Asking Alexa to originate a mortgage requires discretion and precision

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Voice assistants are creating a buzz reminiscent of the rise of smartphones a decade ago, and the financial services industry is starting to take note, including mortgage lenders. When used effectively, voice assistants can enable companies to provide solutions that help employees and customers quickly and easily achieve their goals.

This emerging technology is driven by artificial intelligence that supports interactions using natural language voice commands. While the underlying technology can be intimidating, these devices are becoming more prevalent in our daily lives, led by popular platforms such as Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri.

Recent technology has allowed innovative companies to develop voice interaction skills for a variety of tasks. In particular, the technology can impact the mortgage industry by providing a simple, efficient process enabling personnel to obtain information quickly while multitasking, and streamline daily routines.

There are five steps that should be followed for mortgage lenders to successfully implement AI-driven technology:

Be concise

According to a recent study, users are more likely to use voice assistants when interactions are quick and simple. Users should be able to speak their requests and responses should avoid verbose feedback, as well as multiple back-and-forth interactions.

In the mortgage lending market, skills should focus on accuracy by supporting concise use cases that provide details about loan applications through simple requests. This allows users to intuitively obtain the necessary criteria and only respond with a list of choices once results are reduced to no more than three items.

Adopt a flexible approach

One key feature of voice assistants is their support of natural language processing, which means they accept requests spoken in the various ways humans naturally speak. For example, some people may interact with voice assistants by providing the necessary information at once, whereas others may prefer to have their assistant prompt them for the required details.

A loan officer could ask, “Alexa, ask My Mortgage Skill for the status of the Johnson application?” or the user could conduct a multistep process. This allows officers to quickly and easily identify loan applications that require urgent action, whether they are in the office or using a voice assistant-enabled device in a car.

Interact securely

In today's market, security is of the highest priority — particularly in the financial services industry, with its substantial operational risk factors. Use cases with voice assistants have unique security considerations due to the exposed nature of the interactions (i.e., requests are spoken aloud).

The initial means of securing any voice-based skill is through an account linking mechanism that enables a user to preconfigure an account(s) associated with the device. Another option for securing a voice assistant interaction includes multifactor authentication, typically via a mobile device within the user’s reach. Alternatively, users can send a one-time code or set up a permanent code via a mobile app. Regardless, security must be at the forefront of the design process for interactions that involve voice assistants.

Keep the conversation flowing

In keeping with the need to securely facilitate the natural flow of speech-based interactions, companies should consider the ability for users to authenticate within the context of an interaction. Skills can require a user to speak a four-digit pin to access certain interactions. To keep the interactions succinct, a skill can request the pin code while the initial details of the request are retained within the session so an additional reprompt is not required. The ability to support various styles of input increases the versatility of a voice assistant and its applicability to a broader audience.

Remember the personal touch

A primary feature of voice assistants and other AI-related platforms is support for interactions that emulate the natural dialogue of humans. One key factor in these interactions is for the conversation to include elements of personalization, which instills more confidence in the capabilities of a voice assistant and help validate the context.

Just as companies use a personalized salutation in emails to convey to consumers that the communication is authentic, voice assistants can respond to a requestor by name. To provide a more personal touch, mortgage lending skills can also enable inflection in Alexa's tone to make interactions more personal. Lastly, based on the requestor's identity, the scope of the data can be paired down to ensure responses were tailored to their specific needs.

Looking toward the future

The rise in popularity of voice assistants affords new opportunities for organizations to interact with customers and employees, while also showcasing the company as an innovator and pioneer in the field.

The hands-free and ubiquitous nature of these devices allows mortgage lending companies to take advantage of this opportunity to improve user experience. However, they must be aware of user expectations and deploy solutions that provide an intuitive and seamless experience to achieve their goals.

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Digital mortgages Artificial intelligence Virtual assistants Mobile technology Mortgage technology Originations Amazon Apple