The most recent installment of our ongoing series of SRM Academy papers focused on the digital transformation at financial institutions. The latest installment explores the potential of biometrics – voice recognition and authentication in particular –to improve digital banking while also leveling the competitive field for regional and community institutions.
Bank of America’s high-profile rollout of its Erica voice assistant provides a good gauge of the market direction when it comes to the potential of voice. However, the real roadmap is being established outside the banking realm, with consumer expectations dictated by the increasingly mainstream status of devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home.
Whether these products are the proper yardstick for measuring consumer interest in voice interfaces for financial services offerings is now a moot point. With even conservative estimates pegging the desire of consumer to use voice at around 30%, this technology already has a material base of ready adopters on which to build.
Not Just for Millennials Anymore
A recent survey by research firm Harris Interactive indicates that one-third of digital banking users want their banks or credit unions to introduce voice-based services. If you assume this result is driven solely by a single generational subset, however, you’re off base. Not only does this interest stretch across all generations, but Baby Boomers are among the consumers most eagerly awaiting these capabilities. Typing on a small touch screen can be a challenging endeavor as age plays role in with sight and dexterity. By way of confirming this appeal even to a generation sometimes assumed to be technically challenged, sales data shows this same group has warmed to the idea of in-home devices like Alexa, so mass market familiarity with the model is growing.
Turning Digital to Voice is not the Death Knell of Branches
Sometimes the most ardent naysayers concerning the role of voice in banking can be those who still evangelize for the branch. Some of this advocacy is extreme in its claims for continuing to support branches in their current form. Given the growing body of evidence, it would take a true contrarian (and probably a soon-to-be unemployed one) to pursue a “branch-only” strategy at this stage of the game. However, there is plenty of research indicating that consumers across all demographics still value the comfort of knowing they can visit a branch to address certain types of issues and transactions, including ones they may have begun via digital channels.
That said, to the degree branches remain part of the delivery channel strategy for banks and credit unions, they’ll be fewer and further between. They may also be somewhat downsized, in terms of both square footage and headcount. Tomorrow’s branch staff will need to be equipped to address a broader and more complex set of client needs, seamlessly picking up on engagement that began elsewhere. Humans will be part of the branch equation in the future, but likely less so. Expect to see more digital and artificial intelligence technology being used, perhaps without branch visitors realizing it.
Don’t Overlook the Internal Opportunities
In addition to the value of voice recognition and authentication for customer facing and revenue generating uses, there beneficial back office applications worth pursuing as well. Voice recognition can be a powerful authentication tool in the call center, making security both more convenient and more effective. Cost savings can also be realized by leveraging voice commands to routinize the same types of data-intensive tasks being simplified for customers.
There is much more to say about voice and related topics. (Check out our latest SRM Academy report.) Voice recognition is a proven technology and voice authentication already has the level of accuracy needed when combined with other authentication tools like geolocation and behavior metrics.
This means that, at a minimum, financial institutions should be evaluating their vendor contracts relating to digital, call center and even branch technology based on their partners’ ability to accommodate voice. Larger institutions are already applying it as is the case with Virginia Credit Union, a $3 billion dollar institution using voice to lower authentication times.
Your vendors having voice on their product roadmap is not enough. Evaluate the time and cost for them to deliver necessary interfaces to access voice assistants. An inability to provide satisfactory answers in these areas suggests as less preparation than they’re letting on. Caveat emptor.