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Choosing the right chatbot vendor

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When you think of technologies that are changing the way the banking industry conducts business, is your first thought chatbots? Many people think it’s cognitive computing or artificial intelligence, but when was the last time you walked into a bank; waited in line to ask your favorite bank teller a question; and grabbed a yellow lollipop pop on your way out? When it’s described this way, it sounds nice. But let’s be honest. Most bank memories consist of rushing to the bank before it closes; waiting in a long line on a Friday to ask a simple question; redoing your deposit slip because the total was wrong; and seeing one crinkled cellophane wrapper in the lollipop dish as you exit.

Helping keep these memories blissfully distant is conversational computing technology. According to Gartner, “twenty-five percent of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020.” But not all chatbots are created equal. As voice and chat interactions quickly become commonplace, application developers must gear up to create and deliver their best chatbot. A bad chatbot experience is the same as a bad banking experience. So the question becomes, which conversational computing platform and vendor to choose? There are many vendors of conversational computing platforms. They range from the largest and most prominent cloud software development players to specialized solution providers with development platforms to niche vendors that offer unique and powerful capabilities.

The recent report, The Forrester New Wave™: Conversational Computing Platforms, Q2 2018. The Seven Providers That Matter Most And How They Stack Up takes an in-depth look at vendors including IBM, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Nuance Communications, Oracle and Rulai. All of these vendors provide tools that allow application developers to create customized voice and chat experiences without the need for data scientists. The Forrester report evaluates each vendor’s offering against nine criteria.

The Forrester New Wave graph showing ranking for conversational computing platforms

The Forrester New Wave™ is copyrighted by Forrester Research, Inc. Forrester and Forrester Wave™ are trademarks of Forrester Research, Inc. The Forrester New Wave™ is a graphical representation of Forrester’s call on a market. Forrester does not endorse any vendor, product, or service depicted in the Forrester New Wave™. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.

Based on those criteria, here are a few questions IBM put together that every industry or business should ask themselves and their vendor before implementing a new conversational solution.

  • What is the vendor’s breadth of services? Does the platform provide an array of capabilities to enable conversational computing solutions? Does it include speech-to-text, natural language processing, classification, natural language generation, tone, sentiment analysis, and so on?
  • How simple or complicated is the business user’s accessibility? Can a businessperson set up and maintain a conversational environment? What is the role of a professional developer in supporting the business user?
  • What does the initial application development environment look like? Are there preconfigured dev environments, pro­files, or recipes? Is there a local development option that can deploy to the cloud?
  • What devices are supported? Does the platform use native voice streams? Does it provide embedded application support for Facebook, WeChat, and SMS? Can reusable components be developed once and then deployed to multiple clients?
  • Is the system preintegrated with any back-end systems? Can developers set up rules-based responses through dialog management? Does the platform maintain user context throughout the session? Does the platform support unexpected questions?
  • Does the platform provide analytics to monitor the health of applications?
  • Where are the data centers located? What are the plans and time frames for data center expansion? What languages/dialects are supported? What are the plans and time frames for expanding language/dialect support?
  • How well does the product vision align with its buyers’ need to win, serve, and retain customers? Does the vision enable great customer centricity/customer experience? How well does the vision align with current customer trends and future customer needs?
  • Does the company have a near-term plan (covering approximately one year) to execute on its vision in product enhancements, innovation strategy and partner ecosystem expansion? Does the company have the resources and capabilities to deliver on its stated road map?

Using these questions and others like them, application developers can review and select the right partners for their conversational computing platform needs. Read the full Forrester report now and find out how each vendor scored on nine criteria and where they stand in relation to each other. As the market for conversational computing platforms continues to emerge, some vendors will look to specialize, and others will look to leverage their existing technologies. But finding which vendor works best for you is all that matters.

Learn more about how IBM can help elevate customer service for banks with AI and systems that learn. Watch Cora’s story to see how a team at Royal Bank of Scotland brought their digital assistant to life using IBM Watson Assistant.

Writer, IBM Banking and Financial Markets

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