We can still tell that robots aren’t people – but we can have a conversation with them anyway

Robots haven’t passed the famous Turing Test yet – humans can still tell they are talking to a robot. But voice recognition technologies have reached such a level that they can now be used commercially.

A robot that you actually want to talk to

The days of stilted voices telling you to “please press 1” when you call customer service are soon going to be a thing of the past, replaced by voicebots that are able to hold a conversation almost at the level of a human – and to make the experience a smooth and even enjoyable one at that! This is especially true for routine information requests, such as when a customer wants to know the location of the nearest business partner, or how much their next instalment is or when it is due – they don’t really mind who provides this information. That’s why it makes sense to use a voicebot – an intelligent automated solution for voice communication.

In using voicebots, Home Credit is at the start of a wave that will be felt all around the world. “Based on our discussions with several suppliers, I’d say that in the financial sector, this is not a common solution that every second or third bank would use,” says Milan Urbášek, who works with these technologies at Home Credit. On the other hand, chatbots – in which robots communicate with the customer via written text – have become relatively widespread, depending on the continent. In some places, clients are more open to using modern technologies than in others. It’s true that voicebots lack empathy, emotions and the “human touch” but on the other hand, they also eliminate certain human weaknesses, such as situations in which the operator in a call center doesn’t know something, provides incomplete or inaccurate information, doesn’t keep their emotions in check or doesn’t solve a customer’s problem at first attempt and must be called again. Machines, on the other hand – if they are correctly set up and supplied with the right information – don’t make mistakes like these. “When we launch a new product, several people check the correct version of the information we put in it and fine-tune the communication that our robots employ. Each customer then gets the same information. There are no unnecessary additions, and nothing is lost in translation,” explains Milan.

Voicebots can also be more secure in situations that require a calm and matter-of-fact approach – when an upset customer is calling, the robot always gives the same answer in a neutral voice. It can’t be unsettled. In situations like these, lacking emotions can be an advantage. And, conveniently, using robots is an elegant solution to handling peak times that would otherwise require more staff to deal with the sheer number of calls.

“We naturally don’t push these technologies where they would make little sense and where customers would ask, why am I talking to a robot? In some cases, we combine them with human operators, particularly when dealing with more complicated issues and where we don’t want to waste customers’ time,” says Milan.

Voicebots of course also save a lot of the costs; customer service can be an expensive field where costs rise dramatically not only because of the number of people needed, but also because each person needs space and equipment, not to mention training. But as Milan says, “no one will last 15 years in a call center, people come and go quite often.”

Home Credit also uses voicebots internally. In branches with thousands of employees, this technology helps service the company too, be it in solving basic HR issues or as a classic IT help desk.