Customers bank on BofA chatbot amid pandemic

Consumption of Bank of America’s Erica virtual assistant is soaring in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, lending a helping hand to consumers concerned about their personal finances.

Customers bank on BofA chatbot amid pandemic
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The coronavirus outbreak has been a harrowing event, forcing people to shelter in place, social distance and limit excursions to essential stores. But as disruptive as this COVID-19 pandemic has been for traditional business operations, it's been a boon for digital products and services.

Consider intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs), many of which have fumbled through fits and starts as companies seek the sweet spot of human-like congress — without the human. A single bad chatbot experience is enough to send people running to people for help.

At least one virtual agent is hitting the mark: Bank of America's Erica, which enables customers to check account balances, track spending trends, and request payment deferrals, among other tasks, via voice or text. Stoked by consumers' urgency to manage personal finances during the coronavirus outbreak, Erica added 1 million users a month from March through May, bringing its user count to 14 million, says Aditya Bhasin, CIO of consumer and wealth management technology at BofA.

The uptick in queries lodged with Erica suggests that consumers are ready to seek more help from algorithms and natural language processing (NLP) engines. Erica enables “that seamless connection between high tech and high touch,” Bhasin tells CIO.com. It also underscores the broad move to digital services, a shift rendered essential across many sectors as coronavirus concerns drive adoption of contactless technologies.

A voice assistant star is born

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