Automation makes for sensational headlines, but what does it really mean for payments and businesses, for employees and for customers? Depending on your point of view, automation is either the best thing since sliced bread or the beginning of the end for civilisation as we know it.
Financial services have largely embraced automation. It is quick, it is accurate, and in many applications, it is cheap. Well, cheaper, quicker and more accurate than the human alternative – sometimes. What it is not is a replacement for the human factor and we shall see why.
What to automate
We live in an age of always-on global commerce. There is no such thing as office hours. Customers, whether business or consumer, want instant access to information. Most generic information can be found through a simple web search, but what about personal queries and details about accounts?
This is where chatbots come in. Increasingly used to deliver human-like interactions through online chat, chatbots can trawl company databases and find answers to specific questions. Available 24/7, they can replace some call centre functions – but not all.
In the world of payments there are many, obvious areas where automation can help, such as with bulk payments and transfers. This is of course where tools such as APIs come in as they are an excellent and seamless way to add functionality without having to start from scratch.
- Find out how InvestBot shares investment suggestions based on account information and spending habits was crowned the winner of our API Innovation Challenge
Analysing your customers’ spending habits can be another area where automation helps, as the tools involved can pull data from every area quickly and efficiently and create new offers to your customers. Other people who bought what you’re looking for bought this and so on.
Fact-finding is another useful target for automation with APIs. Insurers are already able to reduce the amount of tedious form-filling they put customers through, simply by accessing the wealth of data already publicly available. At the other end of the insurance process, they can even pay out on claims automatically, confident that machines have already performed all the basic fraud, cost and incident investigations automatically.
When not to automate
Onboarding customers and providing customer service require big lumps of human input in financial services. But automation is not rendering them obsolete.
Compliance is a huge area for all financial services companies and although fraud detection is something that is becoming more automated through the use of AI, these systems do still need a close eye kept on them to make sure that they are functioning as they are supposed to. Many systems have shown that there are fewer false positives with AI-based systems than human ones, plus AI can spot fraudulent transactions that humans have missed.
Pension advice by machine may also be useful when you want to crunch the numbers on different scenarios. But when it comes to lifestyle options – should I fully retire? Will a salary suit my activity needs? – humans are indispensable. And when it comes to the bereavement part of pensions management – as it so frequently does – chatbots just won’t cut the mustard.
Viewing automation as a tool purely for efficiency is missing an opportunity. Automation is a chance to recalibrate the organisation towards the customer. With this in mind, businesses need to ask themselves a series of questions to understand where automation will drive most value:
- Will automation make my proposition clearer for the customer?
- Does automation make my customer’s life easier?
- Will automation free my employees to build deeper, more complex relationships with my customer?
- Does automation make my company better to deal with, not just faster or cheaper?
Understanding automation means understanding the customer journey. What are the pinch points and where is the opportunity to engage? Using automation to do the heavy lifting on repetitive or accuracy-critical processes doesn’t replace humans, it frees them up to deliver more and to do it better. This can be particularly so when it comes to payments, an area where no company wants to have any pain points.