Voice User Interfaces and virtual assistants have long been making their entry in the consumer market, and for the past decade, the industry has witnessed a wide variety of voice command devices. But how do Finnish customers feel about voice interfaces in the context of banking services? Are they seen to produce customer value or facilitate the daily use of banking services? OP Lab researched the topic, confirming that despite certain lack of maturity in the adoption of virtual assistants in the Finnish market, voice interfaces contain customer value potential worth further exploration.

Voice user interfaces and virtual assistants represent a rapidly growing global trend. Nearly half of all Americans are already using services with voice user interfaces, and one third of all smartphone users globally utilize voice user interfaces in mobile searches. Technological developments, such as biometrics in authentication, smart environments and devices, as well as leaps in the development of natural language processing (NLP) serve as enablers and fuelers of growth in the service development. In the banking and payments context, several service providers in the US market have already started offering their services through virtual assistants or integrated voice user interfaces in their online banking services.

From user experience perspective, the potential of voice user interfaces is somewhat obvious. Speaking is a natural, intuitive and quick form of interaction, improving service accessibility and convenience. An average person can type 40 words per minute or speak at approximately 130 words per minute*. Voice user interfaces also enable freeing hands from the device, allowing users to perform simultaneously multiple actions or tasks.

However, several open questions still remain, particularly related to the optimal way of utilizing voice user interfaces in the banking context. What kind of user segments would most benefit from voice user interfaces? What would be their primary use cases and what are the critical features the services should contain? What kind of attitudes and possible concerns are currently associated with voice user interfaces?

“We at OP Lab believe that voice user interfaces definitely belong to the major trends in future digital service offering, and as an innovation lab our job is to make sure we fully understand how to best utilize them for the benefit of our customer. That is why we felt a research experiment was necessary”, says Kristian Luoma, Head of OP Lab and IPR at OP Financial Group.

Enabling frictionless service and better accessibility for daily banking

In order to better understand the potential customer value of voice user interfaces in the context of banking, OP Lab Discovery Team conducted a quick customer research with Finnish consumers of varying backgrounds and demographics. The results clearly confirmed that the vast majority of respondents demonstrated positive interest towards carrying out their daily banking tasks using voice user interfaces. The most popular use cases were basic, simple tasks initiated by user that are currently also the most common use cases in mobile banking, such as checking account balance (62 %), account transfers (54 %) or transactions searches (39 %).

In terms of user segments, younger age groups as well as families demonstrated the most receptive attitudes towards use of voice user interfaces. Whereas these customer segments appreciated the opportunity to multitask enabled by voice user interfaces, for older age groups the greatest value was found in less manual activity (e.g. use of keyboard). Interestingly, the older age groups also demonstrated the least overall interest in the use of voice user interfaces. “Through this experiment, one of our main hypotheses was confirmed – there is a widespread trust among consumers that voice user interfaces have the potential to make daily banking more frictionless and accessible”, summarizes Aino Toppi, Discovery Team Lead at OP Lab.

Service security, reliability and control as main user concerns

As with disruptive technologies and new services in general, also questions and concerns regarding service security were identified in the research data. Using the user’s voice in services was perceived as something rather personal, and the topic evoked strong emotional reactions in many respondents.

Firstly, the perceived risk for personal data leaks was significant, especially during on the go usage, outside of home environment. Secondly, because of voice being vulnerable to distortion, concerns were raised about the service reliability in terms of user control. Consequently, based on the data it was easy to conclude that the user needs to be able to trust they have absolute control over the service – when, where how and to what extent it is being used. Therefore the role of features such as service activation, user identification and confirming the tasks performed were doomed critical in building the user trust. In addition, the role of communication in the introduction of the service was seen important.

Although based on this experiment it is not possible to draw conclusions about the volume of demand for voice user interfaces in the near future, the data has offered us valuable insights on its customer value potential. After all, the future belongs to those having their eyes on the customer experience”, concludes Kristian Luoma.