What is the Future of Digital? Ask the Cognitive Virtual Agent


Millennials expect everything to be at their fingertips—their social relationships, their retail relationships, even their banking and insurance relationships. To meet this demand for anytime, anywhere access, companies are racing to figure out how to quickly adapt to these new customer engagement models.

The inevitable challenge financial services firms face when they build mobile apps for various functions is that a customer will have a question or need the app isn’t designed to address. For millennials, being forced to dial a number and deal with the dreaded interactive voice response (IVR) system is grounds for desertion. Instead, imagine this future: a customer opens an app on their phone and speaks or texts their request. On the other end is a cognitive virtual agent that can handle everything from starting a claim to answering a question. When’s my next insurance payment due? Show me an image of check number 135. What’s my deductible?

Technology that understands human language to provide accurate information and direct users to the most optimal next step already exists with solutions like IPsoft’s Amelia and IBM’s Watson. When you stitch these solutions together with automation solutions, such as Blue Prism for business processes automation and Arago or IPsoft’s IPCenter for IT automation, the impact becomes even more powerful.

As companies become increasingly confident with automation and cognitive computing in non-consumer facing areas, they will begin to roll these technologies out to front-office functions. A global bank has trialed IPsoft’s Amelia, for example, to answer queries from mortgage brokers about products and lending policies. Another company is using Amelia to answer vendor inquiries regarding invoices and to respond to employees with IT issues.

Amelia-sqAt the bank, Amelia had an 88 percent success rate in answering a range of complex questions after just two weeks. As time goes on, the system learns more, rapidly increasing that success rate. At the IT Service Desk, Amelia can automatically answer approximately 20 percent of the inbound call volume, handling such tasks as resetting passwords, accessing shared drives and connecting employees’ email accounts to their phones. For tasks it’s not yet equipped to handle, the technology routes the question to the most optimal person, process or workflow.

These kinds of advanced cognitive technologies will eventually replace today’s IVR. They can understand the underlying intent of the question and emulate human intelligence, making them capable of taking on a wide variety of tasks. They can learn through observation and determine which actions to take to fulfill a request or solve a problem.

Meanwhile, in the background, automation technologies like Blue Prism’s robotic process automation (RPA) platform can be trained by business users within hours, using an intuitive graphical user interface to automate business processes. The system uses existing tools and applications to emulate human execution of repetitive processes and allows companies to deploy a virtual workforce of robots that amplify and extend their business operations teams.

By connecting an intelligent cognitive virtual agent front end to automated back-end processes and workflows, companies can free their employees from repetitive processes so they can take on higher-value work.

Results have shown to deliver:

  • Complete traceability of every robotic action and decision, which appeals to regulators and provides a wealth of data
  • Double-digit reduction in processing error rates
  • 25-50 percent reduction in operational costs and re-work
  • And soon, an enhanced interactive customer experience.

The future of digital is here. To get started, companies must determine the appropriate applications for advanced technologies by developing the business case and determining the return on investment. Implementing these technologies in areas that are low risk but high impact can prepare the ground—and whet the appetite—for later deploying them to front-office functions.

Any enterprise considering a digital transformation needs a strategy and an implementation roadmap that details the program timeline, service management design and change management programs required to transform to the new delivery model. If you’re wrestling with your digital strategy, ISG can help. Contact me to discuss further.

About the author

Ray helps Financial Services organizations with all aspects of their IT, back-office, middle-office and customer-facing service alternatives. He is an accomplished professional with more than 14 years of Financial Services experience and is skilled in developing and leading offshore and outsource strategy and assessments, and implementing IT and BPO service agreements for large, multi-national corporations. Ray has expertise in assessing which functions are optimal to outsource, offshore or re-engineer through shared services and determining the associated savings opportunity.