digital banking apps are convoluted and have endless menus making you run in circles. If you have to tap more than five times to make the simplest action, such as getting your statement, something is very wrong with the app.
Although redesigning the app from scratch is one of the solutions, implementing a virtual banking assistant is another viable option.
By simply asking the app with your natural voice to do something for you, you eliminate the need to browse through endless menus, and your banking experience is undeniably better.
4. They Take The Load of Call Centers
With so many people doing their banking online, there’s a noticeable increase in phone calls, emails, and other forms of contact.
This increases waiting times for customers as there aren’t enough customer service representatives available at any given time. And with continued issues with finding employees, things are only going to get worse.
On the flip side, by deploying a virtual banking or financial assistant that is available 24/7, clients always have customer service available. By some estimates, up to a whopping 80% of call center inquiries can be handled by a chatbot or a VBA.
Without human intervention required to deal with these inquiries, there’s less demand for staff members, which leads to saving expenses. Coupled with the closures of bank branches that are getting obsolete very quickly, the cost-cutting is very tangible and significant.
5. Give Insights
Digital banking apps can be quite advanced as competition is fierce and banks, traditional and digital, have to keep up and improve constantly.
You don’t have to use online banking or, God forbid, go to a branch to get detailed statements, summaries, and reports in pdf or excel. Simply tell the virtual assistant what you need, and it will provide it for you.
For instance, with Erica, Bank of America’s virtual financial assistant, you can get weekly updates on your spending, locate past transactions across accounts, get FICO Score Insights which notify you of important credit score changes, and more.
Erica is also connected to your Merrill investment account and can thus place trades, access quotes, track performance, or connect you to your advisor.
6. Banking Assistants Provide Answers
If there’s something chatbots and virtual banking assistants are good at, it’s providing answers. Why should a customer go through menus or have to Google information about their bank, the service it provides, or their account?
By simply asking the VBA questions about the bank (such as opening times or branch locations…), their account (routing and account numbers, balances, payment history…), or their cards (replace lost or stolen cards, check balances, and lock or unlock the debit card) the customer can get all the answers they need in a couple of seconds.
7. Notifications and Alarms
Digital banking apps are great at notifying you about all sorts of banking-related things that are happening in real-time. Virtual banking assistants are taking this even further.
If you, as a customer, opt for getting notifications by a virtual assistant, you can get a wealth of info as it is happening. Not only can it be useful to stay on top of your spending, but it’s also good from a security standpoint.
For example, you can monitor recurring charges and their increases, receive bill reminders, get alerted when merchant refunds arrive in your account, get notified of duplicate charges, and much more.
8. Update Account
Updating the information your bank has on your file is an important task that many of us neglect. Is it laziness, the fast pace of life, or simple neglect, updating our information is last on our minds at times.
The easier it is to do it, the better for the banks or credit unions and for us. Up-to-date personal information means clearer communication pathways and no delays in sending and receiving important statements, reports, notifications, etc.
9. They Can Make Transactions
We have already established that virtual financial and banking assistants can do many things for both banks and their clients. However, one of the most overlooked and most useful features is that they can make transactions.
Here’s a scenario that we can all relate to. You and your friends are in a busy restaurant, and you want to split the dinner bill. You could visit an ATM afterward and give your friend cash to cover your part of the dinner bill, or you could use Cash App to quickly transfer the money to his account (that’s if they have one).
You could also, and this is super convenient, send money through Zelle using a virtual assistant to your friend. Simply say: “Send Mark $50.”
I’m quite certain that voice commands will be the preferred way of interacting with tech products and services in the near future.
Just look at the Tesla cars. They don’t have any physical buttons. To open the glove box, you need to find the menu on the touchscreen. Far easier, quicker, and safer than doing that is to tell the car to open the glove box.
10. They Appeal to Younger People
Virtual banking assistance is one of the most requested online banking features among digital banking users, and the younger demographic especially is asking for it more than others.
According to research, 31% of Gen Z and 28% of Millennials surveyed stated that they wanted to use virtual assistants for managing money as a future component of their bank.
It’s probably because they grew up with other virtual assistants such as already mentioned Siri, Alexa, and others.
User preferences are evolving, and it’s up to banks, fintech companies, and other financial institutions to keep up with the modern needs of their increasingly digital-first customers.
11. Competition is Fierce
According to a study, nearly half of banking clients under 55 state they’d switch their bank for better digital features. That is quite alarming for traditional banks as their mobile apps aren’t as jam-packed with features as their competitors’ apps.
In order to appeal to younger demographics, banks have to keep up with their competition in terms of digital capabilities. Virtual banking assistants are at the cutting edge of technology, AI, machine earning, and customer support.
Available 24/7, 365 days a year, they don’t need breaks, vacations, or downtime. Their capabilities are also improving at an astounding rate, and more and more features are being added. Features that can woo the users to bank in one establishment over the other.
12. They Give Banks an Edge
As we already mentioned, there are many reasons why banks should develop or buy a virtual banking assistant.
Modernizing their services is one of the top priorities for traditional banks and investing in state-of-the-art technology, which VBAs are certainly a part of, will give them an edge over the competition.
Virtual banking assistants are only a marketing talking point, they are the future of banking as voice-activated assistants take over from apps and search engines.
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Oftentimes, people don’t know that they need or want something until it’s developed, it’s presented to them, and most importantly, they try it.
Virtual banking and financial assistants are on their way to becoming ubiquitous and more than capable of managing peoples’ money and even making high-value decisions.
It’s up to banks to decide whether they’ll be leaders or they will be left behind once again as the fintech revolution is well underway.
With virtual assistants, banks can manage to build or further improve their valued relationships with customers.