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The Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest have announced the launch of a virtual chat bot to help enhance their customer service experience.

The web-based ‘Luvo’ will be able to answer customer queries and quickly pass on requests to advisors.

Designed by IBM Watson Conversation, the cloud-based service is able to understand and learn from human interactions.

The bank will begin making Luvo accessible via its webchat service in December, starting with around 10% of Royal Bank customers in Scotland that use webchat, helping to answer specific queries on everything from ‘How do I authorise my card to be used overseas?’ to ‘How do I update my home address with the bank?’.

Luvo will be able to answer these simple questions in just a split second while directing customers to a human to answer more complex questions. Following a successful pilot, Luvo is also expected to roll out to the bank’s NatWest customers.

This customer pilot follows a successful two-month trial of the technology earlier this year among 1,200 Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest staff, primarily handling queries from small businesses customers with problems such as lost corporate cards or forgotten pins.

Jane Howard, head of personal banking, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland said: “Luvo frees advisors from spending time on simple, easily-addressed queries so they can help customers with more complex issues and questions.”

Luvo will be able to find answers to questions from a variety of sources of information in just a split second and with staff being freed up to handle more complex problems, customers are to set benefit from a much simpler and faster process.

The bank said that in the future, the cognitive chat bot could begin using IBM Watson Alchemy Language capability to better understand how a customer is feeling – for example, if they are unhappy or frustrated – and then change its tone and actions accordingly.

Chris Withers, Europe head of financial services for Watson Solutions from IBM said: “As this cognitive system continues to learn overtime, Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest will be able to expand Luvo’s capabilities to more complex areas such as providing increased personalization and using predictive analytics to detect possible issues before they arise to make a recommended course of action.”

Sebastian Reeve, Director Product Management, Nuance Communications said: “Virtual assistants (VAs) are transforming how consumers interact with businesses – especially in customer services. Many forward-thinking banks are now incorporating VAs into their offering to respond to simpler customer queries quicker.

“This service also frees up their human agents to deal with the more complex or emotionally resonant customer interactions. For instance, a VA can be deployed to confirm that a customer’s cheque has cleared, allowing human agents to quickly address the concerns of someone who fears that there has been fraudulent activity in his account.”