I found this Technology Review article on the BBVA’s Lola virtual assistant for bank customer service very thought provoking. Please note particularly:
“The research group that invented Siri, the virtual assistant built into Apple’s iPhone, has built her a smarter relative that could help banks cut staffing costs. Known as Lola, the new assistant can carry on more complex conversations than Siri and help with tasks that involve multiple back-and-forth steps with customers, such as opening a bank account.
Lola is going to be tested as a feature in the website of BBVA Compass, the U.S. subsidiary of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, the second-largest bank in Spain. The assistant appears as a small chat window at the side of the site. Users can type questions to Lola or speak to her via their computer’s microphone.
When asked “What’s the next payment on my loan?” Lola types or speaks back, and she can handle unexpected statements that have meaning only in context, such as “Sorry, meant my mortgage.”
BBVA is introducing this technology in response to a dilemma. Much of a bank’s costs are tied up in answering customers’ questions—in BBVA’s case, it’s about 65 percent of the time spent by branch staffers. But trying to lighten the load with automated services like telephone menus can backfire. BBVA’s own research has found that people judge a bank mostly by its customer service.
How can customer service costs be slashed without annoying customers? Beatriz Lara, director of innovation at BBVA, says a global review found that customers responded best to interactions that in their view had a “human” touch, whether they took place online, in a branch, over the phone, or at an ATM. “It provides reassurance and encourages trust,” she says.”
“BBVA’s automated assistant, expected to enter beta testing this year, is named after the bank’s top-rated customer service agent, who inspired the way the virtual Lola phrases responses and questions.”
Can Lola improve customer service? Can Lola reduce customer service costs without annoying customers? Is Lola [a major part of] the future of customer service?