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Intelligent Chatbots for Retirement Planning

Cantina partnered with Principal to evaluate the viability of voice technology to enhance Principal’s online 401k participant experience.

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Intelligent bots and conversational user interfaces (UI’s) are emerging technologies that promise disruptive opportunities in both consumer and enterprise markets. With an increasingly demanding consumer and an internal desire to reduce stress on call centers, financial services companies are turning to these technologies to help improve their front-end customer experience.

25 %

Twenty-five percent of customer service operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels by 2020, up from less than 2% in 2017 - Gartner

To leverage chatbots effectively, a first step is understanding where users meet resistance during their online experience. What tasks are difficult to accomplish? What information is hard to find? Are there gaps between available content and common user questions? At what specific points do users tend to log out due to frustration, or dial the call center for live assistance? Answers to these questions inform the design of effective chatbots and other conversational UI’s.

Identifying and Verifying Critical Touchpoints for Chatbot Technology

Principal engaged Cantina to help it assess specific touchpoints of their participant experience, with a focus on where they might leverage chatbot technology to improve the experience and also reduce call center volume. Specifically, Cantina was charged with assessing two distinct functions: 401k participant distribution requests, and the new 401k participant onboarding experience.

During a six-week discovery phase for the project, members of Cantina’s User Experience team focused on the existing distribution process to determine where participants run into issues as they withdraw money from their account. The Cantina team worked closely with Principal to review existing user research and refine journey maps. After identifying a few key areas of concern, Cantina developed online prototypes and conducted user testing to explore alternatives to the current process. The result was a report detailing chatbot functionality that would streamline Principal’s distribution experience for 401k participants and reduce call volume to Principal’s call center.

Sample of other deliverables
Cantina provided Principal with in-depth recommendations and guidance on the implementation of chatbots along with a detailed report containing industry research and case studies summarizing the use of chatbots across the financial services industry.

The same discovery and analysis process was undertaken by Cantina for the online onboarding area of the site where new participants visit to enroll in a Principal 401k plan. Principal believed that the onboarding process for new visitors was an ideal place to leverage a “hand-holding” approach, synonymous with chatbots. Cantina helped to verify this by noting that enrollees often share the same questions about their new plan which is a strong use case for chatbot technology. Cantina helped to develop journey maps and prototyped a chatbot that answered common onboarding questions for new 401k participants. This effort proved invaluable to Principal and helped to bring to life the value of chatbot technology to improve the onboarding experience and reduce call center volume.

Sample conversations from Cantina's chatbot prototype.
Sample conversations from Cantina's chatbot prototype.
Deploying a Chatbot Strategy with Clarity, Insight and Confidence

Cantina’s work unlocked valuable insights for Principal and provided Principal with the clarity and insight it needed to move forward with a chatbot strategy focused on improving the 401k participant experience and freeing up call center representatives for more meaningful consultative services verus fielding basic 401k participant questions.

70 %

According to Gartner, companies deploying chatbots have seen their call, chat and email volumes drop by seventy percent and their customers satisfaction scores soar.


If you are interested in learning more about this engagement or how Cantina can help you with a project contact us today. We'd love to help.

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