Commonwealth Bank is using digital enhancements to drive greater customer experiences and take a proactive response in identifying and helping customers who needed support through the COVID-19 pandemic and, more recently, the catastrophic flooding across eastern Australia.

In a presentation to the Digital Banking Summit NSW in Sydney last week, CBA’s General Manager Data and Analytics Channel and Customer, Matthew Malady, and General Manager Integrated Channels, Lee Challoner-Miles, outlined how services such as Ceba – the bank’s virtual assistant – are being used to provide more tailored support to customers.

This is part of CBA’s strategy to deliver global best digital customer experiences. During the most recent flooding, more than 1.6 million personal and business customers were contacted directly through virtual means with offers of help, they said.

Speaking to CBA Newsroom, Mr Challoner-Miles said in the past, when natural disasters like floods or fires had occurred, customers who required financial assistance would often need to directly contact the bank.

But, following the creation of Ceba in 2018 and the introduction of the bank’s Customer Engagement Engine powered by artificial intelligence, the bank is now able to proactively identify customers who may be impacted by a natural disaster and offer financial assistance and support in a streamlined, timely manner.

“In the past, we would make [financial] grants available and the customers would work out if they were eligible and then call a specific telephone number, where they would then sit on hold because there were so many people affected and calling through at the same time,” Mr Challoner-Miles said.

“We can now use our data analytics to identify the individuals we know have the best possibility of qualifying for and getting benefits from the grant and then channel them in such a way that they just have to fill in a couple of questions digitally through Ceba and we can process the rest in the background. It creates a high level of efficiency for our customers and the bank.”

Mr Challoner-Miles said the technology behind Ceba meant it wasn’t just a traditional chat-bot, but rather a true virtual assistant for the bank’s customers.

“A Chat-bot is given a generic question and delivers a generic answer. Ceba can actually help customers instantly with their unique needs because it understands who customers are. It has context from the customer analytics data we have. And if it can’t help a customer it will put them through to a human who can,” he said.

Also speaking to CBA Newsroom, Matthew Malady said the bank had a clear ambition to provide customers with one of the best digital experiences of any company globally.

Mr Malady said Ceba and the bank’s Customer Engagement Engine are just two of the ways CBA is using digital technology to provide best-in-class customer experiences.

“The customer engagement engine allows us to communicate with our customers in a really relevant manner across all of our channels – be it in branch, via our call centres, or across our digital channels,” he said.

“Our Customer Engagement Engine has helped us to reach more than 1.6 million flood affected customers and businesses in Queensland and New South Wales recently to offer support. The technology also enabled us to proactively communicate with approximately 3,500 immediately eligible business loan customers to let them know about the option to defer their loan repayments.”

In addition to the recent flood support, Mr Malady said the bank had leveraged its Customer Engagement Engine throughout the pandemic to proactively engage with large numbers of Australians who were potentially impacted by the various COVID restrictions and let them know about specific government grants and rebates they might be entitled to.

Customers could then apply for these grants and rebates through CommBank’s digital feature Benefits finder. Since its launch in September 2019, Benefits finder has helped CBA customers save in excess of $500 million.

Throughout FY21, CBA – through its use of AI and the Benefits finder feature – was able to alert 4.7 million customers to the various government benefits and rebates they could be eligible for based on their personal situation and finances.

Most recently, a dedicated Benefits finder for business dashboard was created to help small business owners access applicable government grants and rebates. Between June and December 2021, 12,500 Australian businesses initiated approximately $93 million in claims via the digital feature, with the NSW COVID Business Support Grant one of the most popular grants available.

Further, the Benefits finder digital feature continues to be updated to include all of the recent Government (both Federal and State) support that is available to customers impacted by the floods.  This includes things like the Disaster Recovery Payment, Disaster Recovery Allowance, Small Business Grant, and Rental Support, with direct messages being sent to eligible customers to ensure they are aware of the support available to them.