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As the coronavirus pandemic changes the way US consumers handle their banking functions, placing greater emphasis on digital channels, Bank of America’s (BofA) virtual assistant, Erica, is seeing surging usage, CIO reports.
Erica — which customers can use for a variety of functions including balance inquiries, tracking spending trends, and requesting payment deferrals, among others — added 1 million users per month from March through May to reach a total user count of 14 million, Aditya Bhasin, CIO of consumer and wealth management technology at BofA, told the outlet.
The spike in new users marks an acceleration of already steady user growth for Erica, which has added an array of new capabilities since it was launched. The virtual assistant was introduced in May 2018, and since then has gained functionalities including alerting users to upcoming bills, showing recurring charges, and updating the card information used to carry out those charges.
Erica got off to a fast start in terms of adoption, hitting 6 million users in March 2019, less than a year after its launch, and reaching 10 million nine months later in December 2019. Now, it has added another 4 million users in just the first half of 2020, highlighting the catalyzing effects of the coronavirus lockdown on getting clients to try the virtual assistant.
Greater emphasis on digital offerings during the ongoing pandemic could elevate a competent virtual assistant from a “nice-to-have” feature to a competitive differentiator. Prior to the crisis, a virtual assistant may have been a nice auxiliary feature for customers, but taken a backseat to going to branches or using call centers. But as the pandemic has closed branches and flooded call centers with inquiries, leading to long wait times, an additional digital channel that customers can use to instantly handle banking functions has become a much more tempting offering — and more of a strategic asset for banks like BofA, whose assistant is mature enough to help with a wide variety of functions.
But even banks whose virtual assistants aren’t as mature as Erica can use the coronavirus lockdown as a time to incubate by using their assistants to crowdsource ideas for which improvements would be most valuable to make themselves more effective to users going forward. BofA uses that strategy with Erica: The assistant gathers data on the requests each customer makes to inform the bank of features customers want but that aren’t currently supported, said David Tyrie, BofA’s head of advanced solutions and digital banking, per Yahoo Finance.
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Source:: Business Insider