Conversational Banking in Reality

Technical developments often remain abstract at first and are not always immediately recognizable. This is also the case with conversational banking: everyone is talking about it, but what does it actually look like in reality? A closer look shows that conversational banking is already being used in many ways in Switzerland. Let yourself be inspired by successful examples with live chats, messengers, chatbots and voicebots for your own project and benefit from expert tips.

Live Chat and Messenger as a Starting Point

Many people think of chatbots when they think of conversational banking, but chat dialogs with bank employees also fall into this category. In this country, for example, Hypothekarbank Lenzburg has integrated a messenger channel into e-banking with ubichat. This allows bank customers to chat directly with their bank via the e-banking application and thus initiate a dialog at eye level to clarify their concerns. Messenger and live chats are also an excellent starting point for more advanced conversational banking, such as consultations via video chat. In this way, people who do not want to visit a branch in person for health reasons or because of their overcrowded schedule can conveniently talk to a customer advisor via video. Thanks to image transmission, the emotions of the counterpart are conveyed very well despite the physical distance. This helps to avoid misunderstandings and allows the participants in the conversation to adapt to each other individually.

Expert Advice

A hint for all those who are now thinking about such a staggered introduction of conversational banking: It is worthwhile to collect and regularly evaluate the customer conversations. This way, you can see which questions come up repeatedly and can automate them in a later project using a chatbot.

Use Chatbots correctly

PostFinance was one of the first Swiss banks to introduce chat with a machine instead of a chat with employees. The chatbot is publicly available on the website and helps to clarify concerns about new and existing products around the clock, on the one hand in self-service and at the same time in natural dialog. The automated chat is intended to relieve customer service so that they have more time for complex inquiries. This example shows that automated chats must be adapted to the use cases to be answered. At Swiss PostFinance, the chatbot is very general and can answer a wide range of questions. By using artificial intelligence, the chatbot understands free text input well and can also usually provide a suitable answer. If, on the other hand, very specific queries were involved, this type of chatbot would not be very suitable: Here, the input of free text often leads to misunderstandings.

Expert Advice

When introducing chatbots, companies are usually faced with the question of whether to allow free text input or to guide through the conversation via buttons. Both variants have their advantages and it depends heavily on the respective use case: For general topics, the input of free text is suitable, while for specific use cases it is advisable to guide users through the conversation using buttons. Of course, a combination of the two variants is also possible.

Talking about Finances with Voicebots?

In addition to live chat, messenger and chatbot, there are other forms of conversational banking: For example, anyone who doesn’t like to write is well served by a voicebot. The voicebot responds automatically and in natural language to typical customer queries such as “When is my branch open?” or “Where is the nearest ATM? In this way, bank customers can also control their e-banking app or check their account balance, for example. But what about the protection of sensitive data with voicebots? The St. Galler Kantonalbank, which already offers this feature, emphasizes that the audio files are not stored and that data protection remains intact. So maybe we’ll all soon be asking Alexa, Siri or Google for our account balance.

Expert Advice

Voicebots do not necessarily have to be integrated on a bank's website or in its app. Especially in regions where the use of voice assistants such as Google Home or Alexa is widespread, the voicebot can also be developed on the basis of an existing system. But be careful with data protection: Here, every bank should first start thorough clarifications before relying on the services of Google and Co.

Do you want to get started right away? Even if this all sounds great, you should plan the use of conversational banking well. In the next article, I will explain the most important steps on the way to conversational banking.

Sophie Hundertmark


Sophie Hundertmark is a PhD student at the Institute of Financial Services Zug IFZ and also works as an independent consultant for the strategic support and implementation of chatbot projects. She is doing her PhD on the use of chatbots in the banking and insurance sector.