This article originally appeared on LinkedIn, which you can read here.
As a concept, artificial intelligence (AI) is nothing new. In its simpler forms, companies have used AI for decades in the form of early computers and other “smart” machines. In recent years, however, several coinciding factors have contributed to the use of AI in customer service roles, mainly in the form of chatbots. As it relates to financial services, there are significant benefits that firms of any size can gain from implementing AI solutions in prospect and client communication and service. In particular, RIAs and financial advisory firms can benefit from using this technology to make it easier for client service associates to focus on “high-value” tasks.
What Are Chatbots?
Chatbots are a form of AI that people interact with via text. Without getting too deep into the technical details, chatbots work like this: when you ask a question or send a response to a chatbot, it turns those words into contextual data, which triggers the correct bot response from an evolving database of answers that are driven by both pre-defined statement/logic as well as answers that the bot has “learned.” This allows customers and clients spanning across different industries to get a more personal experience without having to speak to an actual representative. This frees up employees at smaller businesses to handle their jobs without having to constantly answer basic questions from customers. This means customer and client services professionals can offer personal service and access to information around-the-clock while keeping person-to-person interactions on their own schedules.
How Do Chatbots Work?
Go to the website of nearly any service business, and you’re likely to get an automatic greeting from a chatbot. For many companies, relatively simple AI serves as the equivalent of an interactive directory for new customer prospecting and qualification. Let’s take a insurance business as an example. You want to add an insurance policy to your expanding business business, so you start to compare quotes. You navigate to the homepage of a insurance provider, and immediately, a chatbot greets you. You can ask basic questions about the available policies, and when you want to set up a consultation, the chatbot takes your name and basic information and set you up with an appointment. This makes the qualification a hands-off process for a company, allowing skilled workers to spend less time doing administrative tasks and focusing on the nuanced needs of prospective clients.
Explaining the Rise of Chatbots
First, bots and AI in general have advanced a lot over the years. In the 1950s, computer scientists developed a bot that could hold its own with humans in a game of checkers. In 2017, a bot designed to play poker against some of the best in the world made quick work of professional poker players. This shows how the sophistication level of AI has grown to encompass more responsibilities, and this extends to the chatbots we see almost everywhere today. Second, the past few decades have seen the rise of smaller startups attempting to accomplish the same things as big firms. Small businesses use chatbots to handle many of the less important on-boarding tasks for clients so that customer service reps can focus on more complicated responsibilities. Given the tremendous opportunity from a productivity and sales prospective, there has been a lot of investment in the space in the last few years.
How Can RIAs Use Chatbots?
In the daily routines of financial services businesses, including RIAs and financial advisory firms, financial advisors and their assistants/client service associates spend big chunks of time communicating with clients. This is only natural as most people have lots of questions about their money and managing wealth with various methods. As a result, much of the day-to-day business of advisory firms involves answering clients’ questions and concerns. In the 21st-century, clients often demand constant access to financial advice, which most firms can’t provide. It’s not realistic to expect a team to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks a year. However, giving clients access to an intelligent AI that can provide the basic information they seek is realistic. These two reasons explain why financial advisory businesses might want to learn more about chatbots:
- It’s likely that whoever handles client-facing communication at your firm fields numerous questions from clients and prospective clients. An AI that helps lessen the load by handling mundane questions and helping with account serving tasks like accessing account statements can free up time. This gives client service associates more time to handle more nuanced daily responsibilities, which in turn helps better equip your company to serve your clients.
- The financial advisory sector demands more sophisticated AI than ever before. The new breed of chatbots listens to client concerns and gives them around-the-clock support and intelligent access to their account status that human capital simply can’t achieve.
What Do We Mean by the “New Breed”?
As you read this, some of the world’s largest financial services companies are rolling out advanced chatbots for trial runs for the exact purposes that we’re discussing here.
- In May 2017, Wells Fargo tested a chatbot for six months using Facebook Messenger.
- Bank of America launched its own chatbot, Erica, earlier this year
More and more companies in the financial services and financial advising sector are looking into using chatbots because well-built chatbots offer clear benefits. Building your own chatbot can be very expensive and complicated. Most of the innovation within financial services has been driven by large firms with extensive R&D budgets; however, GuideVine has built a scalable and affordable solution for RIAs of any size. The benefits are clear, a chatbot can make your company seem like a more comprehensive solution to a client’s 24/7 demands and boost the efficiency of your client services associates by taking over basic transactional work and leaving them to handle more important parts of the job.