Simon Julian

General Manager at SitePoint, passion for StartUp, smb business and growth

6:59 PM, 10th Mar 2018

Chatbots in Finance: The revolution is now

The "always-on" communication mode of Chatbots is taking the Fintech space by storm, here's how... 

If you're like most people who have interacted with them at one time or another, you probably have some interesting (and possibly not very positive!) views on chatbots in finance. At their most annoying they're a net-negative user experience that gets in the way of everything you're trying to do when you’re visiting a website. Their primary usage until recently was in customer-service applications, whereby they'd try to answer simple questions or point you in the right direction. 

Guess what - that net-negative is changing rapidly to a net-positive as the technology improves and fintech organisations get better at utilising data to make their chatbots more effective. 

The usage of chatbots in finance is exploding at the moment - a non-comprehensive list of their many uses in the fintech space can be found at Techfoliance - it's a nicely varied list that provides an overview of the types of things being done currently. 

So what are Chatbots anyway? 

Chatbots are software used to (ideally seamlessly) recreate or mimic conversations with humans. In their early iterations the idea was to provide what was an alternative to search - providing conversational signposts to products and services for users based on their queries. 

Nice, and there are a lot of case studies around for chatbots lowering customer service costs and ensuring efficiency in service levels - but that isn't the real value. The real value has been in their ability to learn and grow (the AI bit!) - the more conversations a chatbot has the more it can learn (and get better at the tasks it has been given), meaning an upwards curve of positive user experience outcomes and ideally more user engagement. 

In finance, a lot of the applications of chatbots involve tying in or rationalising different financial services to benefit the user, either via savings or financial advisory services (or both) - other uses can be looking for ways to save money via coupons, pointing to particular products and services based on spending habits or need etc. 

So how would you go about using them if you were spooling up a start-up in the fintech space (or you have a business that provides or could provide online advice or recommendations to users - think brokers of all types, financial management services)? 

1. Lead qualification 

In Fintech (and finance generally) leads are gold - good leads are platinum (or something else equally more valuable than gold...probably would have said Bitcoin up until recently)! 

If you're running a broking or financial services business leads can be hard to find and qualification can be even harder given the sheer volume of products and services that might be on hand. Finding the right fit and ensuring that the prospect is interested in what you are selling is key (and time consuming!) 

A chatbot built for this purpose is both a time-saver and ideally allows for both qualification and thinning out of potential customers who are unlikely to move forward with whatever product or service is being offered. And on qualification, the bot can be set up to send the prospect into the sales flow, fully qualified and ready to be engaged further by sales or marketing resources. 

2. Speedy, easy payments 

Facebook has begun accepting payments through Messenger bots - so has Paypal via slack bots (sorry, very technical link!) - and for anyone using Telegram, they're doing it as well. 

Chatbot in finance as payment as tool is an obvious extension and one that more and more fintech institutions and providers will get on board with. 

3. Get a better view 

One of the most important things that any business can do is understand its buyers (and potential buyers). For this, chatbots are amazing - they are well set up to gather insight and data on what customers and potential customers are looking at, what their patterns are and what they like (and dislike!) - and their ability to learn can provide valuable follow-on insights. 

Think of it a continuous customer survey - the types of questions that people ask, their follow on questions and the answers that they provide are all rich sources of product and behavioural data that the business can use to continuously hone the offering. If there is a human sales team behind this, then they go into a conversation with (as discussed above) a qualified lead and a pretty good idea of where a conversation is likely to head before they begin it. 

Other outputs here are a marketers dream - product marketing materials that address key customer concerns, segmented user databases that provide valuable insights that can be re-drawn as marketing actions and many other applications. 

And ultimately... 

4. Sell or sell more (ideally of the correct) products & services 

Above I've called out some areas of fintech and financial services such as broking, SME financial services firms etc. Ultimately these business are fast-paced, high stress and sales oriented (and in many cases one person bands) - time poor and (even for the larger ones) not necessarily able to focus on either customer service or customer insights. This is where a chatbot can assist greatly, for all of the reasons outlined above. 

Being tech, the bot helps turn businesses into 24/7 operations, with the ability to be 'always on' whenever customer or potential customer needs - in fintech they also allow for users to interrogate product sets and to self-select the products and services that are right for them, allowing again for saving time through both ensuring lead quality and also creating better quality conversations - leading to better quality sales. 


Most of the above has been very B2C focused, however worth noting that the B2B applications of chatbots in finance are equally valid and equally exciting - there is a huge space opening up for self-service, self-selection and self management in fintech relationships through smart AI, and we're only just getting started.
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