Royal Bank of Canada wants to increase its online customer base by one-third this fiscal year-from 1.6 million to 2 million. What it doesn't want to do is increase its customer service agent rolls by one-third to answer an expected 500,000 e-mail queries.
The Toronto-based bank already has 40 customer service agents who answer 1,000-plus e-mails per day-soon expected to grow to 1,300 per day.
That's why Royal Bank is implementing an automated online e-mail answering system, Banter Reply from San Francisco-based Banter, that's slated to go live in August. The bank previously had no system for automated e-mail responses, but will now integrate Banter Reply with its internally developed e-mail platform.
The bank tested the Banter software in January by writing responses to a sample of existing e-mail inquiries, then "running the e-mail through the reply system to see what responses would be auto-suggested by it," said Judy Watt, enterprise Internet-customer experience manager. "The product was able in real time to interpret the message, scan it for keywords, put them in context and suggest a reply. It then can decide which agent should review it."
Royal Bank officials declined to say how much the bank spent on the Banter software, but the system itself starts at $50,000, plus a per user fee of several thousand dollars.
Yoram Nelken, chairman and chief technology officer at Banter, noted the software's ability to "sit behind a company's most experienced agents and very quickly learn from them."