Virtual assistant

Truist launches virtual assistant after a year of development

Truist Financial is rolling out a virtual assistant that will begin by answering basic questions, but which the bank hopes will evolve into more personalized support over time.

On Thursday, the bank in Charlotte, North Carolina, announced the launch of Truist Assist, a digital assistant that uses natural language processing and understanding to interpret customer questions. It’s part of the business T3 Strategy, or its efforts to combine innovative technology with personalized service. It is also a more planned product than, for example, a chatbot that the company turned with Salesforce in days in 2020 to reduce contact center backlogs and answer questions about mortgages, credit cards and more. Product design, engineering, and experience teams were all involved in the process of creating Truist Assist.

“Speed ​​to market was how we looked at bots in 2020,” said Chad Elley, head of client enablement at Truist. “This is our next iteration. We had a clean slate in front of us.”

Truist is the latest major bank to add a virtual assistant to its arsenal of self-service options. Bank of America EricaWells Fargo FargoU.S. Bancorp smart assistant and the USAA EVA are other notable examples. There are also smaller banks, such as the $1.2 billion asset BankSouth in Greensboro, Georgia, who have invested in technology.

Truist Assist is meant to be a “blended, seamless and connected experience,” said Sherry Graziano, head of digital banking and contact centers at Truist. It gets around a common problem that plagues chatbots – user frustration when the bot can’t understand what the customer is asking – by switching to a live agent when the user wants to talk with a human or the bot can’t anymore understand the request. These agents are part of a dedicated team within the Truist Contact Center.

The chatbot had been in development for about a year and is now available to individuals and high net worth customers through the Truist app and online. It answers over 100 support requests and common digital banking questions such as questions about balances, booking appointments, paying bills and setting up card checks. The technology comes from Amazon Lex, an artificial intelligence service with advanced natural language models that underpins Amazon Alexa.

Over time, the $545.1 billion asset bank hopes that Truist Assist will be able to provide more personalized information and recommendations to users, perhaps flagging duplicate or recurring charges, or payments that do not meet the user’s standard.

“It’s going to be an ever-growing list as we understand what our customers value and respond to,” Elley said.

David Schiff, national head of retail and consumer banking at consultancy West Monroe, says personalization is still new among banking digital assistants. “A lot of banks are still focused on bots and early-stage technologies,” he said. “This is a more advanced use case, but this is where the industry will evolve.”

The product came to life in the new innovation and technology centerjust like another recent launch, a robo advisor. Truist conducted an initial pilot with Truist employees and gradually rolled it out to Truist customers for more feedback. Based on these early tests, Graziano noticed that the most common queries were typically for viewing account details, questions about Truist products, and managing alerts. Two of the most interesting were home buying questions and check order requests – something that came automatically when a customer opened an account.

The bank also tries to strike a balance between what customers will find useful and what can easily be answered elsewhere.

Christopher Marinac, director of research at Janney Montgomery Scott, notes that this news is consistent with the recent study by Truist acquisition a data governance platform from data management company Zaloni. “It’s a great example of [Truist] be proactive to build state-of-the-art tools
both in digital domains and in predicting future behavior,” he wrote in a brief on the acquisition.

Marinac described the evolution of digital assistants as “a necessary evil as banks balance the cost and performance of live customer service call centers with improving chatbot technology and machine learning.” .

But he also noted the Achilles’ heel of many chatbots.

“In my personal experience, chatbots can sometimes be very good at answering specific questions and detecting when a request is too complicated and requires a live agent,” he said. “But other times the chatbot is so general that it completely misses the mark and just leads to frustration.”