Artificial Intelligence, Member Exclusive

A deeper look into what makes a successful chatbot with Bank of America’s Erica

  • Erica reported 19.5 million users, over 100 million interactions and 90% efficacy for useful answers.
  • BofA’s Hari Gopalkrishnan says that the key to Erica’s success is a balance of personality and functionality.
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A deeper look into what makes a successful chatbot with Bank of America’s Erica

During the pandemic, customers migrated online and banks shuttered their branches — quite a few closed permanently. Simultaneously, banks enhanced and expanded their digital and remote services to better serve their customers. Most in the industry expect the digital migration to continue into the future. An Accenture study found that 72% of banks expect human-chat interactions to increase in the next few years.

Banks are looking to bolster existing digital channels like chat as the move to digital continues. While the primary purpose of a chatbot is to help customers meet their banking needs, chatbot personality can inspire trust and faith in banks. In lieu of human connections, chatbots can offer the next best thing.

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Bank of America’s chatbot, Erica, suggests that AI chatbots can offer more than resolving simple bank tasks. Launched in late 2018, Erica had 6.3 million users and 16.5 million interactions by early 2019. When the pandemic hit the U.S., BofA updated Erica to process more than 60,000 phrases and questions related to COVID-19, according to voicebot.ai. One year later, Erica reported 19.5 million users and over 100 million interactions and recorded 90% efficacy for useful answers from users. 

Hari Gopalkrishnan, managing director for client facing platforms technology for Bank of America, says the key to developing Erica was to understand how machines understand banking. Once BofA established the chatbot’s basic ability to function as a digital channel that can answer customer questions, the next step was to make Erica personable in a way that the chatbot guides customers through a conversation, like a teller or a call center agent would. Gopalkrishnan says that these two factors help Erica be more than just a transaction center.

“We want our customers to feel that we are there for them through their lifetime, financially there for them, watching their finances, and helping them navigate through all the things that life has to offer,” says Gopalkrishnan.


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