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Absa to pilot chatbot

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The chatbot will free up call centre agents to attend to more intricate customer queries, says Barclays Africa's Yasaman Hadjibashi.
The chatbot will free up call centre agents to attend to more intricate customer queries, says Barclays Africa's Yasaman Hadjibashi.

Barclays Africa Group's subsidiary Absa Bank plans to pilot a chatbot within the coming few weeks, claiming to be first bank to do so in Africa.

Chatbots use artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate intelligent conversation through written or spoken text.

The company says the trial of the chatbots not only marks a transformation in the way the bank will engage with customers, but further underscores its efforts to become "the most intelligent bank".

The fact that messaging apps continue to eclipse social media (as the conversational channel of choice in monthly active users) means consumers are quickly adopting 'smart' two-way messaging apps as opposed to traditional, and more limited options such as SMS or e-mail, says Absa.

"SA has a smartphone penetration of more than 45% across all age groups with established use of various messaging platforms - this will be a complementary new value-adding experience for these users," says Yasaman Hadjibashi, chief data officer at Barclays Africa.

Piloting chatbots is a step towards transforming customer engagement using one of the newest big data and AI evolutions, which has been increasingly adopted among prominent tech companies and brands, she adds.

Also, the introduction of the chatbot will free up call centre agents to attend to more intricate customer queries.

"At Absa, we are constantly seeking new ways to be more relevant to our customers. By aligning our user-centric and big data expertise, we are able to connect with our customers through channels they are actively using."

Jan Moganwa, chief executive of personal and business customer solutions at Barclays Africa, says chatbots can answer simple customer questions quickly, freeing up staff to focus on more complex customer issues that require deeper human insight.

"Connecting with our customers is core to our business. Introducing chatbots at Absa provides greater ability to have relevant conversations with our customers, and provide immediate response."

"Using artificial intelligence, the bank can learn what individual customers regularly ask for, in real-time, and make these options easier to find for the customer," adds Anna Nascimento, head of commercial engagement, personal bank at Barclays Africa.

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