chat bubble
PHOTO: Volodymyr Hryshchenko

Banks have been early adopters of innovation for years, and the way we communicate with them has dramatically evolved in turn. Yet there’s one technology noticeably absent from my interactions with financial services companies — and it’s arguably one of the most important and highest-volume channels: voice.

While text-based interactions have become the norm in daily life, voice remains important for brand-customer engagement. In fact, 67% of millennials and Gen Zers use voice-activated personal assistants to connect with companies. People speak three times faster than they type, making voice a more natural form of communication than text. Consumers seek consistent, fast and personalized experiences, and voice technology is uniquely suited to meet these needs with hands-free access and without lengthy hold times, all while preserving the personal touch of conversational interactions.

I believe the financial services industry has reached an inflection point, where companies that prioritize effective voice communications will surpass customer expectations, while those that ignore voice will fall far behind. As we look towards a more automated future, here’s why the financial services industry should embrace voice in their customer communication strategy:

Voice Technology Is Now Equipped to Support Financial Services

Historically, voice has been difficult to implement in banking due to the complexity of transactions and inquiries, often layered with personally identifiable information (PII) and payment card information (PCI) data and compliance regulations. Traditional solutions, like pre-programmed Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, failed to provide the level of sophistication necessary to carry on the nuanced conversations of the space. If you called your bank to ask about your credit score, for example, an IVR would simply direct you to a wait line, rather than move the conversation forward.

Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled voice technology — natural language processing (NLP), voice biometrics and others — offer fast, consistent and far more engaging interactions than what a traditional chatbot has to offer. Today’s AI-powered voice technology can accurately mimic human voice and intonation, understand speech patterns and make data-driven decisions in real-time to provide customers with efficient, enjoyable and tailored experiences — all while comprehending the complexities of financial transactions. What’s more, AI-powered voice technology actually provides an additional layer of security for banks by verifying customers through voice recognition.

Related Article: A Good Chatbot Is Hard to Find

Customer Call Center Agents Need Support

Call center agents don’t have an easy job, and agents in financial services face a unique set of challenges, from handling sensitive personal information to meeting compliance regulations. Meanwhile, emotions tend to run high when customers must address difficult financial issues, such as debt or banking mishaps — a scenario all the more common in today’s economic crisis.

Customers are seeking support and guidance from financial institutions at unprecedented scale today. While some are looking to better manage their stimulus checks, others are taking advantage of loan rates to make larger purchases, like new cars or homes. With record call volumes, customer service agents face pressure to keep up with the pace, while maintaining numbers — in short, a recipe for burnout. AI-powered voice technology can help agents better manage call volume, all while arming them with customer insights and freeing up time to provide higher quality service.

Related Article: Transforming the Service Desk: Adding AI to the Team

Voice Paves the Way for True Digital Transformation

While text-based solutions, such as chatbots, have served as a benchmark for digital transformation, they’re only one component of a broader digital customer experience (CX) strategy. They may offer the convenience that consumers seek today, but voice is a more seamless alternative, removing the need to type out inquiries.

Further, by investing in voice communications, businesses will actually accelerate their digital transformation. Why? Chatbots and similar solutions are limited in terms of utility because they don’t have the ability to expand to additional platforms. Voice, on the other hand, can open the door to transition to additional channels later in a conversation and ultimately, pave the way for more consistent digital CX on the winding road to financial care.

While banks have long been early adopters of innovation, now more than ever, it’s time to bridge the gap between what current digital assets provide and what customers have come to expect. AI-powered voice technology could usher the industry into a new era of customer engagement — one that could offer financial firms newfound efficiency and deeper customer relations.

Related Article: The Future Is Multimodal: Why Voice Alone Will Never Be the Answer