Celent has been tracking the evolution of retail and business banking delivery channel technology since 2010 through biennial surveys of North American financial institutions supplemented by telephone interviews. Our latest closed in January 2019. Here’s a link to the report synopsis. Viewing the full synopsis requires website registration. Go ahead, it’s free.
Some of the research insights were no surprise whatsoever, such as evidence for the continued priority being given to mobile banking channel capability. Nearly every one of the 160 respondents cited mobile as their institution’s top retail and business banking technology priority.
A few things did surprise me. One was the low level of reported chatbot utilization. Just 7% of institutions (both banks and credit unions across the asset tiers) run a live chatbot online, and only 15% have plans to do so. In mobile, things are worse. Just 2% run one, and another 15% have plans to do so. Most surveyed North American banks and credit unions have no plans for a chatbot. Even fewer assert plans for a virtual assistant.
Here is reported mobile chatbot adoption broken out by asset tier.
What gives? With the incessant hype over the topic and bevy of solution providers, why aren’t banks falling over themselves to stand up a chatbot?
Notwithstanding my zeal for financial services technology, I’m delighted banks aren’t.
While bots can provide value to both banks and customers, early-mover experience suggests that bots have the potential to do more harm than good to the CX — unless implemented exceptionally well. And for many smaller institutions, the promised cost savings simply aren’t compelling. Said simply, banks have more important things to pay attention to in the near term — like their customers! More banks need to think like Umpqua Bank and learn how to be personal on digital, not simply using digital to lower cost to serve.
Yes, I know chatbots promise a great CX, and we all know how important that is. But, for most banks, developing an in-house center of excellence on AI-powered customer engagement should not be their top priority. Implementing live chat extremely well is likely a better approach in the near term. When they are ready for a chatbot, technology will be improved, best practices will be solidified, and price points will be lower.