Santander UK launches ‘voice banking’ in mobile app
Last week we saw Santander launch the first virtual assistant technology for an iOS mobile banking app in the UK.
“Technology is rapidly changing how customers bank and pay on the move. We want banking to be simple, personal and fair and we believe technology, like voice banking, will play a transformational role in the way we add value by creating more choice and convenience for our customers,” said Nathan Bostock, the Chief Executive Officer for Santander UK.
Functionality – it’s still early days…
Currently, the functionality only covers customer questions on spending, but Santander has said that they plan to evolve and expand these features within the next six months. For now, Santander customers can ask the mobile app’s virtual assistant a range of simple questions about their account and shopping habits, like how much they spent at a specific retailer.
Our team tested the new functionality, and they found it very easy – and quite fun – to use.
The technology, which has been provided by Nuance Communications, is programmed to become more intuitive over time. The idea is that customers will be able to use voice controls to carry out tasks such as reporting a stolen card or making payments, and ultimately fully service their account using only their voice.
Innovations in voice technology
The use of voice technology is increasing. In 2014 Google shared statistics on usage of their voice search in the US, showing that 55% of teens and 41% of adults use it daily. The usage statistics of voice assistants such as Apple’s “Siri” and Microsoft’s Cortana are perhaps less impressive; however, this doesn’t seem to discourage companies. Many businesses, both within and outside of financial services, are experimenting with voice assistant technology to improve customer experience.
In the past few years we have seen Apple extend the use of Siri to certain car models (Apple CarPlay) and to Apple TV, Facebook launch their own virtual assistant, and Amazon introduce a voice-activated range of speakers. Even smarter, Microsoft’s Cortana can learn preferences over time and use these to personalise information in a way that Siri currently cannot, and now you can use any voice-powered device to analyse the emotions of someone through their vocal intonation. On the horizon we see technologies like ivee, the first multi-room voice assistant for the home.
As we are moving toward “connected homes”, the number of voice-controlled devices will only increase. Some even argue that controlling devices with your voice will eventually become the norm.
Voice-control capabilities will play an increasingly important part of our daily lives. It will soon also make up a vital part of the mobile banking user interface. Santander shows great initiative in launching a voice assistant for their iPhone app, in a bid to attract and retain customers that prize the convenience of this functionality. The current capabilities might be basic but the possibilities are great, and it will be interesting to see how quickly competitors will follow suit.