How conversational AI improves the digital banking experience

By and Bob van Groningen | 2 minute read | July 6, 2021

woman on phone

At ABN AMRO Bank, we aim to be a personal bank in the digital age. Our approach to customer engagement is “digital first” while offering easy access to personalized services and live advisors.

This synthesis of the digital and human can be seen from how a conversational AI assistant helped transform our customer service. Assisted by IBM Services, we developed a virtual agent called Anna that is the first line of digital contact for retail and commercial banking customers.

The virtual agent applies IBM Watson natural language processing and intelligent search to understand the customer’s need in that moment. Then, it automatically responds to routine queries and passes more complex requests to the right expert.

In a sense, Anna serves as the matchmaker between the customer and ABN AMRO advisors, helping them provide fast, custom service.

A virtual agent that connects with customers

No wonder Anna has become so popular. Each year, it handles around 500,000 interactions with a high degree of accuracy and a winning personality. In fact, one customer, after being transferred to a live agent, quipped, “Hey, where’s Anna? We had a great conversation, I want her back!”

ABN AMRO formerly served customers primarily through live call center agents, but human-powered service isn’t easy to scale when the volume rises. And agents often were tied up responding to routine requests, frustrating customers due to long hold times.

Now, Anna picks up instantly, chats in everyday Dutch, and has the intelligence to discover the customer’s intention. It can perform balance lookups and other common tasks without human intervention.

Data analysis can improve service and the digital landscape

For issues beyond the routine, Anna forwards the engagement to advisors who are experts in mortgages, investments, loans and other domains. It can also escalate general queries about financial management and urgent cases of potential fraud.

Anna’s scalability boosts call center efficiency. Each year during tax season, for instance, the volume spikes when customers request tax documents. The virtual agent deflects 85% of the surge, freeing agents for higher value work.

Another advantage is Anna’s data driven approach to improving the digital landscape. Rather than studying clicks and page views, our managers can analyze stored AI dialogues at scale for insights into customer concerns and misunderstandings. They can use these insights to improve banking services and digital communications.

A trusted partner for AI solution development

Anna’s success highlights the importance of choosing the right development partner. In our vendor evaluation, we looked for a scalable, security-rich AI platform. We also sought open communications about the vendor’s AI vision and strong support for the Dutch language.

These criteria led to IBM Services, which flew experts in from across Europe to share their vision for AI. Our intuition that we would work well together was correct. And Watson services have proved flexible and easy to use.

ABN AMRO developers can quickly adjust chat dialogues, add new content and create conversational virtual agents for different customer groups. As a result, we’re advancing our digital transformation by infusing AI throughout the enterprise.

Listen to Jeroen Das and Bob van Groningen discuss  customer service using conversational AI: