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Coronavirus: TSB develops smart agent to help staff during pandemic

TSB took just five days to design and implement a smart digital agent to answer customer questions during the Covid-19 pandemic

High street bank TSB worked with IT services supplier IBM to develop a smart digital agent to serve customers in the absence of bank branch support and overloaded call centres during Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Within five days of the agent going live on 25 March, it had answered more than 40,000 customer requests. This was done through a combination of a virtual assistant and employees.

Around 250 TSB employees, most of which are now working from home, were trained to work with the smart agent. Traditionally, these requests would have been answered by the bank’s contact centres or in a branch.

The current crisis provided a challenge to automate customer services, which will prove valuable in the future as banks increasingly automate customer contacts as part of digital transformation.

Smart agents, such as the one created by TSB amid the pandemic, can eventually be integrated across all bank systems and enabling these complex organisations to provide a single point of contact for a customer.

Due to the Covid-19 lockdown, the number of customer questions from customers are up with questions about how to apply for a repayment holiday on mortgages, personal loans and business loans. But branches are closed and not all contact centre staff can work in the normal operation centres, due to social distancing.

Because of this, Suresh Viswanathan, COO at TSB, said it was important to deliver this solution quickly. “I’m pleased we’ve been able to get it up and running in five days – it’s a testament to our teams working in partnership with IBM and our modern banking platform. It means that our colleagues across TSB who may be working from home can continue to help customers to access all our online and digital services.”

The bank’s deal with IBM is part of the bank’s £120m digital transformation, which was accelerated after TSB contracted IBM to provide hybrid cloud services in January.

IBM is building and managing a private cloud for TSB and introducing technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) to the bank through public cloud services. The supplier is dealing with TSB’s core banking channels and applications such as ATMs, internet banking, mobile banking and high street branches run on a unified cloud.

The agent is an example of how quickly the bank can add services through cloud computing and how it is benefiting from the modern core banking platform Viswanathan referred to, which is now running smoothly after its botched introduction.

In April 2018, TSB migrated to Proteo4UK, its new core banking system, but disaster struck and millions of customers found themselves locked out of their accounts, with some seeing money disappearing from accounts.

But, Viswanathan said, the system is now stable. “We do have our moments, but not front-page news like in 2018,” he added.

Proteo4UK is a UK version of the core banking system used by parent group Sabadell. The platform was designed to enable TSB to introduce the products and services that customers want in the digital world and cut operating costs by £160m a year.

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