Winning capabilities: Making a success of voice assistants in financial services

By Antti Niku, Senior Manager, Digital Transformation, PwC  

In previous blogs, I’ve looked at why voice assistants are set to replace mobile touchscreens as the prime user interface within financial services (FS) and how this could transform the customer relationship model within the industry. So, what capabilities does your business need to make a success of the voice revolution?

“Hey assistant, when is my car insurance renewal due?” “Any better deals?” “No. OK then pay it.”

To respond effectively to these typical requests, your voice assistant needs to understand what you’re saying and what you want to achieve. If it can’t understand your accent or becomes confused as the conversation flows, you’ll quickly get frustrated and go back to the branch, the mobile or whatever else you were using before. 

Meeting these expectations demands two core capabilities:

1. Voice understanding – the front-end 

Voice assistants need to be able to support natural, seamlessly flowing conversation. This is what we call ‘conversational experience’

2. The ability to gets things done – the back-end

The voice assistant needs to be able to get the job done, whether it’s handling financial transactions or getting a particular piece of advice. This is called ‘financial intelligence and automation’. 
 

Start simple and build from there 

So, where are FS organisations now and where do they want to be? The typical starting point is a few simple interactions using a small number of data sources to support this. The initial experimental services might be daily briefings, which require very little conversational interaction with the customer and limited access to back-end systems. As you increase your proficiency in voice recognition, natural language understanding and handling of increasingly complex conversational flows, you can start to master the voice experience. The ultimate objective is being about to proactively discern what customers might want from the accumulation of data, interaction and machine learning and using this to trigger conversations and offer unexpected insights and recommendations (‘contextual insight’).

Progressive objectives

 

The other dimension of getting the job done requires increasingly automated workflows in the back-end. As an example, we helped an Italian FS organisation to build a voice assistant for handling customer service requests for lost or stolen credit cards. In addition to accurately understanding the meanings behind phrases like “my blue credit card is lost”, we built a robotics process automation-based solution in the back-end to de-activate the cards.

Back-end automation also needs to be supported by advanced data analytics to provide predictions, recommendations and contextual insights to conversations. The key to differentiation is a combination of great conversational experience and the ability to provide intelligent advice for customers. Potential examples include investment advice or assessing different mortgage options.
 

Roadmap to maturity

While most FS organisations are still at the early stages of the maturity scale, their ambitions are high and we could see some ‘advanced’ and even ‘champion’ businesses emerging before long. Developing capabilities and increasing maturity in voice requires systematic development across multiple dimensions such as technology architecture, data management, process automation, personnel skills, conversational experience design and organisational structures.

Maturity scale

So how can your business accelerate development and realise the full potential of a compelling voice experience? 

1. Clarify your voice strategy 

Voice is a strategic imperative with major opportunities but also potential risks such as losing the customer relationship within emerging ecosystems. It’s therefore important to align the impact of voice assistants with your company’s strategy, make conscious choices on voice assistant service priorities and clarify how you aim to win in the market.

2. Develop a use case catalogue and a capability roadmap in voice

Identify the use cases where voice makes sense and provides most value. Having a deep insight on customers, their needs as well as understanding applicability of voice are needed to develop a prioritised list of voice-enabled use cases. This should be accompanied by a clear roadmap for the key voice-related capabilities. 

3. Start now

Technologies and the capabilities needed to make the most of them are still developing. But you shouldn’t wait until this is all mature. Rather, it’s important to experiment and iteratively build high priority voice use cases and capabilities. 

4. Be patient

User experience might be awkward at first, but with continuous training of the machine learning algorithms and conversational flows, the voice assistants will become increasingly proficient over time. From a development perspective this will require much more patience than a typical new service development, but the payoff will also be significant.
 

Transformational opportunity

Far from being just another channel, voice is an opportunity to embed your business in your customers’ lives and serve their individual needs in ways that have never been possible before. The businesses that are set to reap the dividends – from both within FS and entrants from outside – already have clear objectives, a roadmap for delivery and an agile culture of discover, test and develop. Slower movers risk losing relationships and competitive relevance in a market where voice experience defines the overall customer experience.
 


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Antti Niku

Senior Manager, Digital Transformation, PwC Finland

Tel: +358 (0)20 787 7512

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