The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Financial Lead Generation and Nurturing.

Throughout history, humans have been obsessed by the idea of artificial intelligence or AI. From ancient philosophers to modern day researchers, there has been an ongoing infatuation with the idea of creating devices capable of “human-like” thoughts and behavior. Because of this the road to modern-day achievements in AI has been paved with hope, innovation, and sometimes even fear and disappointment.

In 2004, the sci-fi movie I, Robot, portrayed a futuristic (2035) world in which many day-to-day “human” functions, especially in commerce, were performed by robots. The story then takes a startling turn when the robots take over and plan a revolution of sorts. The 2017 movie, The Circle, featuring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, similarly creates a disturbing picture of the power of artificial intelligence and data aggregation. AI, in itself, invites an array of reactions, concerns, and inspiration about the true power and potential of creating and employing mechanical devices capable of “human-like” reasoning. The reality is that AI has emerged as a driving force in consumer engagement and enhanced experience. And for organizations in the financial services industry, AI technology not only strengthens marketing effectiveness, but can also be the competitive game-changer in customer acquisition and retention.

What began in 1956, when a group of scientists representing the fields of psychology, neurology, mathematics, economics, political science, and

engineering came together at the Dartmouth Conference to launch the field of artificial intelligence, has evolved quite dramatically. Early amazing predictions that AI could eventually simulate, and replicate human-like reasoning, calculations, behavior, and realistic conversation have all materialized. And these cutting-edge capabilities have yielded measurable results in the most progressive and forward-thinking organizations.

The innovations fueled by advancements in AI are transforming the customer experience in all aspects of industry. The AI influence is especially profound in retail operations, including financial service providers. Companies like NCR, AgilOne, and Ensighten use AI to maintain powerful omni-channel customer data platforms that unify all customer and prospect data, transactions, and engagements in one place. Data is accumulated from both physical and digital sources. This yields multiple opportunities to deliver personalized and relevant experiences which directly impact retention, conversion, and profitability.

A critical component in customer engagement is relevant human interaction. When prospects and customers have the opportunity to engage in real-time conversations about their specific questions, concerns, and interests the inevitable result is an increase in transactions. However, having a sufficient number of salespeople and customer service representatives is an ongoing and cost-intensive challenge for most organizations, especially in financial services where accuracy and adaptive responses are critical. This is another key area where AI is truly disrupting the norms of “human” interaction in commerce.

Artificial intelligence now fuels a variety of “human-like” interactions with customers and prospects to answer questions, walk them through transactions, help them make decisions, and handle certain requests. And what really makes this dynamic, most powerful is the ability to provide this virtual interaction in real time, on demand, when the customer or prospect is ready to interact. AI makes this type of personalized experience possible 24/7 and is scalable for any spikes in volume so engagement activity can seamlessly adapt to changing demands.

Virtual human-like agents or bots are transforming the way organizations generate and cultivate leads, nurture client relations, and serve clients to improve retention. Companies like Ada, Astute Solutions, Digital Genius, LivePerson, Drift, and are just of few of the early leaders in AI customer engagement.

These AI solutions offer around-the-clock availability, multi-lingual options, personalized interactions, on-demand service, and seamlessly imitate human response. In many cases, customers don’t even realize that they are not actually interacting with a real human. In 1950, Alan Turing posed the question of whether a computer would someday be able to convince a human that they were interacting with another human. Not only is this possible, it is also a cost-effective revenue driver that is shaping into a competitive edge for early adopters.

Another key way in which AI is driving sales activity and engagement in commerce, and specifically in financial services is through smarketing and lead qualification. Automated AI programming can quickly evaluate a consumer’s omnichannel profile and current actions to identify “hot” leads and in real-time direct those to real humans who can then convert those optimal leads into customers. Companies like Conversica, Drift Chat, and Clara, are helping companies to know which prospects and customers to concentrate their limited human resources on. This is especially valuable in the financial services sector. When is the “tire-kicker” ready to act on a loan application, an investment, or another financial commitment? Using AI technology, the most likely prospects to take action are identified and then redirected to the human sales force for maximum potential and efficiency.

One of the highly intuitive ways that hot prospects are identified, prospects evolve into clients, and clients evolve into brand enthusiasts is by delivering a personalized customer experience. This is another aspect of marketing where AI innovators such as Persado and Boomtrain are delivering cutting-edge solutions. The answer is smart content. When a customer visits your website, just imagine the impact if the mortgage seeker is delivered content that features current mortgage rates. Then the potential investor is delivered an article about investment ideas. Smart content uses AI driven omnichannel data to give your web visitors the information that they specifically want, and need, based on their patterns of activity both online and offline. When you provide relevant personalized content, prospects are more likely to take action and clients are more likely to be satisfied.

Now is the time for financial marketing decision makers to explore the cost centers in their customer journey experience. By breaking these stages into individual functions, the exploration process can begin. By knowing the costs of each stage, your marketing team can determine which functions are inadequately serving your client acquisition and service pipeline and then determine if there is a cost-saving replacement available using AI technology. In most cases, there are multiple opportunities to sample services and then scale operations based on effectiveness. By addressing your most costly and challenging marketing operations first, you may discover a dynamic solution and a decisively competitive edge.

Artificial intelligence as we know it today, despite decades of progress, is still in its infancy. However, the rate of concepts, developments, and implementations continue to increase exponentially. Forward thinking financial organizations, that are ready and willing to embrace the current AI potential, to optimize their customer development and conversion, will be best positioned to continue to capitalize on innovations in AI.