What if you had your own dedicated personal financial assistant whose sole job was to watch over and protect your finances? What would you want this person to do and how would you want to interact with them? And how would that be different than if it was a digital assistant?
Those are some of the core questions that Capital One has sought to address through the evolution of its intelligent assistant, Eno.
While not quite embodying everything you might want from a human assistant (yet), Eno’s intelligence, capabilities and adoption continue to grow. And as Eno celebrates a second birthday this month, Eno is already interacting with millions of customers and providing them with the information, answers and actions they need to have more confidence and control over their financial lives.
To learn more about the future of the financial intelligent assistant, we spoke with Ken Dodelin, who heads up Capital One’s conversational AI team, a nontraditional team including a former Pixar filmmaker, an anthropologist, a journalist and one of the original engineers for IBM’s Watson.
Below are Dodelin’s thoughts on the valuable ways human and digital assistants are converging.
1. A good assistant should be proactive
What comes to mind when you think of the qualities of a really great human assistant? They come find you when you’re going to be late for an important meeting. They don’t have to ask you what time of day or seat you prefer for your next flight; they already know and can take care of it themselves. “In other words, they’re proactive and can anticipate your needs before you do,” says Dodelin. “Similarly, many of today’s intelligent assistants can and should proactively reach out to solve issues for you before they’re a problem – without you having to ask for help.”
For example, you probably encounter reactive chatbots all the time without noticing it, like when you visit a website and click the “help” button to ask a question. But newer IAs like Capital One’s Eno are designed to transform the customer experience – which means anticipating your needs, keeping you informed of any problems and providing quick solutions to issues before they snowball. For example, Eno’s new alerts can stop potential fraud in its tracks and also catch possible mistakes by spotting unusually large tips, duplicate charges or other unexpected charges. When Eno spots a problem, Eno notifies you and takes action at your direction. Because Eno never sleeps, Eno can solve issues in ways we mere humans could only dream of doing.
2. An assistant should know you and your preferences
That means being able to understand and interact intelligently with customers and provide the right solution to a diverse set of customer problems. Eno was built using real customer conversations from chat logs, and by analyzing hundreds of thousands of web chats between customer service representatives and customers with different perspectives and needs. Machine learning engineers trained Eno on these conversations, building a rich and layered language model that applies to all users.
“Eno is a product for everyone and needs to be able to understand the diverse perspectives of our customers and the wide variety of ways they talk about money. The best way to do that is to bring together a team that includes a broad cross section of genders, ages, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds that reflects those diverse perspectives,” said Dodelin. “In that way, we also designed Eno to be gender-neutral. Because money is so personal, we didn’t want to express Eno as a male or female. That Eno is overtly ‘an IA you can bank on’ leaves the customer’s mind open to create whatever association with Eno makes the most sense for them.”
3. An assistant should be a good communicator
That hasn’t always been the case for IAs. In the early days of intelligent assistants, you had to use precise words and phrases that you would never use in real life in order to communicate. But thanks to advances in Natural Language Processing and machine learning, today’s digital assistants are becoming increasingly capable of understanding you in the ways you speak naturally.
For Eno, that means customers can send a thumbs up emoji or a “Yep, looks good” vs. the old-school, rigid responses of “confirm/deny.”
“Technology has advanced far enough that we can now design products that teach the intelligent assistant how to interact with humans, rather than teaching humans how to interact with the machine,” Dodelin says.
4. An assistant should respect your privacy
Trust is a critical part of a relationship with a human assistant, and the same holds true for a digital one. You need to be highly attuned to the balance of delivering users real value while maintaining high standards for user privacy, transparency, security and control. Customers should be fully informed of the level of access to their personal information that they allow, comfortable in the products’ security practices, and recognize the value that the product provides.
5. An assistant should be available to help you when you need it most
Gone are the days of an IA that could only assist you while in a specific app or on a certain website. Today’s assistants like Eno can help throughout your day and meet you wherever and however they’re needed, including knowing which method to use based upon how important a particular issue is. That may be via text message, in a browser checkout, in an app, or through push notifications. This round-the-clock, proactive monitoring provides greater peace of mind, so you can focus on what’s important to you and let the assistant do the hard work of protecting your money.
We’re Still in Early Days
No question, the use of intelligent assistants is on the rise in our everyday lives. Research firm Gartner predicts that a quarter of customer service operations will use virtual assistants or chatbot technology for customer engagement by 2020.
While intelligent assistant usage is on the rise, that doesn’t mean they should replace the human connection in our lives, says Dodelin.
“At the end of the day, the best intelligent assistants are available across multiple channels; they’re proactive, solution-oriented, and anticipate user needs 24/7 to save users time and money,” Dodelin says.
“This digital second set of hands frees people to do what they do best – which is to go about our lives, connect with each other and above all, be human.”