Self-service is the future of banking … but unlike you’ve ever seen it. Increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence is leading to a new standard of client care – for the clients of today and tomorrow.

By: Christina Pieterse, Nedbank Executive: Channel Strategy and Innovation Delivery.

Self-service is the future of banking … but unlike you’ve ever seen it. Increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence is leading to a new standard of client care – for the clients of today and tomorrow.

Innovation is not a destination, but rather a state of mind. Banks are in a constant battle to identify new ways, often enabled by technology, to service their clients better.

One of the most exciting current frontiers is artificial intelligence (AI). It’s no exaggeration to say that the growing sophistication of AI is generating a fresh wave of innovation that has the capability to change the face of banking profoundly – and improve client experience radically.

In particular, AI holds the promise of making the digital experience more intelligent. The early generations of bots were very simple, but they are rapidly improving as AI develops. Consider, for example, Open AI’s ChatGPT programme, which is creating huge excitement in the tech world and beyond. ChatGPT uses deep learning to interact conversationally with humans – it learns what we want and is constantly refining its ability. Though it’s still in its testing phase, the internet is rife with examples of how intelligently it already responds to complex questions and instructions – an indication of what is to come.

Already, a new generation of digital assistants is taking client service to new levels. A great example is Enbi, Nedbank’s chatbot assistant, which was launched more than a year ago. Enbi can help Nedbank clients get quick answers to everyday banking questions and avoid travelling to branches or waiting in long queues for answers to simple questions.

A good example is changing your withdrawal or transfer limits. While the facility to make the change is available on the Money app, clients find it much easier to simply tell Enbi, ‘I want to change my profile limits’. The bot takes the customer directly to the appropriate settings in the Money app where they can update their limits.

Enbi can respond to instructions in the local slang; for example, instructions like ‘send imali’ and many other examples of South African lingo are already recognised instantly.

Of course, as these digital assistants become more intuitive and can follow instructions, security becomes even more important. None of this can happen until the client is logged in and authenticated.

Where it’s going.

The motivation behind increasingly intelligent digital assistants is to provide a seamless banking experience where clients do less and less. The idea is to give our clients the option to tell the digital assistant to follow certain instructions.

However, one should never forget that the ultimate aim of these digital capabilities is to satisfy the client. In practice, it means making it easier for the client to get human help when it’s needed. Enbi can already predict what factors would cause stress for a client, and when it observes these factors, it will automatically route the interaction to a human agent. Enbi also has a ‘Chat to agent’ button, so clients can call a human agent if the need to.

What about predictive banking?

As AI develops and becomes better, clients can expect their banking experience to become increasingly intuitive and seamless. Behind the scenes, machine learning is being supplemented by human specialists who analyse responses to ensure that they do solve customer queries.

Examples include a warning notification when a client deviates from their usual spending patterns, or suggestions for banking products that better meet their needs.

It’s early days, but we’ve already made great headway. Within a year of launching, Nedbank’s Enbi had more than halved the number of live agent chats. In 2022, Enbi facilitated almost 1,4 million sessions while there was a reduction in live agent chats of just under 60%, freeing up the human agents to deal with more complex queries, and reducing waiting times for clients. The learning process is continual, so clients can expect their banking experience to keep improving.