Revolutionising customer engagement using conversational AI solutions

FinChatBot CEO Antoine Paillusseau: Personalised conversational AI solutions can assist and outshine human interaction.

Tech start-up FinChatBot is revolutionising the way we buy insurance and other financial services. Conversational AI solutions are well on its way to disrupting the call center industry, because it is now entirely possible to get basic insurance cover without human interaction. 

French-born Antoine Paillusseau, CEO and Cofounder of FinChatBot, says the idea to automate certain call centre functions came to him shortly after moving to South Africa. “I was looking to insure my car, and that turned out to be a long process because I wanted the most competitive price, and almost all the call center agents had trouble understanding my accent, which is when I realised that a lot of this  interaction can be automated,” said Antoine. That’s when the development of chatbots using AI-powered solutions began.

Since inception in 2016, AI-powered solutions have helped big corporations with customer acquisition, engagement and, recovery and retention to create a more efficient customer experience. Some financial institutions have managed to streamline the once complicated and tedious RICA and FICA processes, so that they can now be done from home with the help of conversational solutions. The company has since developed and serviced conversational AI solutions for 10 insurance companies including Miway, Santam, Sanlam and Investec

Intelligent chat bot solutions can be used wherever the audience is, by engaging on the company’s existing social media accounts, as well as other instant messaging apps to engage, transact, and help customers. “At least 80 percent of the queries going through call centers can be automated,” says Antoine. “We realised that call center agents hardly ever deviate from script, regardless of who is on the other end of the line. They will engage the exact same way, if you are 25-years old from Cape Town or 75-years old from rural KwaZulu-Natal,” says Antoine. However, he explains that in a sales context it’s absolutely essential to adapt speech and script according to the person you are interacting with. 

This is where FinChatBot assists and sometimes even outshines human interaction and is more cost effective in the long run. The company has created multiple personas for different audiences within which the chat that is completely automated. They then test the experience using different tonalities and personas, ensuring the audience can comfortably engage with the solution. 

But in a country with a more than 30 percent unemployment rate, where does this leave call center agents? “We are not over promising the solution or looking to replace call centers. When the query is complex, human interaction cannot be replaced. The bot is here if you want to add a driver on your policy, or update your banking details, or quickly open a mobile money account.” That said, companies will be able to greatly reduce call center operational costs with conversational AI solutions.

Antoine’s vision is for FinChatBot to positively impact customer experience through intelligent digitalised solutions, and that begins with AI-powered bots. But a key milestone for this start-up will be to surpass the current 30 percent user access rate. To this end the company has already made its chatbots available in African languages, using data-free instant messaging applications. “You can engage with consumers in their own language, you can help them navigate around the rudimentary aspects of finances using a medium that is accessible, and cost free,” says Antoine.

This ingenuity hasn’t gone unnoticed. FinChatBot attracted funding from Houghton-based Kalon Venture Partners. “Apart from cash investments, Kalon has helped us from a business perspective, we didn’t only want cash, we wanted access to the network contacts, clients and partners, which Kalon has provided.” FinChatBot was able to access multiple markets and clients. It was also able to offer strategic partnership from an executive management perspective through its partnership with Kalon.

The company is seeking to become a global player in conversational artificial intelligence solutions. But the field of technology is highly competitive. One of FinChatBot’s biggest competitors are the DIY bot platforms out there. “Creating a bot is not rocket science, and there are platforms which offer businesses the option of building their own bots in record time,” says Antoine. But he explains that there is still an interesting gap in this market, which is managing and maintaining the bot. “Being able to understand the different user experiences, which is the best performing experience, and how you can adapt this experience to different audiences and integration capability is what makes FinChatBot different to a DIY solution.” 

The Covid-19 pandemic gave FinChatBot a chance to spread its wings, as was the case for many other tech companies. “We’ve grown since March and we’ve increased our revenue by 60 percent, and we’ve helped banks and retailers reach and interact with their customers on instant messaging platforms during quarantine,” says Antoine.

The company is looking to expand operations within South Africa, and will be hiring sales agents, engineers and other support staff within the next couple of months.