Charles Schwab Integrates Voice AI into Phone System

Financial services giant Charles Schwab has added an artificial intelligence-powered service to its phone system to better connect callers with those who can answer their questions. The AI is trained to understand the most frequent requests and forward the caller to the right person without needing transfers among advisers.

AI Switchboard

Schwab decided to augment the phone system with AI because of the sheer volume of calls coming in and the time it took for people to send the caller to the right person. Schwab Advisor Services had more than 8,000 calls every day on average in 2019. Most of the calls were fairly straightforward but still required getting to the right agent. The company compiled more than 2.5 million calls to determine what people most commonly call about, such as account statuses, changes in address, and questions about investments.

“We saw a big opportunity to improve and simplify the interactions that advisors are having with us,” Schwab senior vice president of client experience Jalina Kerr said in a statement. “Instead of relying on advisors to navigate to the right person to answer their question, we want to do that for them.”

When people call in, the voice assistant asks why they are calling and transfers the call for them without any menus or other steps. The AI determines who would be best to answer the questions asked based on their expertise and then checks to see who is available. The idea is to reduce the time a caller spends waiting on hold while the employee is on another call or getting transferred around to people who might not be able to help.

“We need to handle inbound calls elegantly, because time spent on hold is time that advisor could be spending with clients and we could be spending more productively, supporting advisors and their businesses where they need us,” Kerr said. “Ultimately, the new voice assistant is designed to augment the relationships that we have with advisors.”

Financial Voices

Financial service firms have been experimenting with using voice technology for some time. Bank of America has repeatedly topped the list of new patents for a financial services institution, including 24 for its voice-activated virtual financial assistant, Erica, as well as voice authentication tools.

TD Ameritrade has also been proactive in this space, becoming the first financial institution to allow stock transactions by voice and adding interactive voice integrations with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Echo Auto last summer. TD Ameritrade’s projects are especially relevant for Schwab as it acquired TD a year ago. Schwab hasn’t discussed integrating TD’s voice tech into its other services, but if the new voice AI succeeds in its goals, the company isn’t likely to stop there.


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