This young man needs to decide what to do with his long-term savings account. He could be your next loyal customer, depending on the advise he gets. Yes, really. A long-term customer (albeit not active), son of another long-term customer, and that was the advice: how to close your account and go elsewhere. Not only a ridiculously drawn-out process for something that should have been very simple, but a huge missed opportunity!

The bank adviser could have asked my son whether he needed to access the funds immediately, or if he wanted to open a student’s savings account or short-term deposit. They could have advised him on how to invest the money for the future – it was a substantial amount by this stage, after all. This could have been an opportunity for the bank to build a relationship and grow a customer with a potential good and predictable lifetime value. But instead he was advised to close the account, so he did.

The future could be bots

Two weeks later, I had a business meeting with the team responsible for customer engagement at that very bank. They showed me all the new initiatives they were launching and how they were using analytics technology (provided by the company I work for) to understand customers and predict their behaviour, including using the latest AI technology to drive smart conversations with customers through digital assistants and chatbots. The contrast with my son’s experience struck me forcibly.

A bot would have significantly outperformed a human bank adviser – at least as far as the bank was concerned.
A bot, it seemed, would have recognised my son, collected all the necessary data from his questions, analysed his behaviour, asked the right questions and advised him on what to do with the money in his current account. It would, therefore, have significantly outperformed the human adviser – at least as far as the bank was concerned. My son might even not have been able to tell the difference between a human and a bot on the phone, although face-to-face would probably be a different matter.

Related: What Investors Need to Know About Robotics ETFs

And that is the nub of the matter: Would you be prepared to talk to a robot instead of a person? I think the moral of this story is that the human factor is often forgotten in the process of digitisation. The bot might have done better for the bank, but the adviser answered my son’s question, and helped him to achieve what he wanted (the account closed, and the money elsewhere). A combination, though?

The human adviser, supported by the bot that recognized my son? Perhaps a very different story, and a better outcome for both bank and customer. Organizations forget the human factor at their peril. They need to continue to invest in people, get the right personnel to interact with customers, train them well and teach them how technology can help them to get the best out of every conversation. Bots are not the answer to everything, but neither are humans alone.

This article has been republished with permission from SAS.