Why Omni-Channel Makes Multichannel Look So 2016

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Consumer expectations for their banking are quickly evolving from siloed multichannel experiences to deeply personalized omnichannel experiences.

In retail that happened some time ago — for example, consumers not only expect to be able to shop in person or online, they expect to be able to view merchandise in stores and purchase it online (or purchase it online and pick it up in stores) and return it, if necessary, through whichever channel is most convenient for them and no matter  whether they’re contacting the retailer by phone, web, or mobile. Consumers’  expectation is that their experience will be consistent and informed, no matter which channel they interact on, and they expect to be able to move smoothly and easily between channels. Companies, therefore, must support all this channel traversing while never losing sight of who the customer is – well beyond a unique ID, and more importantly, their preferences, history, and more.

Banks implementing Conversational AI to power virtual assistants and chatbots to engage with their customers should take notice of this omnichannel expectation. It’s a paramount consideration that serves two complementary goals: 1) achieving business goals by saving time and money through efficiencies; 2) designing customer experiences that increase brand loyalty through consistent, personalized engagements.

Here are five things your Conversational AI platform must support to create the omnichannel experience consumers expect:

Extensible and Scalable Architecture: Two years ago, who’d have expected consumers would be able to bank by voice with a speaker in their kitchen, or that they’d rely on WhatsApp as a channel for banking? Probably the same visionary who realized ten years ago that the mobile phone would evolve to enable banking, and that the rising generation would be comfortable managing their finances on a small hand-held device. As a bank, it’s critical that you choose a Conversational AI platform that not only supports your current channels such as websites and mobile apps (and also the third-party channels your customers want to use), but one that can also expand to other channels consumers will want to use in the future – including channels we’re not even aware of yet. Banking in self-driving cars, of course!

With your virtual assistant working within a blend of bank channels and on third-party services, you also need a platform that is “opti-channel,” meaning your Conversational AI platform knows each channel’s strengths and limitations and will optimize the experience for it. For example, Alexa, should not read my last 15 transactions out loud to me. Instead, she’ll send them to the virtual assistant in my mobile bank app.

Central Data Repository Although the user experience varies across channels, often the underlying data required to understand the consumer through great Natural Language Processing and keep the conversation on track through Dialog Management is similar. When the data is managed in a centralized Conversation Management System (CMS) and AI training tools, it can be leveraged to improve the experience across existing channels as well as to bootstrap new ones. Data that is siloed in one channel cannot be used in other channels and is a missed opportunity, both in efficiency and experience – one of the big shortcomings of a multi-channel implementation. Only platforms that manage data centrally will be able to leverage the data and learnings across channels. Sometimes, banks experiment with an emerging channel such as Facebook Messenger, Amazon Alexa or Google Home, and use the channel’s tools to create their virtual assistant. When that happens, all of those learnings are trapped in the channel and any learning or investment in data collection and training cannot be leveraged in other channels, such as the website or mobile app.

Consistent Customer Experiences: Customers not only expect to move from one channel to another smoothly; they expect consistent answers and experiences across different touch points when they do. Managing the experience through one Conversational AI platform allows you to offer a consistent user experience across the different channels. The Conversational AI platform should be able to create a consistent and personalized experience at the individual customer level as well as channel and cohort segments. For example, the solution should deliver a personalized experience for all Platinum customers in the mobile app that’s consistent with the website as well as messaging platforms and voice-enabled devices.

Frictionless Customer Journeys: One often overlooked advantage of a single, omnichannel platform is the ability to offer sophisticated customer journeys that include handovers between channels. For example, if a customer asks for a reminder to pay their taxes, they can set the alert on Alexa, but get reminded and make the payment on their bank’s app. With more and more consumers managing their finances on the go, the ability to ensure smooth handovers that meet them where they are at the moment will be a significant driver of brand loyalty.

Risk and Compliance Ready: It goes without saying that you’ll need a platform that meets your risk, compliance and regulatory standards and procedures. Using a single platform simplifies approval processes since your bank can avoid the time and resources required to validate and approve the conversational experiences in each individual platform. Also, once the platform is approved, content that is already approved for one channel could be easily used on another channel without the need for additional approvals.

Every bank already offers a multichannel customer experience, but the smartest ones are readying themselves to provide the omnichannel experience that consumers increasingly expect. Make sure you choose a Conversational AI platform that offers tools and APIs that leverage your investment, allowing you to deploy across channels and manage the content and data in a centralized and extensible way. A platform that supports this will deliver huge operational efficiencies for your business, the consistency and frictionless experience your customers expect and will be able to grow with you both over time.

Dror Oren, Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder at Kasisto