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AI arrives in customer service

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Digital transformation is changing the way banks talk to customers, but financial institutions in the region are looking at how they can deploy AI and automation to transform the customer experience, says DANNY DREW, Avaya’s MD.

When was the last time you actually visited your bank branch? For most people, the answer is likely to be somewhere in between the last time you had to do a major financial transaction, such as applying for a loan or a mortgage, and… you just can’t remember. The way consumers interact with banks has fundamentally changed over the past few years as trends like mobile and online banking have become increasingly important.

If anything, these trends are accelerating. A recent study conducted by Avaya and BT shows that the number of consumers using mobile apps for financial services over the last few years has more than trebled, while web chat has also significantly increased in popularity.

This has been triggered by an ‘anytime, anywhere’ digital culture as consumers and businesses demand financial management on their own terms. Of course, this is creating its own challenges – banks are having to invest considerable resources to meet their customers’ increased demands. With 89% of organisations today expecting to compete primarily on customer experience – up from 36% just five years ago – meeting those enhanced expectations isn’t really optional any more.

One area  banks and other financial institutions are increasingly exploring here in the region is increased use of automation and artificial intelligence (AI)  – not so much to replace human agents but to help free up their time to allow them to provide the personalized service customers still like and want.

Automation in customer experience is all about making things faster, easier and more streamlined for customers – so we don’t have to repeat ourselves multiple times, and explain our problems to different agents every time we contact an organization.

Accordingly, banks are increasingly “employing” chatbots to help take some of the stain. Chatbots funnel and streamline conversations, making contact centres more efficient and responsive. They can provide standard replies that are appropriate and informative, and once the conversation becomes more complex, or a more in-depth solution is required, a human agent can step in and help.

When it comes to tapping the full potential of chatbots and AI, however, we’ve really only just begun. Visitors to the Avaya stand at the recent GITEX Technology Week event in Dubai were able to see the future of customer experience in the banking sector, with a showcase of the potential benefits of an AI solution. Our “Noor” virtual assistant demonstrated how banks can combine a range of technologies, including biometrics for identification and analytics to predict behaviour patterns, to go beyond basic service.

More than just answering basic queries, the Noor solution helps to anticipate and articulate customer desires – so if a customer has been talking on social media about liking a new model of sports car, then the bank could approach them about financing purchasing one.

And how about the bank takes it a stage further and co-operates with the car dealership to arrange a test drive for them? Banks today are re-engineering themselves as next-generation service providers, extending their relationship with customers beyond basic financial transactions to help in every area of their customers’ lives. By cross-selling services and offerings from other companies, banks can provide real value to consumers, making interactions more engaging and personal – and more lucrative for the bank as well. After all, if your customer is going to be these services from somebody, why not ensure you are involved?

With a young tech-savvy population and some of the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world, then it’s hardly surprising banks are keen to deploy mobile banking applications. Some banks are exploring taking this further and providing their customers with a platform for a wider range of transactions. So for instance, a bank could have one mobile application that can be used for whatever the customer chooses— booking show tickets, hiring a car, or any number of other, similar transactions. This way, instead of going through 10 different apps, a customer only needs to go to one and channel out from there – which means the bank keeps their attention for longer.

The business benefits are clear. Companies that can keep customers satisfied, engaged and coming back have a competitive advantage. And by taking data the company already has and putting it into the decision-making process, they can make smarter decisions that enhance the customer journey in terms of speed and quality of service.

Achieving this with yesterday’s technologies is extremely difficult, which is why the banking industry should not rely on old processes to achieve new results, as outdated contact centres and communications platforms weren’t built to support modern interactions. While the data surrounding these interactions may be stored and possibly be relevant at some further point, it can’t be qualified to inform intelligent decision-making. This is why digital transformation has become a critical differentiator.

Using Omni channel customer experience technology, banks can track a customer’s activity on any channel and register it as part of the customer journey. Based on insights contained in this data, contact centre teams can proactively anticipate a customer’s intentions and instead of greeting them with a generic recorded IVR message, can generate a personalised opener, for example: “I see your recent transaction was not successful, would you like me to connect you with an advisor to discuss this?” Smart apps can reach out while the customer is active online or on their banking app, using proactive chat or even offering video interaction.

Banks that fail to extend their service offerings in this way are likely to find themselves struggling in future. It all goes back to meeting the customer’s expectations – and exceeding them. Banking and financial-services providers have more data than any other industry at their disposal – it’s time to make the most of this, for the benefit of customers themselves.

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Password managers don’t protect you from hackers

Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…

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Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).

“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”

In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass.  ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.

Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite. 

Click here to read the findings from the report.

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MWC: Next generation of inflight connectivity to be unveiled

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Next week at Mobile World Congress, the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal progress on its mission towards enabling the next generation of inflight connectivity. This follows a significant start for the Alliance, which has seen membership increase five-fold since the first meeting in June of last year. The Alliance has a new research laboratory setup and continues progress through its three working groups, writing specifications for the technology, requirements, and operations.

These developments represent a huge leap towards the goal of making connectivity as easy and enjoyable in the skies as it is on the ground. Appearing as part of the Airbus stand (Hall 6, stand 6G34), the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal specification topics that have been completed and published to its membership.

“The passenger experience with inflight connectivity remains one of the great technology challenges. From Day One we have been determined to deliver on our mission to bring industries and technologies together to make the inflight internet experience simple to access and a delight to use,” said the Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer, Jack Mandala.

“I have been tremendously encouraged by the enthusiastic and committed response we have seen and the widening areas of expertise we can call upon as more and more companies and organisations continue to join us,” he added.

Announced during MWC 2018, the Seamless Air Alliance has since grown to twenty-three membercompanies with more than one-hundred key personnel from across the membership participating in its three working groups, with numbers continuing to increase.

The Seamless Air Alliance was created by founding members Airbus, Airtel, Delta Air Lines, OneWeb and Sprint, and quickly joined by Air France KLM, Aeromexico, and GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes and global technology leaders including Astronics, Collins Aerospace, Comtech, Cyient, iDirect, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Latecoere, Nokia, and Panasonic. 

Today, the Alliance is pleased to announce five additional new members: Adaptive Channel, Etihad Airways, GlobalReach Technology, Safran, and SITAONAIR.

“We are extremely pleased to have these companies join and be a part of the companies driving the next generation of connectivity.” said Mr Mandala.

The Seamless Air Alliance will enable travelers boarding any flight, on any airline, anywhere in the world, to use their own devices to automatically connect to the Internet with no complicated login process nor paywall to scramble over.

The Alliance is also announcing the release of a new research study on the economic benefit of standardization on the inflight connectivity market at Mobile World Congress. This report is available for download at https://www.seamlessalliance.com/publications/

The Alliance is moving rapidly towards an expected demonstration of the technology later in 2019 and anticipates massive interest in Barcelona from the whole communications eco-system.

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