Capital One is determined to turn its digital assistant Eno into an affable, personal finance watchdog to build loyalty between the brand and customers. Three years after Eno’s launch, the bank is adding capabilities that go beyond simple balance inquiries to proactive insights on customers’ spending behaviors.
Eno, “One” spelled backwards, began as an SMS chatbot through which customers could ask questions about their accounts, review transaction histories and pay bills. The product has since evolved to become a personal spending adviser, Ken Dodelin, Capital One’s vice president of conversational AI product development, told Bank Innovation. It’s a process that has involved training Eno — with the help of humans — to watch for irregular transactions. The bank also has moved from SMS to embedding Eno’s capabilities within the Capital One website and app. For now, the bank has no plans to add voice as a channel, but doesn’t rule that out for the future.
“The blinking cursor is a harrowing thing for a product leader because customers can say anything and you need an AI to understand it all,” Dodelin said. “We anchor ourselves to what we would want a human assistant to do. If you had a human who was brilliant and did nothing but focus on your money 24/7, what would you want them to do? You would like them to be able to answer any question you had about your money.”
Capital One sought to embed capabilities in Eno beyond reactive inquiries about accounts. As of the end of 2018, the bank enabled Eno to proactively reach out to customers regarding unusual charges, for example, duplicate charges from the same merchant, a sudden increase in a recurring charge, or an unusually large restaurant tip.
Recent alerts the bank has rolled out in the past year include free trial expiration reminders, card-decline alerts in real time, and merchant-credit alerts.
While Eno gradually is taking on more personal finance advisory duties, Dodelin stressed the product is still a work in progress. It must be trained to deal with diverse types of inquiries and keyword queries, so humans are being called in to help bring Eno up to speed.
For example, customers have different ways of asking for their balances. Some type the word “balance,” while others misspell the word or use abbreviations, so Eno has to be trained to handle a range of situations as well as the escalation to a human conversation when a customer becomes frustrated.
The bank also has added natural-language processing to handle fraud alert questions, during which customers are often asked to confirm or deny transactions. Capital One initially found that, 15% of the time, instead of using the words “confirm” and “deny,” customers offered a personalized reply the bank could not understand. With the help of natural-language processing technology, the bank was able to increase its comprehension of fraud inquiry responses to 99%.
“We began with hundreds of thousands of live chat transcripts between our human agents and our customers to provide a baseline understanding of how people talk about money [to Eno],” Dodelin said. “We use supervised machine learning.”
To relate to customers effectively, Dodelin said the bank intentionally took a gender-neutral approach to naming the chatbot, and it was careful to not infuse any judgement in its personal finance recommendations to customers. “We brought folks in from the outside to help us with character development,” he added. “Eno is never judgmental.”
Eno is a good example of how banks are experimenting with digital assistants to improve their value propositions to customers. Indeed, Capital One isn’t alone in rolling out these tools; other examples include Bank of America‘s Erica and RBC‘s NOMI.
Zor Gorelov, co-founder of conversational AI company Kasisto, recently told Bank Innovation that the early banking chatbots could only handle simple demands, but the industry is now focused on the enabling “brain” that supports conversational AI applications across channels, including voice and chat.
“Everybody jumped into [chatbots] and people got excited, but it’s turned out to be a lot harder to build,” Gorelov said.
By focusing on guarding their customers’ financial health through proactive alerts, Capital One is looking to build trust with them as a basis to offer more tailored product suggestions, according to John Caruso, chief creative officer of digital marketing agency MCD Partners.
“If you build trust, you’re more receptive to all the communications the brand is sending you,” he said. “When you trust the brand, it feels less like sales and more like [the bank] presenting you with opportunities as a member.”
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