Leveraging chatbots to drive customer service

When Nigerian banks designed products and programmes to celebrate their loyal customers, assuring them of improved service delivery during this year’s Customer Service Week that kicked off on Monday, October 3, and ended on Friday, October 7, what dominated discussions was how good relationships with customers could be achieved, as they are fundamental to the success of any business.

Of more concern, as gathered from the stakeholders’ collective body language, was the need to improve relationships with customers, particularly as an unsatisfied customer can easily switch to competitors and never come back.


Customer Service Week

CSW is an international celebration of the importance of customer service and the people who serve and support customers daily. It is celebrated yearly in the first full week of October. 

In view of this, Deposit Money Banks sent out messages to their customers, congratulating them on their loyalty and dedication to their brands.

“You make our dream come true every time you choose us to serve you. Happy customers’ week,” a Nigerian new generation bank stated.

Another sent this message, “We join the global community in celebrating our customers. With you in mind, we have rolled out innovative products and continue to look for ways to serve you better.

“As your preferred financial partner, we remain steadfast in our promise to prioritise customer service, not just this week but every time you use any of our channels, products and services. You truly deserve our appreciation for your loyalty. Here is wishing you a happy Customer Service Week.”

Managing Director of Ecobank Nigeria, Bolaji Lawal, lauded the bank’s customers for their continued patronage and dedication to the brand, assuring them that the bank would continue to meet and surpass their expectations with product offerings and excellent service delivery.

In his message to the customers as part of this year’s CSW, Lawal observed that their loyalty to the bank, over the years, made the pan-African bank one of the most preferred financial institutions in the country.

At Coronation Registrars, the Managing Director, Olurotimi Aleshinloye, said, “We appreciate you as our valued customer all year round. However, CSW gives us a special opportunity to celebrate you and the numerous accomplishments we have attained, with you by our side.

“We reiterate our promise to always meet your needs and give you a better experience every time. We are extremely grateful for your support in our journey to growth and success.”


Chabot fever

Despite the razzmatazz and euphoria that greeted the week-long event, where the importance of reaching out to customers was highlighted, the importance and efficiency of chabot remain incontrovertible.  

Chatbots help customer service, as they are automated programs that interact with customers like humans would and cost little to nothing to engage. They are becoming an essential part of service in Nigeria’s banking industry.

These computer programs are designed to simulate a conversation, both voice and text, with human users, especially over the Internet. They are described as a never-sleeping, cost-efficient and powerful way to provide basic support to consumers.

Chatbots can respond faster to customers and even personalise consumer experiences, as they are programmed to understand the patterns of interaction.

In fact, financial services are one area where chatbots are seen as having growing prospects. They can process most basic banking tasks such as inquiries about balances, account details and loans.

Nigerian banks have started to use chatbots despite the inherent challenges of low adoption of digital technology, poor Internet access, limited number of smartphone users and security concerns.

At the moment, not a few banks in Nigeria are leveraging chatbot technology. The United Bank for Africa introduced the first social media chatbot in 2018, named ‘Leo’, to enhance customer service. Other banks that caught the fever are Ecobank with ‘Rafiki’, Stanbic IBTC with ‘Sami’, Keystone with ‘Oxygen’, FCMB with ‘Temi’, Fidelity Bank with ‘Ivy’, Heritage Bank with ‘Octopus’ and Access Bank with ‘Tamada’.

Also, Zenith Bank has introduced an Artificial Intelligence-powered chatbot on WhatsApp named ZiVA, an acronym for Zenith Intelligent Virtual Assistant, which enables customers to perform financial transactions and enjoy real-time customer service from their mobile phones, tablets or other gadgets.

Connected technology help people with traditional accounts complete daily banking tasks from anywhere, any time. Fintech is also essential for financial inclusion: smartphone apps and web-based tools help people without a bank account, including a huge percentage of unbanked Nigerians.



But broader digital connectivity in banking also carries risks. Fraudsters are always coming up with new ways to divert funds into their own pockets, and they are doing so with reckless abandon.

Luckily, banks, fintechs and other financial institutions are doing all they can to stay ahead of the crooks. Increasingly, they’re using AI to nip financial fraud in the bud. In fact, anti-fraud AI is on the rise in the banking sector. 


Advantages of chatbot

Ralph Egwuenu, a computer scientist and a banker, says there are many advantages that banks can derive from the adoption of customer service chatbots.

He said, “Today, only a chatbot based on AI can provide the fastest and highest quality communication with customers. These are automated systems that allow companies to interact optimally with users. They completely changed the system of business communication and made it more convenient for both parties. Among the benefits is that today’s customers in the banking sector use multiple communication channels at once; so interacting with them requires service providers to be available across all channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Telegram, email and more.

“Chatbots offer customers the opportunity of reaching the bank through various online avenues, instead of being physically present in banking halls. In the near future, new channels may appear, and users will demand easy access to technical support on any of them. It’s time for you to prepare.”

According to him, chatbots are experts at multi-channel work, which is also their limitless advantage, adding that connecting them to every channel automatically enables consumers to be on different messengers at the same time.

He noted that all these would increase the speed of interaction with users and give more opportunities. 

With chatbots, users get answers faster, even as technical support is not distracted by repetitive questions, he observed, adding that the use of chatbots increase loyalty through personalisation.

Chatbots enable a smarter response system as well as reduce cost by needing less ‘live’ technical support, Egwuenu said and advised that if a consumer decides to say goodbye to live technical support and completely replace it with a chatbot, then maintenance costs will drop markedly.

“There will be savings on wages, courses and training, as well as arrangement of the working space,” he said. 

The funds saved from personnel ‘right-sizing’ can be re-directed to improve the chatbot, Financial Street gathered. 

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