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AI-powered messaging can help customers through COVID-19

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Some banks were well prepared to support the rapidly changing work environment forced by COVID-19. They had significant digital and self-serve capabilities already in place, as well as some forethought or experience in enabling contact center employees to work remotely. Others were caught off guard or impaired by a geographic footprint that turned out to be vulnerable.

AI-powered messaging, which automates simple customer interactions, has been instrumental in helping brands adapt to the rapidly changing business environment. Here are three key strategies for banks to help customers through these challenging times with AI-powered messaging:

1. Plan for the remote customer communications future. Banks are struggling with a patchwork of staffing solutions to keep up with their obligations to customers. These include partial branch and contact center closures, shifting customer service staff to temporary locations that allow proper social distancing, and work from home (WFH) for voice and messaging agents. While many contact centers will likely reopen in the coming months, they will not look like they used to. There will be requirements to create distance between agents that directly conflicts with prior strategies of cramming as many into the same physical space as possible.

An alternative to reopening contact centers is to enable permanent work from home. The practicality of this option has been tested for several years now. Voice WFH is possible, but it’s not as efficient as the messaging alternative now available today. Messaging agents can manage five conversations at once, compared to the one-on-one nature of phone calls. They are more satisfied in their jobs as well, which will help companies keep up with the pandemic’s short-staffing challenges. Finally, messaging is much easier to quality-control remotely relative to voice, as it leaves behind a written record for customers, agents and their managers to review.

2. Start a conversation with your customers in at least one new (digital) place. Every bank’s ideal place to implement AI-powered messaging will be different based on available tech resources, security requirements and the profile of their customer base. Options include web-based or app-based messaging, WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, and Google Business Messages. These kinds of endpoints can be launched in a few weeks or less, even taking into consideration a bank’s much greater regulatory concerns. Crucially, these endpoints are also where customers message their family and friends. They’re familiar with them and prefer them to phone calls.

Once deployed, promoting the existence of these customer lifelines is vital. Use website, in-app, and email communications to let your customers know that these new and better channels are now available to them. Make things a little easier for them by linking them directly to the messaging channel you’ve opened and consider updating your IVR greetings to let them know they can press a button to transition directly into a messaging conversation. Many customers will detour to the faster messaging experience, particularly as COVID-19 lengthens voice queues.

3. Begin with low-hanging fruit automation options. There are many forms of automation available in messaging – from a simple greeter bot to complex, machine learning-enabled and back-end integrated bots. If you aren’t well down the automation path already, don’t jump straight into the deep end. Rather, think about minimum viable product (MVP) messaging automation solutions that can help you create meaningful impact within the calendar year. As a simple benchmark, we’ve seen basic FAQ bots contain 20 percent of conversations — with customer satisfaction scores higher than their human agent counterparts — fully deployed in one month.

For quick results, consider basic greeter bots that let customers know their place in the queue is set, FAQ bots that answer common questions around COVID-19, and remaining queue time bots that let customers know when they can expect to be messaged back. By stacking each of these bot solutions incrementally, banks can contain up to 40 percent of contacts and take a significant weight off their reduced workforce’s shoulders.

In the space of a few weeks, banks worldwide have generated broadcast communications that all share the same basic message: “We will be there for you in these uncertain times.” By smartly and rapidly deploying AI-powered messaging, you can work to live up to this promise for your customers and help your business come out stronger.


John Kelly is area vice president, financial services, at LivePerson.


Join us for “The ROI of AI in Banking: Winning Insights for a Post-COVID World,” a complimentary BAI webinar on Thursday, June 18, featuring Daniel Faggella of Emerj Artificial Intelligence Research, to learn about AI’s impact and critical trends that financial services leaders need to leverage for a competitive advantage.