Chats, Chatbots and Voicebots - Arrived in Banking?

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 (Image: Pixabay CC0)
(Image: Pixabay CC0)

Questions about finances, savings accounts, or retirement planning: More and more interactions with the bank are taking place via low-threshold, digital communication channels. Almost half of customers can imagine communicating with their bank via chat or chatbot. This is shown by the Conversational Banking study conducted by the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

A research team from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts surveyed around 1,500 bank customers from Switzerland, Germany and Austria about their chat preferences with banks. The results clearly show that chats, chatbots and voicebots will become an increasingly important communication channel between banks and their customers in the future.

Chats already a matter of course for many target groups

Almost half of the customers surveyed in the DACH region can already imagine interacting with their bank via chat. This alone shows how the use of ’conversational touch points’ has increased in recent years and has become a matter of course in many target groups. ’What is interesting about such public media is that customers prefer passive communication above all. They want to be contacted by the bank,’ knows Sophie Hundertmark, author of the Conversational Banking study and chatbot expert at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

The bank’s own channels are preferred for chatting
When it comes to active communication with the bank, customers want to contact the bank primarily via the bank’s own channels ’chat on the bank website’, ’chat in mobile banking’ and ’chat in e-banking’. The ’chat in e-banking’ touchpoint is the most important in almost all target groups, apart from the 30-39 age group, where mobile banking clearly dominates. Passive communication via the bank’s own channels is also much more accepted than via the familiar public social media. This is particularly true for working men. In addition to the more ’private’ channels such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Signal or Telegram, the business-relevant chat systems of Microsoft Teams or LinkedIn also show lower acceptance. All in all, implementing chats in the bank’s own systems is the best alternative," says Hundertmark confidently. Since the fear of security gaps still strongly influences the use of chats, it is important to proactively position and promote the chat channel as a secure alternative, says the study author.

Chats especially for simple queries

The use of chat is particularly interesting for ordering missing documents, for example in the context of a tax return, she said. The results of the HSLU study also show that the respondents can very well imagine using chat to query account balances, report changes of addresses, powers of attorney or limits, and make general inquiries about e- or mobile banking. On the other hand, a cancellation of a product or a customer relationship via chat is not perceived as appropriate.

Services around the clock via chatbot

The acceptance of chatbots in banking is similar - but with important differences. Here, the chat partner is a robot, a so-called "bot". The younger the customers, the more likely they are to have already had experience with chatbots and to trust them with regard to the simplest application: the correct and fast inquiry of the account balance. But also the completion of money transfers and the ordering of missing documents or cards are a valid use case for a chatbot. The respondents can also imagine general inquiries about e- or mobile banking. 41 percent of customers can also imagine terminating their banking relationship via a chatbot. "That surprised us, because when it comes to chatting with real people, termination is a very rarely mentioned use case. So it seems that here the chatbot is clearly better accepted for terminations than a classic live chat," Hundertmark said.

Finding the right account via chat in the future

Particularly exciting for banks is the high level of approval for banking advice for basic products such as account solutions or credit cards. Around 60 percent of all respondents who can generally imagine dialogs with the bank via chat can also imagine such advice. This figure drops to 42 percent for advice on investment products and as low as 35 percent for credit products. The younger the target group and the simpler the products for which advice is needed, the higher the acceptance. 55 percent of all respondents would take out a basic banking product via chat. Forty-two percent could imagine taking out an investment product via chat, and the figure drops to 31 percent for mortgage products.

Voicebots are in their infancy

The use of voicebots for banking transactions is still in its infancy. Voicebots are bots that can be reached by phone or voice assistant and offer users the option of automated communication via spoken language. "Habituation effects play a major role in the use of such technologies," knows Nils Hafner, Professor of Customer Relationship Management at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. According to the authors of the HSLU study, it will be match-decisive for the use of voicebots that banking transactions can also be carried out while driving or doing other activities on the side. "There is a clear need for this," Hafner said. For banking, this means making access to the account and, above all, to the possibility of transferring money, also accessible via this channel.