National Australia Bank chat support: the way of the future?

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Talking to a bank call centre is even less fun than root canal work, so I think National Australia Bank might be onto something with its trial of a completely automated online chat support service. Simon Sharwood at the Smart Call podcast chatted with NAB's head of direct channels Tim Cullen, and Cullen revealed that the bank has been trialling computer-based chat support. The IM agent has a growing knowledge base of common queries, but can hand over to a human support agent if it can't work out what's going on.
One big advantage of this approach is that you can deal with the agent in your own time, going elsewhere online to check options before returning with more questions. Chat services can also easily provide links to useful information. "The feedback from our customers has been excellent," Cullen said.
Despite the potential convenience, there's bound to be an outcry. As Sharwood put it: "We suspect that if the mainstream press gets hold of this, they'll be screaming about robot bank tellers on the Internet." So what do you reckon: Is this a good idea, or just an excuse to cut costs by sacking people?

Smart Call #17 — Robots take over National Australia Bank


Comments

    OH. GOD. NO.

    Dealing with 'bots is bad enough through phone support (glares at Telstra), but dealing with computerised support bots on the internet would be terrible, and would just result in more and more canned responses that has nothing to do with what you are asking.

    The technology is certainly improving, however it is becoming more difficult to actually get resolutions for world problems from these canned AI driven BOTS. When I have a support issue that requires solving I would have to say nothing compares to talking to a *real* person. It might be a great cost cutting measure but ultimately the shareholders will benefit at the customers expense.

    Bots have seemed canned un till now because they could only repond to simple FAQ style questions, and had limited knowledge.

    This is not an incremental improvement, but a whole new generation of bot technology. Our experience of building advanced chat bots for clients like PBL and NASA's Phoenix, is that they can hold very human - like conversations, remember context, remember and respond personally to stuff about the user, an have knowledge of vast amounts of detail. They are consistent and deep, and often perform better than a human. Most times, they are indistinguishable when not clearly identified as a bot.

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