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Conversational Banking: The Next Change

It’s Christmas 2015 and I am in Delhi for my friend’s wedding. He’s French and naturally his parents have flown in (smelly) cheese and (good) wine for a little pre-party. We are in desperate need of quality French bread. Enter Goodservice, a well named instant messaging-based concierge service. We text over our request “We need real French bread delivered to our hotel”. “Sure”, they respond. “Angels in My Kitchen?” they suggest and share a link to the website and pricing. “Yes please — delivery as soon as possible”. They know where we are because we’ve shared our location and the delivery is dispatched. Any issues along the way are easily handled in the same chat.

GoodService is backed by Silicon Valley’s Sequoia Capital and is one of many chat-based concierge services to emerge over the last few years (Operator, Magic, ‘M’, Siri, Cortana). Having used it the appeal is hard to miss — it’s like the first time your Uber ride ended and you just got out and walked away without fumbling for change or worrying about tipping. You wonder why it wasn’t always this way.

The year of ‘Conversational Commerce’

It’s not just concierge services — ‘chat’ is the new black. Chris Messina called 2016 the ‘Year of Conversational Commerce’. According to him, this will be the year that we start “utilizing chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces (i.e. voice) to interact with people, brands, or services.” Much has been written on this recently and for good reason, it will fundamentally change how and where we access and use services on the Internet.

How: ‘Conversations’ will replace GUI as the dominant user interface

Where: ‘bots’ within messaging services will replace apps and websites

Back to the good ol’ days of talking to people

Despite our best efforts, we all still carry on conversations pretty frequently — the big exception to this being software, including services on the Internet. In order to create an interface that was immensely scalable we created a Graphic User Interface (GUI, or gooey), a world of icons, menus and clicks. This brought websites and then apps to the masses, but as the number and variety of services grows exponentially GUI as a design paradigm is struggling. There are over 1.5 million apps on iTunes alone, each with its own take on GUI design. It’s confusing.

In contrast, conversations via text are powerful in their simplicity — and we are all extremely familiar with this format. Of the top 10 apps used in the world, all are social in nature and six are mostly instant messaging. As of the end of 2015 there are more active users on messaging services than on social media; and this excludes SMS and email, which are both essentially IM. We don’t need to learn how to use another app or website, messaging is something we all already understand.

Messaging also avoids many of the downsides of ‘real-world’ conversations:It is asynchronous; you can respond whenever it is convenient for you. This means we can fit these conversations into our lives, rather than have them interrupt us.

Text based conversations are efficient. My typical conversation to organize Friday night drinks is: “Beer?” > “Yes” > “Chill Winston @ 7?” “Yup”. No need for small talk.Modern messaging has evolved beyond simple text and the ability to add rich content to our conversations — photos, emoji’s, GIFs, our location, web-links, voice messages — helps us to communicate clearly and quickly.

This is why most people under 30 already use messaging services as their default way of communicating with friends on their phone.

“Chat apps will come to be thought of as the new browsers; bots will be the new websites. This is the beginning of a new internet,” said Ted Livingston, CEO at Kik.

The Internet changed in 2008 when Apple launched the App Store. Today over 1 billion apps have been downloaded and apps are an integral part of every bank’s user experience. The Internet is changing again. Banks need to adapt. Remember, technological change is exponential, not linear.

You can read the full article here.

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