Conversational Artificial Intelligence Primed to Redefine Member Experience in 2022

smartphone chatbot delivers customer service through conversational artificial intelligence
Bill Schwaab Photo
VP/North America

6 minutes

Newest generation of chatbots far more effective, case study suggests.

Credit unions seeking to expand their reach are often caught between their mission to offer the very best service to their members and their aggressive growth plans and revenue goals.  Striking the balance and getting the best of both has led to some exciting innovations.

Of course, we all learn from the first iterations of any new technology solution, and chatbots are no exception. The first-generation chatbots were quickly found to be lacking in accuracy and scale, whereas the newer agents are making great strides in improving the member experience.

What Makes Artificial Intelligence ‘Conversational’?

Conversational AI is at the forefront of problem-solving and customer service for those who need to help large customer bases quickly and effectively in the post-pandemic age. While the first editions of “conversational” AI were less conversational and more robotic, the next generation is going to dramatically improve the engagement experience for those in the world of finance.

Credit unions may have originated as a space where in-person interactions were key to the business, but with more solutions coming online digitally and consumer preference evolving, support in the digital space is becoming equally critical. With member support AI being able to rely on a growing number of “intents,” or a person’s input, the accuracy and helpfulness of these tools are now consistently providing impactful and positive user experiences.

The Next-Gen Conversational Chatbot Is Everything We’ve Hoped For in the Past

First-generation conversational AI tools were only conversational in the sense that they were able to send basic text responses back and forth with the end-user. In terms of functionality, they weren’t scalable, accurate or smart enough to truly aid a member or employee through the support experience. What was realized through the stress test of this generation is that bots need to not only be able to direct a person to a simple answer, like when a credit union’s hours or thir location, but more complex problems that would have traditionally required a face-to-face conversation or a call to a support line. Beyond the depth of a problem that a conversational AI needs to be able to solve is the scope of topics with which it can assist. Providing quality service to your members and employees means making it simple.

Compared to their predecessors, the new generation of virtual agents can answer questions on a wide scope of topics with accuracy levels of more than 90% and limitless potential to scale.  The simplest solution to a problem is the most direct one; asking someone to redirect from a chatbot to a human after only one message is not very simple nor very direct. A virtual agent that can be considered truly conversational must be able to answer a broad range of questions and have a deep understanding of the unique solutions that may need to be implemented to address any one of them. The first-generation technology couldn’t do either of these critical elements, which is why the wow factor fell off so quickly.

Customer Support Part of Amazing Online Service

Thanks to modern solutions offered by credit unions, it's easier than ever to execute transactions with the touch of a button on the phone in your pocket that used to require a pen, paper and teller. Consumers are responding to this ease of access to their financial life by leaning in and going digital first when it comes to almost all frequent interactions with their credit unions.

With this transition to the outstanding digital experience that so many of us look forward to comes a need for an equally amazing member service experience. While some in the past may have considered it a hassle to visit a physical credit union and get support, the fear of not knowing who to turn to when a transaction goes wrong online can be intimidating. If credit unions are looking to support an ever-increasing number of complex actions—such as signing up for a car loan or paying off mortgages online—with 24/7 access to these services, they need to back it up with 24/7 support in case of problems or questions that may arise.

This is the critical example of where a chatbot needs to be able to support much more than the surface-level questions someone might ask about a credit union’s location. Each innovation in digital product capabilities needs to come matched with an equally capable digital support solution.

Early Adopters of CAI See Benefits

A recent real-world example of where CAI can be seen making an impact has been the partnership between and $6.6 billion Michigan State University Federal Credit Union. MSUFCU, which has a membership of 315,000 members, partnered with in 2020 to create two conversational AIs for its internal and external stakeholders.

Fran, the CU’s first member-facing CAI, now provides around-the-clock service and resolves questions that don’t require a human to answer. Some of Fran’s capabilities include quickly providing the bank’s routing number and addressing economic stimulus payment questions. Because Fran is armed with a wide range of knowledge, she’s able to assist with virtually any query or question a member might have, which saves the human support team at MSU FCU valuable time.

Since implementation, MSUFCU has reported that Fran has responded to 400,000 plus requests a year. What separates Fran from the first-generation bots is her ability to continuously improve as the needs of the member base change. While Fran came online with a pre-built set of intents, she has now grown to 10,000-plus intents, representing a vast amount of domain experience.

As Fran continues to integrate into the MSUFCU operating landscape, the credit union hopes to have her assist with more complex tasks that require member-specific information such as paying bills or transferring funds.

Time to Consider Adding CAI in Your Credit Union?

While some may have shied away from the less-capable first generation of chatbots, it may be time to reconsider where one of these programs would best benefit your member throughout their experience with your credit union.

With the pandemic causing so many businesses to flip their operations between digital and in-person service, your members can find confidence and comfort in knowing that no matter what might happen, they can receive high quality service from your credit union 24/7.

Credit unions and other member service organizations are specifically primed to reap the benefits from a well-placed AI, as consumers lean digital-first now more than ever when engaging with financial institutions. As the number of digital interactions continue to rise, positive experiences with a well-developed and well-placed chatbot can only help to develop a customer relationship with the brand that is sure to last for the long term.

Bill Schwaab is VP/North America at, where he is currently focused on growing the North American presence, with an emphasis on the financial services, banking, insurance, and e-commerce sectors. He brings with him more than 15 years of experience in conversational artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics, and a successful track record of helping mid to large-size enterprises scale through the use of AI. He is committed to helping customers develop more intuitive, interactive and efficient customer experiences.

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