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Voice-First Devices: Their Role In The Financial Landscape

Financial institutions have long been accused (often justifiably) of being slow to adopt emerging technologies to improve the customer experience. But one innovation is gaining acceptance more quickly than we've seen in the past: voice-first devices.

For credit unions, adopting voice technology is particularly problematic. Proving the perception that credit unions are about relationships, nearly half of members have stated a preference for visiting a branch (compared to 34% in the general population). Slower tech adoption rates pose an interesting challenge, but credit unions should still prepare for the inevitability of voice-first device use, especially by younger members.

Talk To Me

The popularity of voice-first devices is everywhere. People now use voice commands to play music, turn on lights, get breaking news, and send text messages. Personalized home assistants like Alexa and Siri are making life easier across the board, including in how people do their banking.

It was only in March and November of 2016 that Amazon Echo and Google Home respectively gained increased use in American households. While 6.5 million devices were shipped in 2016, VoiceLabs estimated 24.5 would ship in 2017, and predicts use will continue its healthy growth. Gartner research indicates voice and visual search are accelerating mobile-based transactions and will continue to do so in 2018 and beyond.

For financial institutions, adoption of voice-first technology can:

  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Reduce friction in transactions
  • Improve member attraction and retention

Voice technology is an incredible opportunity for credit unions that want to spark a deeper and broader engagement with members. That it also may represent a paradigm shift in the market should not be underestimated.

Beyond Device Adoption

Professional services company Accenture surveyed a broad range of consumers and found that voice-first device adoption may be the easy part of the equation. Industries, including those in the financial services sector, will need to first find creative ways to keep customers engaged on their own terms before introducing them to voice technology. Credit unions should take steps to:

  • Boost mobile wallet adoption through education and incentives.
  • Encourage a “set it and forget it” payment preference for connected devices.
  • Promote member cards as the preferred payment choice for key digital payment companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Walmart.
  • Develop a focused strategy that encourages members to adopt more advanced banking technologies alongside their desire for personalized service.

Accenture’s research ultimately found that credit unions at the forefront of the voice tech revolution could be best poised to capitalize on voice-first use and demand. Technology such as Best Innovation Group’s FIVE (Financial Innovations Voice Experience), for example, powers Amazon's Alexa voice-enabled financial transactions.

Using voice-driven technology to engage with members in a more meaningful way is a future-focused strategy that delivers value and makes the customer experience a convenient and positive one.

An Emerging Technology

Voice-driven technology is still in its infancy. Case in point: only a handful of skills available in Alexa’s repertoire are financial services related. So, while the popularity of voice-first devices is growing, they have yet to fully catch on. Security and privacy remain big hurdles, but as tech advancements continue, credit unions already prepared for wider acceptance will reap the biggest rewards.

Today, satisfying members’ needs for immediate account access is a necessity. Tech-savvy members want voice-driven banking capabilities and will continue to be an important driving force, paving the way to a new digital banking experience that enhances member services even further.

Surviving and thriving in a shifting financial landscape is challenging for any organization. Though it’s still early days for voice-first device adoption, credit unions should see great promise in voice-activated solutions for their members.

About the Author


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