Financial services AI

Nuance and Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s virtual assistant ‘Ceba’ wins APAC Stevie® Award


The Stevie® Awards are the world’s premier business awards, with more than 100 executives around the world judging over 900 nominations across APAC to identify the 2021 winners.

Nuance and Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA) virtual assistant ‘Ceba’ has taken home Gold in the Innovative Use of Technology in Customer Service (Financial Services Industries) category of the 2021 APAC Stevie® Awards.

More than 100 executives around the world judged over 900 nominations in the eighth annual Asia-Pacific Stevie® Awards—the only business awards program recognizing innovation in the workplace in all 29 nations of APAC. The judges commended Nuance and CBA for the innovative use of AI to solve customer problems with powerful results.

Personalising experiences and increasing customer satisfaction with Ceba

CBA is one of Australia’s leading providers of personal, business and institutional banking, and share broking services. CBA has partnered with Nuance Communications since 2018 to build and deliver innovative technology solutions to assist customers – including the innovative virtual assistant named ‘Ceba’.

Ceba is powered by advanced machine learning and conversational artificial intelligence through Nuance’s Digital Customer Engagement Platform and learns and improves with every interaction–enabling it to become a more sophisticated and mature digital assistant to meet the needs of the ever-evolving Australian population.

When Ceba was first launched, typical customer enquiries included activating cards, checking account balances, making payments, or getting cardless cash. But over the years CBA has evolved Ceba significantly to be a market-leading chatbot that can instantaneously recognise, decipher, understand and answer 450 types (more than 90%) of customer enquiries and approximately 70,000 different questions—and can do so in seconds.

For example, Ceba is now programmed to be able to action the task required to answer a customer’s enquiry, direct a customer to the relevant digital feature that enables them to complete their enquiry via self-service, or triage the enquiry to a human agent where required while providing the agent with background information to save time and provide a better customer experience.

There have been more than 13 million customer conversations in Ceba to date since July 2018, with an average of approximately 500k per month. At times last year CBA saw a 1,000% increase in customer enquiries in Ceba, typically relating to relevant coronavirus support, suspending or deferring repayments and general financial assistance enquiries. In fact, Ceba’s biggest ever month was March 2020, during which it fielded 581,00 conversations—approximately 457,000 of those about suspending or deferring payments.

CBA was able to update Ceba’s answers almost in real-time, as well as monitor the questions to ensure Ceba could successfully answer all the enquiry types. Customers chatting to Ceba were guided to Coronavirus support, financial assistance or given the ability to suspend repayments online – all the time, in the digital channels, without the need to talk to call centre staff.

The demand for Ceba was amplified by the current pandemic, with families increasingly concerned about not being able to make their home loan repayments on time, and more requests for help around domestic and family violence.

The impact of Ceba during this time was immense, as NPS customer service scores from the chat channel not only held consistent in 2020, but in some instances increased during peak Coronavirus periods.

Exceptional customer care is at the heart of any successful organisation, and the value of frictionless, personalised experiences has grown exponentially alongside today’s digital economy. We are extremely proud of these results, and to be recognised for our innovative use of technology in the sector through our work with CBA.

Details about the 2021 APAC Stevie Awards can be found here.

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Tony Lorentzen

About Tony Lorentzen

Tony has more than 25 years of experience in the technology sector, spending the last 17 with Nuance where he is currently the SVP of Intelligent Engagement Solutions within the Enterprise Division. Before that he served as the leader of several teams at Nuance including Sales Engineering, Business Consulting, and Product Management. A proven leader in working with the cross-functional teams, Tony blends his in-depth knowledge of business management, technology and vertical domain expertise to bring Nuance’s solutions to the Enterprise market, partnering with customers to ensure implementations drive true ROI. Prior to Nuance, Tony spent time at Lucent and Verizon where he led teams that applied the latest technologies to solve complex business issues for large enterprises. Tony received a B.S. from Villanova University and a MBA from Dowling College.