How SEB employed Virtual Advisor at the frontline
SEB is more than a place where one can make money transfer or save it at a deposit account. This bank aims to be more. SEB strives to simplify what’s complex and put its customer’s needs first while ensuring the best service standard.
Challenge: digital employee speaking five languages.
The way people want to interact with the bank changes as new technologies emerge. As one of the leading banks in Baltics, SEB customer service is dealing with around 300 000 interactions monthly and it is becoming increasingly important to serve customers remotely, immediately and in a personal way. That is why SEB decided to add a new digital employee – Virtual Advisor – to its team to provide help and support for its clients 24/7.
The aim of Virtual Advisor in SEB is to make the daily lives of bank’ customers and its employees more convenient. Since almost 80% of all customer enquiries seek for support in routine daily services, artificial intelligence (AI) is the best option to help with such repetitive tasks. In cases where Virtual Advisor does not understand the question or cannot answer it fully, contact will be redirected to a human specialist.
Bank had previously experienced also chatbot projects and set the goal to build the best Virtual Assistant for the market: one that can handle thousands of repetitive customer’s queries on every topic starting from card usage and payment limits to information about electronic identification solutions. All to ensure steady workflow and immediate support for the customer.
Solution: one virtual agent serving 3 countries.
SEB went out to search for an innovative solution that would satisfy their corporate and local needs while complying with GDPR, high privacy and service standards. After a thorough evaluation process, the opportunity to deliver a conversational AI-powered virtual agent was given to the team from boost.ai and Wize AI combining global and local experience.
Using boost.ai’s well proven conversational AI technology, ‘Virtual Advisor’ was designed to answer questions about SEB products and services. Highly scalable and agile nature of the technology allows virtual agent to be updated in real-time so that new content and topics can be added as they arise.
The project posed unique challenges – how to train the assistant to handle different languages and coordinate different products and services provided in all 3 Baltic countries. Boost.ai’s technology gave the possibility to create one single Virtual assistant, which understands all locally available languages and serves customers simultaneously in all three Baltic countries.
The project demanded close collaboration from the whole core implementation team in SEB, boost.ai and Wize AI. Virtual Advisor was also integrated into existing customer service platforms and its personality, tone of voice and vocabulary were aligned to the SEB brand.
Dedicated AI trainers in SEB constantly teach Virtual Advisor new topics, improve dialogues provided to customers and keep the information about banking products and services up-to-date. For everyday work they use Virtual Advisor’s capabilities to suggest new intents and point out words or phrases it does not recognize.
“Starting to work on this project seemed like a challenge, especially with no previous technical knowledge and only with the background of working in the contact center. Nevertheless, after taking the course in the boost.ai system, it did not look that frightening anymore – everything was really understandable and easy to use. Of course even after becoming an AI trainer it was hard to get the logic behind predictions or training results at first, but with great help of Wize AI, it all started to make sense more and more. The knowledge and experience from the first year of the project really helps to improve the chatbot every day.” Rūta Danytė, AI Trainer at SEB Lithuania.
Result: improved customer service and satisfaction at the customer support center.
In December 2019, SEB launched a Virtual Advisor on its homepage in all three Baltic states and offered a smart channel for customers 24/7. It has been a success story right from the start and has delivered impressive results in the first 6 months after go-live: SEB digital employee is carrying daily thousands of conversations and in more than 80% of the cases, it has been able to understand and help the bank’s customers. Only a small fraction of 3% of the conversations were redirected to the human agents.
During the COVID-19 crisis, when majority of the bank’s services were delivered remotely, Virtual Advisor became a recommended channel for all customers in Baltics.
Virtual Advisor has successfully acquired additional workload to support bank’s frontline employees in handling constantly growing numbers of queries and leaving customer support employees more time to deal with the more complex matters.
Virtual Advisor is currently doing the work of more than 10 full time employees and is expected to grow even further.
“During C19 months, the relevance of instant access to the banking services and digital real-time advice became more crucial than ever. Number of remote contacts increased by 75% and customers were trying out new ways of communication, no matter how they used to bank before or their previous preferred choice of channel. Virtual Advisor has proven to be inevitable support to our live agents, complementing the whole mix of service channels at its best.” Andra Altoa, Head of Strategy and Customer Insights at SEB Baltics.
Inside the bank, the project is also viewed as a success story. Virtual Advisor won the prize for most innovative project for the year 2019 in SEB.
“Implementing a virtual assistant in SEB, like any project, had its challenges, but the results came instantly after going live and granted full acceptance from the customers right away. I haven’t seen such development in many other cases. The best part is that the numbers still improve on a monthly basis and we still have wide variety of future development options. We see a big future for our virtual assistant ahead and feel that we have made only the very first steps.” Kadri Arula, Development Manager at SEB Baltics.
The SEB Group is the leading financial services provider in Europe, with 4.4 million customers and 15 000 employees. The bank’s Baltic division serves around 2 million clients. There are around 5000 employees working at SEB Baltic division.
Chatbots and virtual assistants are software agents that can provide services or execute tasks for individuals – customers, citizens and/or employees based on their questions or commands. Wize AI uses the term virtual agent to show that it is a conversational AI chatbot that can do more than act as an automated FAQ.