A few years ago, robotics, a branch of artificial intelligence (AI), was seen as an upcoming trend that figured all too often in predictions made by business leaders and was presented as a revolutionary technology that would invade all aspects of our society.
By 2016, not only have these predictions come true for many aspects of our personal lives, but robotics and automation have also entered the business world.
Banks, in particular, are starting to use robotics and automation tools to address new challenges created by their move into the digital age. Customer service management will be one of the most impacted areas of banking due to the evolution of robotics.
Automation is far from being used to its full potential
Roy Morgan revealed recently that the average customer satisfaction ratings for the Big Four banks have dipped to the lowest level since mid-2013, after peaking in mid-2015. Furthermore, recent UBS findings have highlighted more Australians will be turning to start-ups for financial services, instead of banks.
The writing is on the wall ― banks need to address digitisation head-on to ensure they are meeting customers’ expectations in a sustainable manner. Banks are already investing heavily in new digital customer interfaces to present an improved customer experience and offer new products. However, many are struggling to close the gap between the new digital veneer they are creating and legacy processes and systems they have been operating for decades.
Most banks are now providing customers with a multitude of platforms, including mobile, to manage their accounts and transactions. They’re also investing in contactless technologies to empower clients to easily make payments by simply tapping their cards or smartphones, and recently some of them have worked towards partnering with tech giants such as Apple and Google to integrate Apple Pay and Android Pay into their digital offers.
While these are significant advancements towards the aspirational goal of offering fully digitised banking and customer services, banks today still operate with highly manual processes due to the constraints of working with legacy systems. The costs and resources required to upgrade from a legacy system to a new technology platform are often cited as key business challenges.
However, to ensure finance and banking institutions remain competitive amongst the growth in fintech innovations and agile start-ups, they need to either invest in rapid upgrades, or find workarounds that enable legacy systems to be part of ― not a hurdle for ― innovative digital-first business strategies.
Robotics will power a new self-service model
Millennials have high expectations and demands from businesses, and favour a certain level of empowerment when it comes to servicing their needs. They expect more frequent and personalised interactions in line with their experience with “born-digital” organisations such as Uber and Amazon.
Consumers are also increasingly open to the idea of conducting complex tasks, such as managing their investments, using robot-advisors instead of in-person advisors. They want autonomy.
The convenience of “anytime, anywhere” banking for customers has underpinned the need for self-service offerings. ATMs, IVRs, self-service kiosks, and online and mobile banking apps have played an important role in cultivating this self-service culture. As these technologies continue to mature, businesses will need to ensure they are continually assessing how robotics technology could be leveraged to enhance their offerings and improve customer experiences.
Robotics can help banks automate routine and repetitive processes ― currently performed by large middle and back office teams ― that don’t need physical human intervention. It can also enable banks to complete these tasks faster and without human error, while helping better orientate customers who do require more complex issues to be resolved effectively with manual intervention. This saves time for both the customer and customer service agent and is all done at a fraction of the cost required to upgrade legacy systems and tightly integrate them with the new digital interfaces.
Low cost robotics process automation technologies can form the glue between the digital front-end and legacy systems, enabling a more seamless and digitised customer experience. Implementation timeframes can be measured in weeks, not years, and robots can be quickly scaled up or down in response to fluctuating demand.
A win-win model
The benefits brought by robotics and automation technologies go far beyond just helping banks cut costs. Robotics will reduce human dependence, eliminate errors, and speed up processing times, leading to better accuracy and reliability and improved customer experience.
While there are certainly things robots cannot do, there is a clear opportunity for banks to use emerging technologies to drive more personal, effective, and cost-efficient customer service. By allocating repetitive, low-value tasks to robots, banks can then allocate staff to higher value activities and roles, and enable the organisation to focus on growth, innovation and how to optimise use of other new technologies.
The more organisations focus on migrating manual transactional activities to self-service channels supported by robotics process automation, the more they will stand to gain in cost-efficiency and improved customer loyalty. The use of robotics and automation technologies will help banks transition to a new digital operating model, and remain competitive against emerging digital competitors and new fintech services.
Stephen Lewis is Australia head of business process services at Cognizant.
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