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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Have you ever chatted with a robot? You may have done so in the financial world

Next time you want to talk to a robot, go to the chat box on your bank’s website. Chances are, your questions will be answered by a chatbot—a robot that chats.

business Updated: Apr 13, 2017 08:37 IST
Vivina Vishwanathan
Vivina Vishwanathan
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Chatbots are software applications that function as chat interfaces.
Chatbots are software applications that function as chat interfaces.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Banking, insurance and broking industries have started rolling out chatbots for consumer services and transactions. However, not all chat windows have a chatbot behind them. Most are manned by humans, most likely working in a call centre. But if your were to be answered by a chatbot, it would have been without any human intervention.

What are chatbots?

Chatbots are software applications that function as chat interfaces. And their interaction with you is powered by artificial intelligence.

Banks and NBFC

HDFC Bank has two chatbots—one on Facebook Messenger and the other on its website, called Ask Eva. “There is no human being involved. It allows (us) to have a lot of concurrent sessions. When we launched Eva, we hit a concurrency of 750, which means 750 sessions were going on at the same time. If it was manual, we would have required 375-750 people,” said Nitin Chugh, country head of digital banking at HDFC Bank Ltd.

Can we expect more chatbots?

“The chatbot we have on Facebook Messenger is only for Facebook users and what you see on the website is for customers visiting the site. There could be another one in, say, net banking or mobile banking. We are also trying to do one for our staff,” said Chugh.

Ask Eva is a content-based chatbot that searches through the content and displays the right answers. “If it can’t answer, it would do the learning through an algorithm. The one on Facebook is only for e-commerce — say you want to make a bill payment transaction,” he said.

Yes Bank has also launched chatbots for its customers. “Chatbots can be used for transactions and customer service. We have decided to target the customer service part. Small-ticket transactions can also be done on bots. The next step is to cross-sell through active play of machine learning and artificial intelligence. We are also enabling e-commerce,” said said Ritesh Pai, country head, digital banking at Yes Bank Ltd.

Not just banks, non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), too, have warmed up to chatbots. For instance, Fullerton India launched a chatbot on Facebook Messenger in March. “We have people in sales, branches and the e-portal to communicate with customers. We want to expand it through chatbots. It allows you to leverage Facebook Messenger’s capabilities and a consumer doesn’t have to download an app,” said Anand Natarajan, head of strategy and business execution, Fullerton India.

Insurance & broking

Insurance and broking companies, too, are considering the use of chatbots. PNB Met Life has a chatbot on Facebook Messenger. Stock broking firm Kotak Securities Ltd is also looking to launch chatbots.

What does it mean for you?

Many banks, insurance companies and financial institutions are working closely with fintech firms to launch chatbots. For instance, HDFC Bank has partnered with and Senseforth Technologies for its chatbot solutions. Similarly, Yes Bank has partnered with Payjo, a fintech company. Some bankers say chatbots are going to be complementary to phone banking. However, some believe it will replace the existing call centres.

Bank have to pay for deploying chatbots—either as fixed costs or as per chat-based fees.

Customers benefit because basic information is easier to access over these chatbots, than over a phone-based IVR. And most customers don’t need to download any app to use them either. But for more complex queries, you will still have to get in touch with a call centre executive.

First Published: Apr 13, 2017 08:34 IST