Sean Sposito of American Banker reports that more and more banks are deploying artificial intelligence in an attempt to better understand their customers. He writes, “As BBVA Compass was tinkering with its retail banking pricing strategies last fall, robots were scraping the web behind the scenes. Like its peers, the Birmingham, Ala. bank needed to adapt to caps on interchange fees. It had to decide which benefits its retail customers would keep and which would get the ax. On a hunch, the bank decided to drop its $25 checking anniversary bonus, while keeping its debit rewards and other features. The computers confirmed that people were upset, but prodded executives to tell customer service reps and tellers to explain that BBVA Compass had decided to keep its other perks.”

He continues, “Those robots, really snippets of code dipping and diving into paragraphs and sentences across the internet, gave the bank what focus groups and pollsters would have taken months to confirm. The reports the bank receives from the machines give BBVA daily insights into consumer reaction to the bank and its competitors… The technology BBVA used is an outgrowth of sentiment analysis — the same type of study researchers conduct when polling an audience. A computer program, instead of asking people questions, surveys the Web on a large scale. Technology giants such as IBM and SAS offer clients software packages that comb the Web for clues to consumer sentiment. Those programs parse language and attempt to understand the meaning of words, pairs of words or phrases, in context.”

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Image: Courtesy Flickr/ Sue Waters