How ABN AMRO bank developed AI maturity

How ABN AMRO bank developed AI maturity 1120 840 Ben McCulloch

Although conversational AI has decades of history, there’s relatively few companies around who you would call mature in AI terms. But here’s one.

How ABN Amro Bank developed AI maturity

Holland’s ABN AMRO bank has had a conversational AI department since 2017 and has grown rapidly to an enterprise-wide conversational AI system, a team of 40, and various chatbots for customers and colleagues. So they’ve got plenty to share about rapidly maturing their AI.

They’ve learned a ton along the way and Jeroen Das, Product Owner for Conversational AI at ABN AMRO Bank, was only too kind to share some of his learnings with Kane Simms in his VUX World interview.

Let’s play 20 questions, 20 times a day

It all began with some questions. ABN AMRO knew that automated conversations were already quite mature over in America, but they wanted to find out if;

  1. the technology could handle the Dutch language
  2. customers would be happy talking to a bot
  3. they could improve the experience so customers would enjoy it

Their live agents in call centres were answering the same questions 20 times a day. They expected that digital assistance had a lot of potential, but they had to prove it. They began with a POC (proof of concept).

A hundred conversations a week

Their first tests were very small scale – a hundred conversations a week or so – in fact it was such a small test that they could analyse the chatlogs by eye.

What they discovered was that customers expected the assistant to be able to do so much more. While most brands might continue taking timid steps to roll out their automation strategy, ABN AMRO bank decided it was time to scale up, and fast.

“If you want to do this right – you should do it big”, says Jeroen Das. Notions reflected by the CEO of Aisera, Muddu Sudhakar, who told us in a recent interview that organisations shouldn’t do proof of concepts. They should take a year and go all in.

Anna tackles problems before they arise

Now, ABN AMRO’s AI assistant, Anna, can help all their customers – the public, business customers and even in various languages.

They’ve found some clever uses for Anna that are just perfect for conversational AI. For example, when a customer’s bank card is about to expire, they’ll receive a notification, and they’re asked to confirm if their address is still correct. They tackle the problem before it becomes a problem, being proactive.

What did they learn?

Jeroen shared many learnings in his interview, including:

  1. Tap the resources you already have – if your chatbot will assist the contact centre, get them to look at the design before it goes live and give advice. They’re the experts of that domain.
  2. Your team needs to cover many bases – you need experts on your business, experts on your customers, and you need to team them up with experts on the technology and how to use it. The most important thing of all is to get all these people working together. Often programmers and designers are two separate clans – you need them to work as one.
  3. Customers will give you feedback in plain language – this is one of the huge benefits of conversational AI! Your chatlogs are literally informal feedback forms where you can see every moan and cheer ever said about your business.
  4. Don’t be a copycat – Simply, your needs are different from Google, Vodafone, ABN AMRO or any other brand you can name. You build from scratch, and you start with your customer’s needs, and how automation can meet them.
  5. Your successful bot grows itself – once you’ve gained the trust of your customers, they’ll ask your bot for help before anyone else next time. You’ll grow adoption by virtue of it being helpful.

Jeroen gave many more golden nuggets of wisdom in his interview, and it’s well worth listening to all of it; how to get buy-in from senior leadership and stakeholders, what’s the skillset of a mature team, and who to approach within your organisation to improve your bot.

Consider taking our free conversational AI maturity assessment if you’re interested in finding out how you stack-up compared to the likes of ABN AMRO bank, and what you can do to level up.

This article was written by Benjamin McCulloch. Ben is a freelance conversation designer and an expert in audio production. He has a decade of experience crafting natural sounding dialogue: recording, editing and directing voice talent in the studio. Some of his work includes dialogue editing for Philips’ ‘Breathless Choir’ series of commercials, a Cannes Pharma Grand-Prix winner; leading teams in localizing voices for Fortune 100 clients like Microsoft, as well as sound design and music composition for video games and film.

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