Steward Bank yesterday launched Batsi chatbot, the bank’s new natural-language chatbot on Facebook and Whatsapp. The parent company, Econet has a similar customer service chatbot. But their use in financial services represents a new tension, do we want convenience or a feeling of security from our banks?
Gatsi Batsi is a chatbot (piece of software) that can have a conversation with a person. Batsi listens and responds with relevant information. Bots can vary according to the back-end integration of artificial intelligence. This allows Steward Bank to do more for the customer than respond with basic logic. Batsi is supposedly better than chat software which often feels like one-dimensional conversations. She is more conversational and can go beyond bots to perform tasks that assist the user.
The fact, Steward Bank has taken the bold step to integrate AI bots in an industry that handles something as sensitive as people’s money may seem ironical at first, but look a little deeper and you can clearly see why people will warm up to the idea of interacting with chatbots for banking related tasks.
This means Steward bank likely designed their chatbots to give a sense of security, just like they do with bank branches.
Batsi will affect the banking industry significantly because most banking services are tasks that can be automated, and instructions can be provided in simple human language (e.g. “pay my Telone bill”).
In most cases, customers don’t see the need to go out of their way to contact a bank and seek information about its interest rates or special services. They either find the information on the bank’s website or move on to the next bank. This is where an online chatbot can make a big difference. If customers browsing your bank’s website are greeted with a polite ‘hello’, invited to ask questions about a product, and pointed in the right direction where they can find relevant information, they take home a much better impression of your bank.
This simple engagement can increase the number of potential customers interacting with the bank and will lead visitors to open new accounts.
A lot of the chatbots are frustrating to use and not helpful at all and we will have to put Batsi to the test. It is important to note, however, that chatbots are still relatively new in Zimbabwe, so as natural language processing technologies improve the ability for chatbots to hold longer deeper and more meaningful interactions will also significantly improve with time.
Chatbots are also a great tool for the banks to simplify their digital interfaces while being easier to maintain than an app and we hope other banks follow the same root.