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Far from changing banking, chatbots aren’t keeping up with call volumes in the COVID-19 era

  • More financial institutions are using chatbots to handle increased customer service loads precipitated by coronavirus.
  • But, are those chatbots really providing meaningful experiences and value?
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Far from changing banking, chatbots aren’t keeping up with call volumes in the COVID-19 era

Before the coronavirus pandemic, online small business loan provider Kabbage got a few thousand phone calls a day from customers and potential customers. Now the Atlanta-based fintech is receiving hundreds of thousands of calls a day, many of them related to government-backed small business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. At times it feels overwhelming, said its cofounder Kathryn Petralia.

“It would have been impossible to manage without automation,” she said, explaining that the majority of calls go to an interactive voice response system that can disperse some information and, ideally, direct callers to the appropriate people and departments.

Kabbage is not alone in trying to shift more of the burden of customer service from humans to machines; nor is this desire new. In 2019, chatbots saved banks an estimated $209 million in 2019, according to Juniper Research. But now, the pandemic, which has sharply increased call volumes across the financial sector, is putting the growing role of artificial intelligence in customer service to the test, as more callers are forced to rely on chatbots and digital assistants, or wait on hold for hours.

Growth and adaptation of technology that would have normally taken years has happened in just a few months as banks struggle to deal with increased volumes of queries, and quickly realized their human staffs couldn’t meet the need.

“COVID made it clear for banks that human-powered call centers are not the only answer,” said Zor Gorelov, co-founder and CEO at Kasisto, which makes KAI, a customizable and AI-powered customer service solution for banks and other financial companies.


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1 comments on “Far from changing banking, chatbots aren’t keeping up with call volumes in the COVID-19 era”

  • Covid-19 is the ultimate stress test of systems, processes and people. Digital customer service will eventually transition from resolving issues/answering questions to improving the engagement with customers. For example, we will use these technologies to improve the account opening and loan application processes in real time, not after the fact.

    On a related front to PPP loans, we’ve seen spikes in activity due to forbearance requests and mortgage refi’s. At some point, we need to take the mindset that incremental improvement is not a friend to digital transformation.

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