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  • Writer's pictureJohn San Filippo

AI and the Point Versus Platform Debate

By John San Filippo


Buzz about so-called best-of-breed solutions first started to build in credit unions in the late 1990s. For decades prior, credit unions were bound to whatever solutions their core provider offered. However, as those core providers began to succumb to pressure by credit unions to provide more open access, and thus more options, best-of-breed became a legitimate movement. 

Rahul Kumar

The problem with being able to plug a dozen different systems from a dozen different vendors into one core platform is that the credit union is then responsible for making a dozen different systems work in harmony, not to mention managing a dozen different vendor relationships.


The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in credit unions is currently experiencing a flashback to that earlier era. Credit unions are deploying a wide range of AI-based, best-of-breed point solutions to address specific use cases. In the process, a potentially disjointed member experience is created. One way to combat this possibility is to deploy an enterprise-wide AI solution that can address all use cases in a single omnichannel platform. 

Finopotamus recently spoke with Rahul Kumar, general manager and vice president for financial services and insurance at Talkdesk about this situation. The San Francisco-based Talkdesk is a provider of a unified AI-driven member engagement and communication platform.


Tactical vs. Strategic


“Many credit unions are treating AI as a capability that can solve their efficiency problems in the IVR (interactive voice response) or IVA (interactive voice assistant),” Kumar told Finopotamus. “I don't think they are holistically looking at what AI can truly do for them. The number of credit unions that have fully adopted AI is abysmal.”


Many credit unions, he said, are focused on single use cases like retrieving balances, listing recent transactions, and generating loan payoff quotes. Instead, he added, they should be looking at how to deploy AI in a way that serves both members and employees in an “end-to-end” manner.


Kumar noted that part of the low AI adoption rate is due to skepticism about the technology. “But I think the bigger challenge is that AI is not being treated as a key enabler around which member experience can be designed. It is just being used as a plug-in to solve certain problems or priorities.”


The Problem with Point Solutions


“There are a lot of point solutions out there that claim they are best in breed when it comes to conversational AI,” noted Kumar. “Some of them have built a big business around specifically credit unions. And in the rush around their digital transformation investments, credit unions have invested in point solutions, thinking that it's this capability that is going to solve all their problems. But that short-term thinking has created long-term issues for them because they have not truly looked at how a member experience can be orchestrated, end to end, with AI as just one element of the entire journey.”


For example, credit unions may plug an AI-based product into an existing IVR to turn it into an IVA or put a chatbot on their website, he offered.


“But what happens holistically when an interaction has to traverse through multiple channels? It may start as a chat on your website, but it can go into a voice conversation,” he said, “and from voice, it can go into a video conversation or a co-browse conversation.” He added that this would be impossible with a string of point solutions not fully integrated into the credit union’s technology stack.


“If the experiences continues to break, frustrations, continue to rise,” he noted. “What have credit unions done wrong? They have invested in capabilities and not platforms. They have created more broken experiences that are leading to more member frustration.”


On the Topic of AI Chatbots


“People get frustrated by chatbots, and it's not that chatbots don't work,” he explained. “It's the way the chatbots have been implemented. The thinking behind the chatbots is where the problem lies.”


He continued, “You need to think end-to-end process automation with chatbots. And to do that, you need the chatbot to be well-integrated. You need it to be integrated into your core system. You need to be able to aggregate data from multiple places to drive that personalized experience that members are looking for. That is the journey that credit unions need to undertake by investing in platforms.”


The Platform Advantage


“I was in a conversation with a credit union that had, through the last five years, taken a strategy where they wanted to invest in best-in-breed of everything,” said Kumar. “Best-in- breed of voice and voice biometrics, best-in-breed of chatbots, best-inbreed of sentiment detection, best-in-breed in analytics, best-of-breed in reporting – and now in the last year, they're struggling with how to stitch it all together.” He added that such an approach is costly in both terms of budget dollars and human resources.


According to Kumar, by investing in a purpose-built platform that encompasses all of these capabilities, credit unions can shift focus from simply making all the parts work together to creating truly exceptional member experiences.


“What you need to focus on is the experience you want to orchestrate” he said. “Focus on the experience, not on the technology.”


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