Australia’s Westpac the Latest Bank to go Big on Chatbots

chatbots, banking

The banking vertical is one of the largest investors in chatbot technology and Westpac bank has rolled out its “Red” bot to all customers after extensive testing, helping solve customer queries and reduce reliance on call centers.

How much simpler would life be if you could ask a chatbot “what’s my balance?” Or tell it to “transfer 20 Ethereum into my bank account” or make practical requests like “split last night’s dinner bill between my flatmates and send a reminder.” That future isn’t far off now as growing numbers of banks adopt chatbots that are smart enough to move beyond the basic requests.

The process is sped up as you can use Messenger or the banking app without having to wade through menus, and as more services link together, you’re not hopping between different apps to perform a complex task.

westpac logo

Westpac is pushing technology and chatbots to all customers as part of an aggressive service strategy

Australia’s Westpac, the nation’s oldest bank at over 200 years old, is the latest financial institution to roll out a chatbot to its 14 million customers. Known as Red, the bot should be ready for prime time after an initial roll out to desktop customers last December and a mobile trial over March. Across those tests, the bot handled over 210,000 requests and dealt with around three-quarters of them successfully.

As the bot faces more questions from the wider user base, it will get smarter and be able to answer even more questions correctly, using its AI core to learn from mistakes and to understand complex phrases.

Internal and External Bots Winning Over Users

Westpac has plenty of experience with chatbots, using the Astro bot for internal use to help workers understand lending policies to deliver the right products. All of which shows how bots can improve processes and reduce the strain on traditional customer services.

And, Westpac needs to be more efficient in a competitive market with its latest results seeing net profit at $3,173 million, down 24% and cash earnings $3,296 million, down 22%, while it let go of over 750 staff. As Red gets up and running Westpac can reduce expenditure on traditional customer services.

The firm has a range of tech initiatives ongoing, including Hyper Anna, a virtual data scientist and AI monitors to gauge the mood among workers. WestPac’s customer service features also stretch to Siri and Apple Watch for iOS users, while Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant can also help provide voice banking services, showing the growing range of options that customers have when it comes to banking apps.

As banks improve their apps and make chatbots more widely available, the mix of services should make customers more appreciative. We’re rapidly moving past robo phone calls to activate new cards, one bank app can access accounts from other services to help provide a better view of personal finances and helping monitor the whole service, bots are appearing on more banking apps, their websites and social media.

The promise of bots to save banks and financial services companies billions is rapidly becoming a reality and it can’t be too long before established and innovative challenger banks all offer bots as part of the service. The strange thing with Westpac is that if you search their site, there are no results for “Red” or “chatbot” which makes you wonder if the bank if putting enough through into the customer experience when it comes to rolling out these technologies, especially to older customers who might have many questions.

Any business looking to launch a bot must prepare the customer base for it. They need to explain the features and tasks that it can perform and highlight the basic security and privacy information that the bot supports, while making that information highly visible across social media, websites and other platforms.