Are Chatbots the Next Frontier for Mobile Banking?
The days of waiting for bank statements to be mailed in order to balance your checkbook are long gone. Today consumers have a number of ways of keeping up to date with their bank accounts including bank-specific apps, third-party apps, and even digital assistants like Amazon’s Echo. Now some are thinking that the next logical hub for banking will be messaging apps, thanks to the push these applications have given to chatbots.
Back in April Facebook placed a rather large bet on chatbots as they touted all the ways brands could utilize them within their Messenger app. So far they have been used for everything from customer service to interactive games with many e-commerce plays also in the works. With that in mind it seems possible that Messenger and other such apps would be a logical platform for mobile banking. In a recent guest post on VentureBeat Bijan Shahrokhi proposes that very idea and imagines how banking chatbots might function.
Shahrokhi first points to the alert capabilities of chatbots as a natural fit for personal finance. In addition to responding to requests from users such as “what is my checking account balance?” bots can be programmed to deliver daily updates or perhaps inform customers when their account dips below a certain monetary threshold. Granted this functionality is something already offered by various apps as well as banks, which have offered similar programs via SMS. However the idea of integrating such abilities into an app as frequently used as Messenger may appeal to certain users.
Beyond simple updates, Shahrokhi envisions more mobile banking features being ported over to chatbots such as check deposits and peer to peer payments that make the lives of customers a little easier. Additionally chatbots could offer a number of opportunities to the banks that utilize them as well. For example bots could field inquiries about financial topics that not only provide users with the information they need but also steer them in the direction of the bank’s products. Such products could also be more explicitly suggested, such as notifying a customer with a low checking balance about their various overdraft protection plans.
So what’s stopping this revolution from happening? A few things, not the least of which is security. At this time Facebook Messenger has no real options in terms of authentication which would make it a no-go when it comes to users giving up their banking info. As a result advances would need to be made so that both the banks and the customers had confidence that using chatbots was safe. Some users may also be concerned about how easy bots would be to use and how so much as a typo (say adding an extra ‘0’ or two) could adversely affect them. This issue would be partially solved by adding additional confirmation prompts, but that may not be enough for some.
Assuming that a solution can be worked out that makes using banking chatbots secure, there’s still a question as to what kind of impact they could have on the industry. It stands to reason that it would ease some operational costs for banks that would see less demand for their call centers when tasks such as card replacements could be ordered via Messenger. That being said it’s hard to know whether this would be a true step forward or just a temporary convenience. Ultimately, if chatbots do take off in the way Facebook and others are hoping, maybe they will be the next big thing in mobile banking.