Kotak Mahindra Bank has launched an AI-powered voice bot integrated with its phone-banking helpline. The bot named ‘Keya’ will augment the bank’s traditional interactive voice response (IVR) system and will be available in both English and Hindi. The platform has been developed by the bank in partnership with Nuance, a Nasdaq-listed firm based out of Massachusetts, which historically has focused on speech recognition and text-to-speech. We haven’t covered it for a few years now

In a statement to the media, Kotak Mahindra Bank said that Keya uses automatic speech recognition, natural language understanding and text-to-speech technology to help customers navigate smoothly and quickly through the IVR. The statement added that Keya understands the caller’s intent, verifies it and then offers relevant solutions resulting in greater call routing accuracy, reduced call duration, and improved customer satisfaction. One of the issues with traditional IVR systems is that the canned responses can be tedious and slow to deal with, especially the number based menus. While the voice-based bot should, in theory, sort some of these issues, what actually happens in practice will determine it’s usefulness.

The bank’s press statement added, customers who would get lost in the traditional IVR menu and abort the call, can now give a voice command to Keya and reach their destination. If Keya can spare customers from the tyranny of the IVR systems then Kotak Mahindra Bank should chalk this up as a win. But it must be noted that conversational chatbots are hard to design and even the best systems have issues understanding voice commands at times. In some cases, this might end up adding more friction to the process.

Chatbots in banking and finance

In January this year, Axis Direct, the stockbroking and financial services subsidiary of Axis Bank launched a WhatsApp-based virtual assistant which provides personalised market information to customers. The assistant provides personalised alerts, research ideas and market updates via WhatsApp powered by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) based bot that can fetch live portfolio values, stock quotes, index or even answer investor queries on chat.

In January 2017, HDFC tied-up with Niki.ai to launch a chatbot called OnChat on Facebook’s Messenger platform, that allowed users to recharge phones, pay utility bills, book cabs from Ola or Uber etc., through a chat. The chatbot was available to non-HDFC bank users as well.

In March 2017 YES Bank partnered with Payjo to launch the YES Pay Bot an AI-powered Facebook Messenger bot for the bank’s wallet service Yes Pay.

In June 2016, Reliance Securities, the brokerage and distribution arm of Reliance Capital, launched TICK Pro for options trading which will use bots to track markets in real-time to identify trends and choose an investment strategy.