Key takeaways

  • Banks and financial institutions need to explore the use of voice services to build trust with customers.
  • Realising the basics, such as answering balance enquiries, will be critical to expanding customer services in voice.
  • Voice assistants will need to understand context in order to meet customer privacy needs.

As voice assistants and services become more prevalent, financial service institutions are contemplating their use for retaining relevance with consumers. Many of the latest services have taken specific needs, like splitting the bill or simplifying savings, and built entire businesses around them – and as they’ve done so, have begun to take customers away from established banks, building trust through conversation.

Positive customer relationships can be seen in customer service calls, with the combination of time and good interpersonal skills resulting in consumer trust. Their example can be used as a starting point for building trust through voice services.

The goal is to start by covering the basics and build over time, in the same way physical relationships are developed. Once this trust is established, more can be obtained, alongside a deepening understanding of financial matters.

Here are seven steps banks can take to solidify their voice efforts:

1. Setting the basics:
“What’s my balance?”

Financial institutions should start their exploration into voice with simple requests to show the service can be trusted with basic information, including bank balances and recent transactions. While this sounds simple, getting it right is key to establishing customer  buy-in.

Capital One’s ‘Eno’ voice assistant has been trained to understand 2,500 different ways to understand a bank balance request, but for most, starting with a few requests is a good way to see how voice fits into a larger service offering.1

Voice service providers now have ‘for business’ versions, which allow the services to run on internal networks for testing, accessing internal sets of data. In this way, employees can try offered services first in order to get interactions right before releasing to customers.

2. Getting the
sound right

Banks should consider the voice of the institution. How will questions be answered? Will there be  a ‘custom’ voice which can differentiate the service from others? Launching on multiple platforms does not prevent institutions from having their own voice.

Custom ‘wake words’ are a nice place to start – instead of “Hey Google” or “Alexa” – banks should think about what words should activate the device, and whether they will remind the customer of the institution.

While the default on Amazon is Alexa, doing the extra work of recording multiple phrases for playback or using the customizable Amazon Polly voices can be a good way to keep a unique brand in an audio medium. Google’s Assistant has started to allow third-parties to customise phrasing, making customer interactions with their services more natural and on-brand.2

3. Use more than voice:
“Send to my phone”

Using voice doesn’t mean only having to use voice. Working other touchpoints alongside voice services is a good way to think about establishing the brand and building trust.

If a customer asks the voice service for a balance, a more secure way to respond could be sending an app or mobile notification to the customer, especially if there may be other people in the vicinity. If “What is my bank balance?” results in “Secure balance sent to mobile device” – the service has reinforced both security expectations and the delivery of information.

Using sounds other than voice should also be investigated. For example, to mask load times while retrieving information with the assistant asking for user feedback.  A simple sound to confirm the user’s command has been heard, whilst showing a written transcript of the request – using audio and visual together – will add to a more complete experience.

4. Expand the circle:
“Split the bill with Jill”

Responding to simple requests to do things like splitting the bill through a voice service can help build individual trust, but also has the added benefit of expanding the service to nearby trusted contacts. With this type of interaction, the service, and therefore the bank, has been brought into a person’s group of friends, expanding the circle of trust.

5. Expand the

Giving the consumer awareness of possibilities further outside their circle is another way to extend trust and knowledge of bank offerings.

For example, if a consumer buys an Apple or Samsung product, banks could follow up a store transaction with a suggestion to purchase Apple or Samsung stock. This expands the customer’s view of offerings outside their everyday transacting, and helps to build financial understanding through introductory investment principles – invest in products you buy or companies you know. The consumer becomes a part owner in the larger economy and trust is depend even further.

6. Personify
the service

In consulting workshops to help develop new services, we often try to describe what a voice service would do if it were a person. Let’s say you had the person managing your finances sitting next to you at all times. How would you ask them questions? What would they do? How would they deliver information to you?

Thinking about interactions in this way can help to identify how a service should react and what it should consider. For example, the right course of action for saving for college, or how a physical financial advisor would deliver sensitive information in a room with other people.

7. Private conversations
and new technology

As finance is often a private matter, considering privacy not only in location, but also in its interaction with emerging technologies is important. This is especially important for requests in public areas. Asking for a bank balance and having it show up in an augmented reality display (for example, via smart glasses) may be a far better result than a personal balance being spoken to the world.

In some instances, interactions may need to be more nuanced. In a vehicle that recognizes the presence of other passengers, perhaps by the same mechanism that identifies passengers without buckled seat belts, context could be taken into account, toggling between voice and driver-only display depending on who might hear.

Most interesting is making voice requests through subvocalization techniques.3 Here, vocal cords vibrate without words spoken aloud and activate voice services without audible noise. These silent interactions could then deliver messages to mobile devices or displays to suit the private request.


Building on relationships and finding the right conversations to expand with voice technology is extremely important in financial services. Implementing these services will take voice assistants from gimmicky toys to true value-adding ways to make financial transactions and decisions.


Digital Pulse: John Jones


John Jones

John is a managing director in PwC’s New York Experience Center.

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