This is Day 3 of ChatBot Week on Daily Fintech. You can see the intro and index here.
The writing is on the wall for banks and their customers. Soon banking and all its associated tasks will be completely embedded in our everyday lives. Banking will live in the platforms we love to engage with, allowing us to access our financial life exactly when we need to. We won’t have to plan our lives around banking – banking will plan its life around us.
Chatbots are shaping up as the critical ingredient that will propel this future state into being. Why? Because chatbots have the ability to create a dialogue with a customer that’s personalised, real-time and, more importantly, actually effective. No more worrying if that real-life customer support agent actually processed your form or actioned your request, or if that payment you sent through actually made it to your supplier. That’s the magic of automation – it just happens.
It’s easy to visualise how texting your personalised bank chatbot will make handling your personal finances easier. The emerging opportunity now is to build on these simple early use cases and build some killer chatbot powered applications for use in small business. For example:
- How could a business owner chat with their bank to check their pending settlements?
- How could a business owner chat with their accounting system to confirm bills it wants to pay?
This week accounting giant Sage announced the beta launch of its new bot Pegg, built in partnership with bot platform Gupshup.
Pegg is ‘a smart assistant who lives where you work and lets you manage your business admin through your favourite messaging apps’. Just spent money on a business lunch? Message Pegg with the amount and take a photo of the receipt. You can then generate a one-time access link to a webpage where you can download a csv file of your transactions. Just been paid for your freelance design services? Let Pegg know and it will lodge this as income earned.
Let’s be clear, Sage isn’t intending Pegg to replace existing accounting software and cloud add-ons. Sage is instead using Pegg to go after the 65 percent of small businesses it claims still rely on spreadsheets and manual recording practices. Its going after the under-served portion of the market that aren’t commercially attractive for the bigger players up the food-chain. Pegg is almost like the Square of accounting.
I gave Pegg a go. It’s easy to use, and when I did run into trouble conversing with the chatbot, it prompted me to type ‘help’ so I could access a list of instructions it did understand.
The world of accounting software plugins and apps should be very nervous about chatbots. I hardly need a budgeting app and a receipt scanning plugin for my accounting software if I have a chatbot that does it all – especially if it then posts the information back to my software. And if the stats telling us nearly half of us will be freelancers by 2020, simple, lightweight accounting tools will be all the rage.