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Nationwide uses natural language processing to discover what annoys customers

SAS has run a proof of concept at building society Nationwide, using artificial intelligence and natural language processing to determine how to improve customer correspondence

Nationwide has completed a proof of concept (PoC) using SAS analytics to determine how it should improve its understanding of customer issues and resolve common problems faster.

The building society is often contacted by its online customers via secure email, sent when they are logged into Nationwide’s online banking service.

Through the proof of concept, Nationwide identified what it said were “significant inefficiencies” in how it handled customers’ email enquiries. It found that more than half of all email enquiries could be resolved instead by guiding members towards digital channels.

Nationwide used SAS to understand the types of enquiries it receives through its online banking channel. By using artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP), Nationwide said the analytics software was able to identify elements of customer communication that could be improved.

In the PoC, the analysts identified the root cause of each email enquiry, whether the query was resolved and how many emails were exchanged in the process. Sentiment analysis processed using SAS was used to help Nationwide detect how people’s moods worsen during email correspondence.

One in 10 of the building society’s customers who sent a secure email said their transaction had not been resolved first time around in another channel. Another 19% were not resolved the first time they sent a secure email, and a further 26% of requests concerned transactions that could be moved to an online digital process.

Graeme Reed, senior manager of analytics at Nationwide, said: “Using SAS text analytics, we established several concrete ways to make our service better. For example, many members contact us for proof of the travel insurance gained with the FlexPlus current account. The documents are available on our website – if we make them easier to find, more people will access them on a self-service basis.”

Reed said Nationwide is now deploying SAS Viya to improve its analytics capabilities.

As Computer Weekly has previously reportedNationwide is in the throes of a cloud and DevOps-focused effort to re-platform its digital banking and mortgage service.

The building society recently announced it was establishing a current account for small businesses. The banking platform for this new business account is entirely new, based on the 10x Future Technologies, a financial technology (fintech) startup of which Nationwide has invested £15m.

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