• November 15, 2013
  • FYI

Banks Can Use Speech to Personalize Interactions

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Financial institutions have used speech technologies for nearly 20 years to deliver bank balances and stock quotes and help customers execute simple transactions, such as transferring funds or paying bills. Many other industries have looked to financial firms as leaders in customer care and service, and with good reason: Retail banks, investment firms, and credit card providers have consistently been at the forefront of technology-driven innovations that have centered around telephone, mobile, and online interactions.

Financial services firms obviously have a lot at stake from identity theft and related fraud, so it's not surprising that they have been the largest commercial adopters of voice biometrics technology to date. Biometrics Research Group estimates that at least $200 million was spent on voice biometrics in the banking sector in 2012, and projects that amount will jump to $750 million by 2015.

Several surveys state that consumers prefer voice for biometric identification. According to one conducted earlier this year by Unisys, the biometric modalities ranked by consumer preference are voice recognition (32 percent), fingerprints (27 percent), facial scan (20 percent), hand geometry (12 percent), and iris scan (10 percent).

Banks are also in the preliminary stages of testing and rolling out voice biometric technologies for mobile devices. USAA, the independent bank and insurance brokerage that caters to the U.S. military, developed a voice recognition service that will eventually allow its mobile banking customers to make natural language inquiries for a wide range of services. Spanish bank BBVA is reportedly working on a Siri-like banking application for iPhones and iPads at its U.S. subsidiary.

Often early technology adopters, banks were also at the forefront of interactive voice response (IVR) system adoption. Across the customer life cycle, the financial services sector uses IVR systems for a variety of tasks, including card activation, balance inquiry, PIN and password changes, account enrollment, address changes, branch and ATM locations, funds transfers, and reporting lost or stolen cards. Banks are also using IVRs to proactively communicate with customers for card activation reminders, low balance alerts, and fraud alerts.

But as today's financial institutions struggle to restore public confidence and trust following the Great Recession, many are turning away from standard IVR menus to increase personalization while maintaining a sense of security and controlling costs. For many firms, call steering solutions with a natural language interface can shave time off inbound calls and dramatically improve the customer experience.

Point Solutions Emerge

Nuance Communications is the largest provider of this technology to financial institutions, but many smaller companies are emerging with point solutions geared solely toward the financial sector. One such firm is SS&C Technologies, which has embedded a voice recognition assistant into its iPhone and iPad GlobeOp App for comprehensive mobile fund administration. A voice interface enables customers to perform routine inquiries or access reports by speaking predefined, aided keywords. The voice recognition technology lets users navigate the SS&C GlobeOp App menu, review fund documents, and access critical reports.

Banking Up, a personal finance platform that enables banks and businesses to provide customers with a mobile alternative to traditional checking accounts, has enlisted Enacomm, a provider of voice processing infrastructure, applications, and services, to deploy a hosted, self-service IVR. The platform is further supported by Enacomm's analytics software, allowing Banking Up's internal database to be used to create intelligent interactions. An adaptive decisioning engine driven by real-time access to customer data engages patrons with unique, personalized exchanges.

Opportunities for greater personalization in banking are endless. Nuance asks its banking customers to imagine a self-service interaction that knows which accounts a user has and only offers choices relevant to her profile. The system should be able to greet her by name, proactively identify what she previously called about, and push information to her when and how she wants it.

Complying with Government Mandates

Financial organizations are also under tighter government scrutiny and regulations today. The most pressing right now is the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which among other things, mandates recording of all phone-based financial transactions.

Under the "oral recordkeeping" requirement of the Dodd-Frank Act, which became effective in March 2013, all companies operating or doing business with U.S. firms for certain regulated trading activities must record all phone and text communications—including those on mobile devices—that lead to a trade. This information must be stored for a year in a retrievable format that can be easily searched. Relevant recorded conversations, voicemail, and text messages must be available to federal regulators within 72 hours of an initial request.

To help comply with that requirement, Primary Financial Services, a provider of third-party accounts receivable management services for major financial institutions, has selected Nexidia Interaction Analytics.

With the ability to monitor, record, and analyze 100 percent of its telephone interactions, Primary Financial Services can rapidly pinpoint exact words or phrases, which will also help ensure that agents are sticking to the prepared scripts.

"Traditional approaches for quality monitoring based on random sampling are woefully inadequate for this closely regulated industry and expose companies to tremendous legal risk," said John Willcutts, Nexidia's president and CEO, in a statement. "With the ability to efficiently monitor every single interaction, our clients have discovered that interaction analytics has been extremely effective in mitigating this exposure by enabling a rather profound and immediate cultural shift towards strict compliance."

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