For most people, having a bank account is second nature. It facilitates so many of the things we do every day, even if we don’t actually go into a physical branch. A lot of people won’t even buy coffee without using a bank card or app nowadays.
But that’s not everyone’s reality. In fact, there are 1.3 million people in the UK who don’t have a bank account, and in Eastern Europe, a third (33 per cent) of people are unbanked. These people won’t earn interest on any savings and will find it harder to receive wages, pensions, and government benefits.
In addition to the unbanked, there’s another group who are underbanked—those who don’t have access to a full range of banking services. Meanwhile, a third set are the uninformed—those who aren’t getting the most out of banking and financial services, often because they are unaware of what’s available to them.
A growing digital presence
However, new rules from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority will now make it easier for customers to get in touch with their bank to find out about products and services. This will benefit all users, no matter where they are in their journey. However, it will also force banks to make sure their customer experience (CX) is up to the task.
Encouragingly, there are a growing number of digital tools, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), coming to the market that can help banks to meet this challenge. Not just that, AI can also engage new customers or offer new products to existing customers that will benefit them.
All of this is important because people need to take better care of their money as they have less of it at the moment. Banks need to be fit for purpose as a result. We’re in a cost-of-living crisis where high prices are affecting everyone. And it’s not just today where people are facing money issues. In high income countries, only 53 per cent of people are saving for old age. Even those who do want to think about their financial future are bamboozled by the wealth of information out there regarding investing.
The default for many people when it comes to getting help with their money is their local bank branch. But with so many high-street branches closing, this isn’t as easy as it used to be. So, where now for those looking for advice?
A smarter route to personalised service
The financial services industry is in a time of great change—and greater opportunity. The pandemic was the springboard that a lot of people needed to try digital payments for the first time. Banks can speak directly to this audience, who are just getting started, and offer them new ways of managing their money.
What we’re seeing take place is technology, particularly AI, enabling the democratisation of financial services. Everyone should have a right to help with their finances and now, even those who previously felt left out can access the services and support they need. Two of the most common reasons some people remain unbanked is that they feel they don’t have enough money, or they live too far from a bank. Now, people can instantly access tools to learn how to make the most of their money, and they can do so at their most accessible branch—the one in their pocket.
There are two ways in which AI can boost engagement between banks and customers. Firstly, AI’s ability to automate repetitive tasks frees up service agents to offer more tailored support to the customers who need it most.
This point matters because even in the age of technology advancements, people still value human interaction when the situation requires it. We can see an example of this by taking a look at the Ukraine-based Sense Bank. The bank noticed the extent to which its customers love personal connection and so it made sure every conversation felt seamless and natural. By doing this, along with incorporating better omnichannel integration and a help centre, Sense Bank reached a customer satisfaction score of 96 per cent.
The second way AI can bring banks and customers closer together is by serving up prompts to service agents about the customer they’re speaking to in real time. This can help to give personalised recommendations based on a person’s situation. For instance, someone who already has a current account and could benefit from a savings account that best suits their needs, could have that new product suggested to them.
AI can also help to surface the right information at the right time, and generate tailor-made scripts or prompts that can help businesses to drive growth and offer customers better service at the same time.
Gain trust and win over customers
This all sounds great, but it doesn’t mean everyone will take to using AI straightaway and for every application. Trust in new technologies doesn’t happen overnight—especially for banking newcomers. In fact, regardless of the customer’s tenure, the financial services industry has to work harder than most to gain trust.
Gaining trust requires privacy, security, and compliance to be embedded into every AI tool, right from the beginning. Specifically, there’s a need to anonymise the training data, restrict the use of live chat data; respect data locality; provide opt-outs for customers; and reduce the risk of bias by having a diverse set of developers working on the project.
Whether a customer is a seasoned pro when it comes to banking or just getting their very first introduction, everyone appreciates great customer service. AI can help provide that by equipping service agents with efficient workflows and real-time insights, so that every customer feels special, unique, and listened to. What’s more, because AI can also help financial firms to grow their business by matching customers with additional services that might help them, it’s a win-win.