Article

Tech Time: Don’t Mute Voice Banking

woman using voice assistant on smartphone outdoors
By Brian Abele

4 minutes

New Fiserv study provides guidance on consumer interest and likely feature adoption.

Think about that last business lunch you attended. We are accustomed to everyone occasionally staring at their phone during the meal, but this last time around, did anyone activate a voice assistant to search for something? If not, they probably will at a future meeting.

Voice-activated assistants are quickly becoming mainstream. While Apple led the field with the introduction of Siri on the iPhone, Amazon and Google have made interacting with a voice interface ubiquitous through affordable, multifunctional smart speakers that are now in millions of homes. With rapid innovation in artificial intelligence and voice and speech recognition technologies, voice capabilities will become standard features in many devices, apps and services we use every day. 

As market penetration of these devices and assistants continues, we will see a fundamental adaptation (note, not evolution) in the way people interact with technology. Credit unions that are future-first and technology-minded, in particular, need to be ready to jump into voice banking when the time is right.

But how can you know if now is the time and, if it is, where should a credit union focus its efforts?

Power Users Lead the Way

The 2018 Fiserv Expectations and Experiences: Channels and New Entrants study took a deep-dive into voice banking. 

We are still in the nascent stages of adoption, but usage is growing. In 2017, the subset of voice banking users was performing 7.7 voice banking functions monthly. That has jumped to 11.2 actions per month in 2018—a 45 percent increase over the course of a year. As is the norm in technology, a group of power users is leading the charge, a subset of consumers (15 percent of those surveyed) whose interest in voice banking is a least an 8 on a 10-point scale. To put it another way, people who use voice banking tend to use it a lot—and getting people more engaged in their finances is a key goal of credit unions.

These power users are perhaps the most important group to focus on when considering voice banking—they are the forerunners that can help management teams determine if now is the time to jump in. 

Generational Factors and Education

The Fiserv study also identifies clear, generational preferences related to voice banking. Unsurprisingly, millennials are far more likely than older individuals to perceive the benefits of this technology—ranging from its hands-free nature to convenience and a sense that voice banking is even faster than mobile banking. 

Of all of these factors, the hands-free nature of voice banking is the most strongly perceived benefit, whereas the strongest factor hindering voice banking adoption is a sense of there being no real need for it. Other concerns include a preference for human interaction or not wanting to be overheard.

This sets an important dynamic for credit unions considering voice technology. The benefits are often discovered, not expected—and underlying concerns may hurt adoption. Accordingly, a key part of any successful voice banking rollout will be education and member engagement. Consider deploying a limited feature set that focuses on what your members are most interested in first so that education efforts can be focused.

Focus on the Right Features

When initially launching voice banking, members can find a broad set of feature functionality overwhelming. According to the Fiserv study, search is by far the most common use case among users of voice-activated devices and will be the most comfortable voice banking function to roll out.

Simple interactions like checking balances and finding recent transactions are natural use cases for voice banking, and they will help members get comfortable with this channel. When planning, do not just replicate the interactions of online and mobile banking. Over time, voice banking capabilities will evolve distinctly from the features most commonly used in mobile and online channels—voice interfaces will enable members to instantly compute multiple transactions by asking questions like “How much did I spend at Costco last month?” 

Voice banking is still in its early stages, but as consumer comfort levels grow and machine learning, AI and other technologies make voice assistants even more intuitive and powerful, interest will accelerate. Don’t hit the mute button when it comes to voice banking—we’re just now getting to the exciting part!

Brian Abele is director of product strategy at CUES Supplier member Fiserv, Brookfield, Wis., where he has spent seven years of his career and helps lead the fintech’s drive toward voice banking.

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