HDFC Bank launches IRA 2.0 in Bengaluru

Ira and Eva are going to redefine customer experience at HDFC bank. Ira welcomes customers to the bank and guides them; EVA talks to them in plain English, giving customer support on Android and Alexa devices. The bank is betting big on voice-based digital interactions to deliver an omni-channel experience at every customer touch point like web, mobile, social, and other channels.

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The next time you enter HDFC Koramanagala, you will be greeted by a personal assistant. Nope! It not a new employee, nor are you a priority customer. It is IRA 2.0, the shiny white catwalking interactive humanoid.

Almost one and a half years after HDFC bank launched IRA (Intelligent Robotic Assistant) humanoid in its Mumbai branch, the bank on Thursday launched its second version at its Kormanagala branch in Bangalore, which is one of the most important branches in Bangalore. 

IRA 2.0 is an interactive humanoid that has been trained to answer questions frequently asked by customers, and assist the customers to the correct counter as per their requirements. IRA interacts with customers with a voice-based technology, a significant change from the previous version which was mainly touch screen or text-based.

The mobile humanoid is taller than the first version probably to ease the interaction between the customers and IRA. Her volumes can be adjusted but currently has been kept at normal human talking decibel to give customers a greater real time experience. IRA 2.0 has been developed by HDFC Bank in collaboration with its technology partners Invento Makerspaces and Senseforth Technologies. The bank claims it is the first bank in India to introduce a humanoid for customer service in January 2017.

“Today, technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are being deployed across all touch points, including branches. We want to adopt the same technologies and platform that our customers are becoming accustomed to in their daily lives. We foresee a future where these technologies will complement the Bank's physical network and help our employees add value to our customers," said Nitin Chugh, Country head, Digital Banking, HDFC Bank.

... HDFC is currently not focussing on having large numbers of such robots, but has ambitious plans for future. For now the bank will study the usage patterns, use feedback, and gear up for better versions of IRA.
Nitin Chugh
Country Head, Digital Banking, HDFC Bank

“The robot is not here to replace anyone. It is expected to supplement what we do in the branch. It is expected to give a new way of interacting for our customers and it is expected to test a lot of new technologies and study how consumers interact with new technologies.

"When a customer comes to a branch they expect a fairly high level of experience and also expect the experience to keep going up all the time. Some of it can be done by skilling up people by enabling them with digital tools. But we believe customers will get used to interacting with devices like these at various places not just banks. For our staff, it helps them as an assistant,” added Chugh. 

HDFC is currently not focussing on having large numbers of such robots, but has ambitious plans for future. For now the bank will study the usage patterns, use feedback, and gear up for better versions of IRA. IRA is currently fed with answers for around 4000 questions; in the next stage it will be trained for personalized interactions as well. 

Virtual assistant ‘EVA’ intergrated with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

Leveraging more on the voice interaction the bank's Electronic Virtual Assistant ‘EVA’ has been integrated with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, for conversational banking.

What is IRA 2.0?  

It's HDFC bank's second version of the Intelligent Robotic Assistant (IRA).

An interactive humanoid that has been trained to answer customers’ FAQs.

It will assist the bank’s customers to the correct counter as per their requirements.

In the first phase, customers will be able to get answers to queries related to the bank’s product features, fees and charges, interest rates, credit card reward points, payment date, expiry date and branches (address, IFSC), how to block or unblock their card, what to do if a customer forgets pin, and how to update personal information.

However, in the next stage the bank plans that EVA will also be able to do banking transactions and deliver hyper-personalized services using voice.

The bank claims that 85 percent of their customer transactions are on digital platforms. With the integration of EVA with Alexa and Google Assistant, customers can directly ask their queries to EVA on their Android or Alexa devices, instead of manually typing. All a customer has to do is say “Ok Google, talk to HDFC Bank”  (to Google Assistant or Google Home), or "Open HDFC bank" (to Alexa), and then ask the questions to EVA in regular conversational English.

The bank aims to deliver an omni-channel experience to their customers by placing EVA at every customer touch point like web, mobile, social, and other channels so that customers can use the channel of their choice.