A fluffy Newfoundland dog is the face of FlexiGroup’s first customer-facing chatbot Bosley. Modelled on the pet of one of the company’s employees, Bosley’s job is to remove the fear factor from applying for credit products by creating an informal pre-check chat. The customer is asked a couple of simple questions, which allows Bosley to quickly run a credit check and determine if the individual is eligible.
As far as CCO Tim McFarlane knows, it’s a first in the credit industry. “We know that applying for credit products is quite intimidating for a lot of people – they feel uncomfortable talking about their financial circumstances and fear of their application being rejected. We wanted to create a friendlier, more ‘human’ process that gives customers an idea in advance of whether their application is likely to be accepted, before they move onto a real person or a digital form to progress their application.”
It worked – within the first six months of going live, and without active promotion of Bosley, between 500 and 1,000 people each month were engaging with Bosley on the Q Mastercard website.
Dealing with financial information means Bosley has to take privacy concerns into account.
"The project included some interesting challenges to work through,” says Ambit's Josh Comrie.
This required integration with FlexiGroup’s credit check provider and proprietary credit scoring system, drawing on Ambit’s capacity to integrate with a wide range of software and channels. “As an enterprise platform, we design with security and robustness in mind from the outset, so our customers can rest assured that their customers’ privacy is upheld."
In a first for Ambit, Bosley has been designed to forget sensitive information (such as driver’s licence numbers) as soon as the credit decisioning pre-check exercise has been completed, while still capturing the conversations, so that they can inform future conversation design.
Choosing to work with Ambit was also in line with FlexiGroup’s friendly, inclusive and flexible culture. Employees can work from home to accommodate the needs of their families or even bring their dog to work – so the chatbot’s dog persona was a natural fit.
Ambit’s structure allows for clients to have as much or as little hands-on involvement in the development of their chatbot. Tim’s team appreciated the opportunity to interact face to face in workshops with Ambit’s team as Bosley came to life.
“We looked at a couple of other providers before signing up with Ambit, but most of them are international,” he says. “We liked that Ambit is local, so they understand our Kiwi culture and have a friendly and flexible way of doing business that aligns with ours.
“It also helped that the Ambit team has a good understanding of financial services and could help us simplify the financial language in Bosley’s conversations.”
Initially, Bosley dealt with a generic set of questions in a relatively structured way, however learning over time he has become smarter and more intuitive with every conversation.
Questions were being asked on a range of topics (including credit limit changes, switching between cards, transferring balances, setting a PIN, card activation and payments). The high levels of engagement confirmed to the FlexiGroup team that customers are interested in chatting with Bosley.
Future developments will enable Bosley to engage with existing customers (via a robust authentication process) to answer questions about their personal information such as their account balance, and to help with monthly payments.
Other future integrations planned for Bosley include Facebook Messenger, and voice software that can accept verbal, rather than typed, responses.
“This is a massive opportunity,” says Tim. “We’re just scratching the surface of how this technology can help deliver a truly customer-centric approach to consumer finance.” His vision is to create a family of ‘chat dogs’ for a range of FlexiGroup’s card products.
Some of FlexiGroup’s merchant partners are so impressed that they have expressed interest in using a Bosley-like chatbot in their own businesses.
“We work hard to give our customers what they need,” says Tim. “These days, customers want immediate results, and Bosley has shown how fast we can bring something new to market.”
As the old saying goes, perhaps you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But with a brand new dog, the sky’s the limit. Especially because this dog never sleeps.