Startup FinChatBot is looking to disrupt the South African finance and insurance industry by changing how companies in these sectors talk to their customers. They are planning to do this with chatbots.
In an increasingly connected world customers now expect companies to be available 24/7, with chatbots this is now possible.
Heralded by Forbes magazine as “one of the most powerful up-and-coming tools,” chatbots are computer programmes designed to simulate conversations with people. They are able to answer simple questions and provide information like account details, product recommendations, weather predictions or directions, and are increasingly being used for customer service, in particular, dealing with queries.
Chatbots are already part of our everyday lives – think iPhone’s Siri. The technology, however generated greater interest when Facebook announced that they would allow developers to create a chatbot for their own brand or service to enable their customers to communicate their daily actions from within messaging apps.
FinChatBot’s chatbot, Holly.
Now the technology is being adopted by businesses in virtually every sector.
In South Africa, the use of the technology is still relatively limited, but there have been some big brands that have been eager to take it on, like Mercedes Benz South Africa who last year was the first automotive company to introduce Facebook Messenger chatbot to its customers and potential customers, one of the functionalities of their chatbot is allowing prospective customers to book test drives.
FinChatBot is looking to do the same in the finance and insurance industry. The startup was launched in 2016 by French-born Antoine Paillusseau and co-founder Romain Diaz, to help insurance and finance companies interact with potential and existing clients through a chatbot they developed, Holly.
Holly is able to provide automated information to customers. The chatbot is also able to provide detailed quotes to users in a way that is more convenient than a call centre agent, says Paillusseau.
“From 40 minutes with a call centre agent, you can reduce that to five minutes with a chatbot, getting access to the exact same information with much better user experience. In five minutes you can have access to a proper quote [for] car insurance, for example,” he says.
SME South Africa talks to Paillusseau to find out why replacing live call centres with chatbots is a business no-brainer, and how SMEs can make use of the technology.
We Turned A Problem Into A Business
What brought me to South Africa is an online marketing agency called TimeOne, which specialises in lead generation for the finance industry.
A year and a half ago exactly, we faced some kind of issues because the market is quite saturated in the lead generation space, so we thought of a new way to convert potential clients into clients by linking chatbots to this industry.
We did a three month market study before launching the project to analyse the market needs – [to find out] where we could have a strong impact, what technology we needed and so on.
Our Goal Is To Provide Convenience And Ease
What we want to bring is a completely new experience to all customers, [for them] to have access to financial services in a much easier way, [to] understand much better what it’s about and being able to respond to all their financial needs in less than a couple of minutes.
We’re Offering A Solution
A lot of the queries made through the call centres are quite generic. I think the stats on one specific client, [was that] the customer needed to spend nine minutes to access one specific [kind of] information, which is their account balance.
With our solution implemented, it’s less than one minute. You don’t have to call, you don’t have to wait for an agent, you don’t have to call at a specific time; whatever you want, you open your favourite messaging app, you ask a specific question and you have access to the information.
The Market Is Desperate For Better Communication
The global picture is that you have 3 billion users of messaging apps. We analysed a study conducted by Nielsen in November 2016, and it stated that users want to have more interaction with businesses through messaging apps.
[According to the study], 63 percent said their messaging with businesses had increased over the past two years, 69 percent said messaging businesses is convenient, and 66 percent of them would rather message than call a customer service centre.
Our Biggest Expense is Talent
The funding goes towards hiring a tech team. They’re building the chatbots and the technology on the backend and so on. So we are hiring people at different levels, from software developers to machine learning specialists etc. We are creating jobs in a new market and that is extremely exciting.
Our Investors Understand What We Are Trying To Achieve
Our first investor joined our team in November last year and he had strong knowledge of the industry. He had been working in the finance industry for more than 10 years, managing a couple of call centres, so he knows how a call centre works and the problems they face, so he was straight away convinced by the project.
Human Interaction Is On The Decline
Our goal, and we do our best with all our clients, is to not have any human interaction, that’s the goal. At this stage we can’t offer that for everything because of certain legal purposes on the insurance side, but this is where we want to go.
The Feedback Has Been Good
In our portfolio of clients, they are truly excited. They understand the opportunity to increase customer conversion, because they’re addressing a completely new medium which is messaging apps. They understand that it’s going to create a better customer experience.