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UBank’s Chatbot Helps Customers with Home Loan Applications

Within roughly the last two years, an increasing number of banks, merchants, tech companies and payment networks have been employing chatbots to improve customer loyalty, reduce costs and increase revenue by making it easier for consumers to shop, manage their bank accounts and order food, among other functions. UBank has found another way to use the artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistants. The online-only Australian bank launched RoboChat May 15 to help home buyers—and homeowners who want to refinance—complete UBank’s online home loan application more easily.

RoboChat was built with the IBM Watson Conversation API, a question-answering system using natural language to respond to customers regarding 40 home loan topics. RoboChat has been trained on data collected from customer questions submitted through the bank’s existing LiveChat service. Thousands of questions and responses have been entered into RoboChat and analyzed with IBM Watson to ensure customer questions are answered quickly. RoboChat will continue to learn as more customers engage with it, becoming smarter and more effective, according to the bank.

“Our goal is to deliver simpler, better, smarter banking to our customers, and RoboChat will help deliver on this by streamlining the application form,” said Lee Hatton, UBank CEO. “If you’ve gathered all of your paperwork, the form can be completed in as little time as it takes you to have your breakfast.”

Though retailers and banks can use chatbots to save money by cutting back on human customer service, the launch of RoboChat won’t result in a decline in the size of UBank’s customer service staff. “UBank will still have experienced staff on hand to chat on the phone, via email and our live online chat offering,” said Hatton. RoboChat is an added option for customers needing a quick online response, she added.

Although the technology still is in the early stages of adoption, companies are finding numerous ways to use chatbots. For example, Mastercard announced in April that it launched Masterpass-enabled chatbots with Subway, FreshDirect and The Cheesecake Factory, enabling consumers to interact with the merchants by making an order and paying for it using the Masterpass digital payment service. Another recent example is Cleo, a virtual money assistant, launched earlier this year on Facebook Messenger for users in the U.K. Cleo connects to bank and credit card accounts, enabling users to track spending, set budgets and receive reminders and alerts through text or voice commands.

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