Nationwide Building Society has used artificial intelligence (AI) to trains a virtual assistant to help provide customer support.

The building society is using its virtual assistant to answer questions about mortgage support for those impacted by coronavirus. The software, called Arti, has been supporting the Society’s frontline teams by learning how to respond to some of the most common mortgage holiday queries. As well as providing swift responses to more than 10,000 queries since 27th March via online chat, Arti freed up hundreds of hours for colleagues to deal with more complex queries from the Society’s members during these difficult times.

A team made up of the Society’s mortgage, technology and AI specialists worked together on the project and were able to build, test and roll out the service in just four days. Arti’s new abilities went live at the end of March, answering thousands of mortgage holiday queries within the first few days and continuing to respond to about 350 queries per day since.

In addition to providing Arti with dialogue to respond with, the team also taught Arti to comprehend intent and understand how a similar question could be asked in several ways, to provide the best possible response. Where Arti was not able to answer a query, it could pass the member over to a fully trained mortgage advisor to help instead, all within the same online chat experience.

Beverley Bartlett, Senior Digital Manager at Nationwide, said “We see Arti as one of our 18,000 colleagues supporting members to find the best possible solution to their query. This isn’t solely about innovation but responding to our members’ most pressing needs. Training Arti is just one part of a bigger picture as we find new ways to serve our members better and deploy our colleagues to areas they are most needed, during this unprecedented time. With an 89% increase in new registrations for Nationwide’s online bank since lockdown began, it’s important we provide our members with more choice to engage with us digitally, alongside our branch network and contact centres, should they need them.”

“The speed at which we delivered this new capability meant that frontline teams could spend their time dealing with more complex queries from our members. It means we can continue to serve our members in more ways, more quickly and effectively, but still with the added reassurance of the human touch, if needed, that our members value.”