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Middle East bank to launch AI for customer support

Middle East bank Emirates NBD is piloting artificial intelligence to automate customer services

Middle East banking group Emirates NBD is piloting an intelligent virtual assistant with selected customers and plans to launch it soon.

The bank’s Future Lab, which is part of its digital strategy, is testing out voice-based artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of chat bot EVA.

As part of the pilot, a select group of customers are currently using it when they contact the customer service centre. Customers can interact and receive assistance from EVA using natural or conversational English.

The current beta version includes chatbot capabilities through the bank’s Facebook messenger, and will be extended to its mobile banking application.

The service is part of the bank’s AED 500 million (£108m) investment in digital innovation and multichannel transformation, which is aimed at increasing customer loyalty.

Pedro Cardoso, head of multichannel and customer relationship management (CRM) at Emirates NBD, said: “We recognise that customers need quicker access to services, and EVA’s intelligent voice and text with natural language recognition capabilities will help us provide a level of engagement never seen before by the region’s banking customers.”  

The software will understand the customer’s request and route directly to the appropriate menu by voice and chat, allowing self-service where possible, or routing to a customer service agent to resolve the query.

Banks worldwide are looking at the potential uses of artificial intelligence for customer services. In October 2016, SEB in Sweden became the first bank to use IPsoft’s cognitive technology, known as Amelia, for customer services after the software robot proved successful in an internal IT service desk project.

Amelia, which was launched in 2014, has an understanding of the semantics of language and can learn to solve business process queries like a human. It can read 300 pages in 30 seconds and learn through experience by observing the interactions between human agents and customers. 

Read more about the use of artificial intelligence in banking

If Amelia can’t answer a question, it passes the query on to a human, but remains in the conversation to learn how to solve similar issues in future. It understands 20 languages, as well as context, and can apply logic and infer implications.

Also reported in October, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is using IBM Watson technology to provide a robot that will answer customer questions and pass requests on to the right agents. The Luvo cognitive chat bot, which uses IBM’s cloud-based Watson Conversation service, will be available to around 10% of RBS’s customers in Scotland in December 2016 as part of its first customer pilot.

Earlier in the year, Atom Bank announced it was offering customer support through machine learning software on its mobile app, which it said will provide near-human customer care.

In September, Forrester Research warned the banking sector to not yet use software robots to automate customer services such as chat because consumers expect better service levels when it come to their finances.

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