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How Recent Technology Developments and Transformations of Technologies in the IBM Domain have been Impacting the Business Environment: Creval's Experience
By Matteo Pizzicoli, Director of Banking Organization and Innovation, Creval Bank
Creval is a midsized bank in Italy that differentiates itself from its competitors through its attention to customer service and satisfaction. We are very focused on customer delight and the customer relationship; the best way to delight our customers is to focus on service efficiency and cost reduction at the same time. What differentiates Creval is that we provide answers quickly to our customers.
Over the past several years, Creval has invested in cutting-edge technology to support and automate many of its internal and external processes. For example, the department uses IBM Business Process Manager systems for its Agile business process management (BPM) processes, allowing it to release new banking solutions in less than four hours. We had also made major investments in cognitive systems such as IBM Watson Analytics® technology to explore the big data in our CRM systems.
Our approach to continuous evolution in IBM’s Technology: we had introduced, time by time, three different waves of new technology, that we had defined “Agility in Processes” (blue wave), “Open Banking” (red wave) and “Cognitive and AI” (green wave).
On these technologies, we have developed many projects, some of which have obtained the Innovation Award from the Italian Banking Association in the last years.
At some point, we concluded that many of our processes, thanks to our technology stack, were very easy and very fast.
However, some internal processes, such as the bank’s service desk support for bank branch employees, were neither automated nor efficient. We wanted to focus on creating a solution to reduce or even eliminate the human effort in some of our more repetitive service desk support processes so that our people could concentrate on the processes that add the most value to the bank—the ones that support its customers.
Introducing Alfredo, the AI virtual assistant
Creval created an online virtual assistant and named it Alfredo, after Alfred the butler in the Batman comic series. Alfredo is now the single point of contact for branch users to request help from the organisation’s service desk. It’s not a simple chatbot, but rather the first operator that users turn to with questions or for the problem-solving.
Our approach to continuous evolution in IBM’s Technology: we had introduced three different waves of new technology, “Agility in Processes” (blue wave), “Open Banking” (red wave), and “Cognitive and AI” (green wave).
Alfredo interacts through chat, where it can interpret Italian natural language and provide textual feedback or activate applications. Alfredo can understand requests in any banking sector. If Alfredo cannot answer a question, it relegates them to a service desk colleague, but only if necessary.
Alfredo uses Watson™ technologies, including the IBM Watson Natural Language Understanding service and IBM Watson Assistant solution, running on the IBM Cloud™ platform, to clarify and classify questions, to provide answers for the most frequent and easily resolved inquiries, and to redirect more difficult and complex questions to the specialised personnel that can solve them.
Creval trained Alfredo on 14 knowledge domains of the bank. All service desk requests now go through Alfredo, which can provide approximately 1,300 autonomous responses, without human intervention. When human help is needed, Alfredo directs inquiry traffic to the appropriate experts via chat so that highly trained service desk staff can spend their time most efficiently and effectively. The service is available around the clock, so bank staff doesn’t need to wait for official service desk hours.
Alfredo continues learning from each chat experience, adding to its knowledge base with every encounter.
Improving efficiency, expanding service
Alfredo has helped Creval achieve significant results by increasing the number of inquiries handled, extending service hours, and reducing low-value, repetitive, human-centric activities.
Alfredo has helped reduce the efforts of service desk personnel by 40 percent—time that these employees can now spend on more complex inquiries. And 92 percent of users offered positive feedback after trying Alfredo, in part because it takes less time and effort to get an answer.
The cognitive system can reduce human effort and eliminate or reduce tasks that are repetitive and without value; this allows our people to be focused on the very high-value customer questions.
This is augmented intelligence backed by human support because we want to focus on customer service and on giving each customer the right answer.
Far from fearing the takeover of their jobs by a machine, service desk personnel are pleased with their new colleague. They can now provide the high-value services for which they’re trained, instead of answering simple questions over and over.
Creval now intends to integrate Alfredo with the Agile BPM system so that, if the customer needs some action, Alfredo can start a service ticket in the chat.
In the next future, Alfredo could also manage appointments, for example, making a customer appointment with the manager. Or, if the manager is available by chat, by connecting the customer directly with the manager.
The bank has combined its laser focus on customer service differentiation with its drive for technological innovation in Alfredo, and it’s being noticed. The bank received again in 2018 the Italian Banking Association (ABI) Award for Alfredo, for “operational innovation, digitalization, and innovation of internal processes.”
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