Insight: Banking Chatbots’ Potential in MEA

cequens chatbots banking

Review of banking chatbots’ potential in the MEA region by Cequens.

Many businesses and companies are shifting away from real-life, human interactions to automated conversational interactions via the chatbot. Presently, the chatbot market is valued at more the $250 million and it is projected to continue its rapid growth over the next decade. According to a recent research by Gartner, 25% of customer service operations will be handled without a human by 2020.

A simple Google search yields many potential use cases for the chatbot across many industries. From streamlining support communication, automating answers to the most frequently asked questions, and providing instant services –  the possibilities are endless for the bots.

The reasons for incorporating bots in conversational interactions are abundant; increasing customer engagement, improving customer experience, providing seamless 24/7 support, and reducing costs are all part of the bot perks package. A recent report by Juniper estimates a projected savings of more than $11 billion annually by 2023 for chatbot adoption in banking, retail, and healthcare sectors. To date, chatbot adoption saves an estimated $6 billion for businesses in 2018.

The Case for Bot-Powered Interactions

Customers and their needs are continuously evolving. They expect immediate service across all channels, be it using online or in store, and 24/7 support for any queries or issues. And if by any chance, a business makes a blunder here or there,  customers make use of social media platforms to air their grievances. Consequently, improving customer service and their overall experiences are imperative for businesses and institutions to flourish.

The banking sector in the Middle East is vast and is on the lookout to expand ways it reaches consumers The question though becomes, how can we fully realize the bot potential for the Middle East, specifically for the banking sector? After conducting our own market research and our many conversations with clients in the Banking sector, we have come up with the five top use cases for the banking sector in the suited to the needs of the region.

Banking ChatBots in MEA – The Sector’s Needs and Use Cases

Before we delve into the bots and their potential uses, here are five key takeaways from our many customers:

  • Directed bots: Presently,  banks prefer the use of scenario-based directed bots versus the AI-powered bots. Chatbots are unchartered territory for them and directed bots are a less riskier option for now. Going forward, there’s interest to power the bots with AI but it would be a second phase.
  • Support for different Arabic dialects: Some banks expressed interest in having bots supporting different Arabic dialects, considering that each country has its own unique dialects. It’s not uncommon for one country to have different dialects spoken, with the variations based on region or age.
  • Minimal or non-invasive integration with current infrastructure: One common request for all customers is that integration of the bots be seamless and require minimum investment on their end.
  • An informal banking channel: Most banks have invested heavily in other channels, such as Wallets and banking apps. For now, they deem any bot as an informal channel for customer banking.
  • Support non-customers or non-authentication scenarios: Some banks are exploring chatbot for only for potential customers versus their entire customer base.

Banking Chatbots’ Use Cases

  • Customer Support: As a virtual customer service agent, the bot will handle first tier customer issues and direct to a live agent if necessary. They can be used to give customer’s current account balance, account history, identify spending patterns, and to alert customers of a particular type of spending.
  • Customer Complaint Management: Several banks expressed interest in automating the handling of customer complaints. Some of the possible scenarios proposed include:
    • Requesting assistance from the bank by submitting an error code received through one of the banks’ existing banking channels. For example, a customer runs into a problem while performing an online transaction and receives an error code. The customer can then use the bot for first line support.
    • Complain follow-up. The customer can use the bot to follow up on a complaint or an inquiry submitted before. The chatbot can be integrated with CRM, for example, Microsoft Dynamics,  to pull the request details and provide its status to the customer
  • Loan Calculator and Pre-Qualifier: Bots, in this case, will take the customers through the preliminary steps of acquiring a loan, gauging their eligibility, and giving them a rough ballpark of how much they can borrow from the bank and payment plans.
  • Branch Locator: A simple “find your nearest branch” bot based on the customer’s location.
  • General Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Having a bot answer customer’s most frequently asked questions is on top of the list for almost all banks. It can include but not limited to:
    • How to pages (for example how to transfer money internationally)
    • Interest rates
    • Currency Rate
    • Branch opening hours
    • Paperwork needed to open an account

Advancement in technology, artificial intelligence, and the ubiquitous adoption of messaging apps are fueling the development and implementation of chatbots. Businesses and banks in the MEA region realize the potential of automating and streamlining customer interaction via the bots. With governments across the region backing the digitization charge with initiatives, such as UAE, Egypt, and KSA,  it’s only a matter before bots become mainstream and part of our everyday life.