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The industry is pushing voice banking, but do members care?

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“Hey Alexa, how can credit unions offer voice banking?”

Many Americans have quickly adopted using voice devices. Amazon previously has said that more than 100 million Alexa devices were sold within the first three years of its availability. Sixty-nine percent of consumers use their voice devices daily, according to the spring 2019 Smart Audio Report.

Because of that, credit unions should be concerned about connecting with members through these devices. That has become easier thanks to Best Innovation Group’s new CU Voice Registry. That is, if the credit union decides to join the registry.

“The registry will help credit unions in establishing a presence with these types of devices, much like domains do for the internet,” said Julie Esser, chief experience officer at CULedger. “The registry provides an opportunity for credit unions to claim their name early, instead of waiting until a later date when it may be more difficult.”

CU Voice Registry launched last week and works with both Amazon and Google voice devices, such as an Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Interested credit unions will claim their voice name, similar to that of a website’s domain in order for members to find them.

The creation of the CU Voice Registry streamlines the voice process, allowing credit unions to sidestep the review process from Amazon and Google since everything is integrated into BIG’s voice banking platform FIVE. This is meant to reduce the burden for credit unions interested in using voice technology by positioning BIG as a middle man between Amazon and Google.

Credit unions who sign up are prompted to fill out an online form to create up to 12 custom questions on any topic. They are encouraged to craft different ways to phrase a question so that the artificial intelligence can better respond to a member. For example, it would be worthwhile for a credit union to include “check my balance,” “check balance” and “What’s my balance?” as possible utterances.

“I think [the] incentive [for credit unions] is that it’s going to be a little like the web,” said John Best, CEO of BIG. “We’re a little early, but you need to stake your claim there.”

Best cautioned that this can be a missed opportunity for credit unions who haven’t claimed their registry name, especially if a member were to conduct a search before a CU joins the voice platform. If a member were to look up their credit union’s name through a home voice system only to find nothing, it’s unlikely that the same member would search again.

Juniper Research notes that 862 million hours can be saved by 2023 among financial institutions who handle basic call center inquiries through the use of voicebots and other smart devices.

Still, how widespread voice searches will become is debatable.

“The problem with voice search up to this point is that most voices searches aren’t searches in the natural sense,” said James Robert Lay, the founder and CEO of Digital Growth Institute.

For instance, consumers mostly use voice devices for easy questions or commands as opposed to researching a financial product, Lay said. However, some consumers may use simple commands to check an account or pay a bill. Because of that, credit unions should monitor how many members and in what ways they use this technology.

“If there is no scale, is there any value to be created for both people and credit unions?” Lay asked.

Best compared the skepticism that those have expressed in the early stages of voice technology to apprehension consumers and businesses had with the web in the mid-1990s to early 2000s. Many institutions didn’t think the web was going anywhere and didn’t believe that they needed a domain name. But as the internet’s popularity took off, domain names with credit unions’ names in them were bought up, forcing financial institutions to get creative with a name that they could still use.

Credit unions interested in joining the registry will have to subscribe. Subscription fees range from $1,000 to $2,500 based on an institution's asset size.

As Best sees it, voice works with all age demographics and can be a tool for credit unions to connect with members of all ages.

“It’s been a huge challenge for the credit union space because they're trying to deal with the current incumbents of their organizations in terms of average age, which is an aging group, but they also want to attract the millennials,” he said.

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