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Collaboration, creativity and customer experience are key to competing.

Head of RBS’ Open Experience innovation spaces Kristen Bennie discusses how important it is to explore all facets of technology when advancing customer service and the direction the bank is taking when it comes to one of the biggest developments in the sector: artificial intelligence.

In the former confines of the bank’s executive wing at the Royal Bank of Scotland HQ sits Open Experience (OX) – our creative collaborative innovation space. I direct this and our sister space in London.

OX is all about bringing people together including designers, researchers, strategists, engineers and external partners to collaboratively design and develop many of the highest priority innovation projects across the bank.

A great example of this is our work in AI.

It all started with our AI powered chatbot called Cora – and later a partnership with a digital start up called SoulMachines - where we became the first bank globally to have digital employees.

Cora was born in January 2017 and in the beginning, was only smart on a small number of topics that our customers frequently asked. Although there were many things she wasn’t going to be able to help with, we decided to launch her on our website.

Instead of spending huge amounts of time building content on what we thought our customers wanted, we just went for it with a plan to manage the unknown. We had a small team who worked tirelessly to train her based on how customers asked questions. Fast forward to today and she’s now smart in hundreds of areas and lives across our digital estate and in our mobile app. She’s also extremely busy, answering around half a million questions from our customers every month.

Once Cora was live, we wanted to look at how we could further humanise this technology and Cora has now found a second life as our first digital human with the enhanced ability to detect emotion.

Key to this enhancement was that we used human centred design techniques to create Cora, her personality is one that is warm, familiar, approachable and friendly and the feedback from our customers has been positive.

We wanted to create an experience that would encourage customers to not only converse with Cora but to trust Cora. Hundreds of small design decisions collectively have helped to create an all round experience.

We are learning all the time. We learned that our customers were open to having a dialogue with her - even those who are not as digitally savvy. We also learned that there are limitations to the technology as it is today but we understand where it is headed and how it will develop exponentially.

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