Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG) and its partners have unveiled an automated chat service using artificial intelligence (AI) to offer guidance to customers in Japan.
SMFG is working with SMBC Nikko Securities, NTT Communications, with support from Accenture Japan, and their service will become available on 25 May 2017 at SMBC’s contact centre to improve its LINE-based inquiry service. LINE is a freeware app for instant communications on electronic devices.
Once launched this month, the AI chatbot will provide guidance on ways to open accounts as well as on initial public offerings (IPO) and NISA (a type of Japanese individual savings account). They also plan to expand the service to include such things as share price inquiries and investment trust selection. At a later unspecified date, the AI chatbot will become accessible during night time hours and holidays.
This service uses NTT’s AI engine (called “Cotoha”) that can engage in “human-like dialogue.” Cotoha can understand customer inquiries and provide responses by asking questions about missing information. It also studies the responses of human operators in order to upgrade its own response capabilities and comes equipped with an escalation function that redirects customers to an operator for answers to questions that could not be resolved via the chatbot.
SMBC says that using AI for some of its operator operations at its contact centre will cut down on overtime and “help employees achieve a good work-life balance”.