Not far from India’s silicon valley lies a medieval citadel known as Golconda (Shepherd’s Hill). It’s located in a region known for famous diamonds, including the Koh-i-noor and Hope Diamond. A lesser known wonder of this place is the stunning acoustics of the hilltop fort made of rocks and mud. Someone clapping inside a dome portico at the foothill entrance can be heard in the pavilion more than a kilometer away at the top of the hill.
Employing a series of diminishing arches, the medieval architects built an amazing acoustic device to carry the echo all the way up. The sentry and commanders used the echo as a medium to send the ruler urgent messages. I draw a connection from that achievement to enterprises using a different type of acoustic device, Amazon Echo, to communicate with current day rulers—their customers..
In my previous post, I highlighted the relevance of contextual services in the banking industry. These services manifest differently on various channels where it becomes necessary to build an intuitive UI. But as someone said, “the best UI is to have no UI at all.” Instead, use voice and gestures. Done well, this mode of communication can be the most versatile, efficient and innovative way to engage customers and let them express their intent efficiently..
As IDEO’s Design Thinking recommends, the best solution is at the intersection of desirability, viability and feasibility. We should strive to balance all three factors to create an optimal solution, but in this post, I’m focusing on the desirability factor and the user needs of such a device-enabled solution.
Amazon Echo provides a hands-free, voice-controlled way to play music, control a smart home, and obtain information on news, sports, weather, schedules and so forth. As the connected lifestyle becomes reality rather than science fiction, managing customers’ financial health and executing day-to-day banking transactions should become an integral part of an individual’s digital fabric.
Imagine you’re in the living room listening to your favorite music or watching a movie on Netflix. Suddenly, you remember a pending bill payment. You could pause the music or movie, retrieve your phone or laptop, open the bank’s app or website, navigate through its cumbersome UI to find what’s pending and when, and schedule it for payment. Or, you could pause the music or movie and ask Echo, “Hey Bank, can you schedule any payments pending?” After listening to its response, you continue with your music or movie. Which option would you prefer?.
This is extremely important aspect of the solution. Nothing trumps the security of the customer data. There are a few broad approaches to evaluate:.
- Voice authentication. During the initial setup of the device, one could record the voice of all authorized users and link to their respective bank accounts.
- Use nearby devices to authenticate. Link Echo to other devices with a camera or thumbprint or keyboard to provide credentials.
- Both. For certain transactions such as money transfer, we could employ both, similar to two-factor authentication.
This is an auxiliary—but powerful—feature when executed correctly. Tracking a user’s location is controversial. It’s critical to build the solution in a way that lets customers explicitly opt-in to this feature. Keep in mind that Amazon Echo learning a person is at home is not as invasive as tracking his/her location using their mobile phone. Assuming we have permission, Amazon Echo’s ability to know when a banking customer is at home can be a key data point in transaction processing and fraud detection. If they are home, and we detect a in-store card transaction or an online transaction not originating from home location, we can immediately trigger an alarm, quickly check with the customer, and deal with it in real time. Of course, I am using Amazon Echo as an example—our potential solution would work same way for any voice-enabled device..
As these technologies gain traction, more intricate usage scenarios will emerge. But one thing is certain: this hands-free, voice-enabled channel is poised to become a mainstream channel alongside mobile.