Announcing The Bias Index: Identifying Discrimination In Your Institution

In banking, bias reveals itself in subtle ways. Customers may experience an obstacle and find that discrimination is at the root of their challenge. They may face discrimination due to their race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, military service, or citizenship.

I am proud to present the PositivityTech intelligent platform’s proprietary Bias Index, a new tool that identifies prejudice within customer and employee complaints and makes it possible to respond to systemic discrimination.

Why did you decide to develop the Bias Index?

Each one of us has faced unequal treatment at some point in our lives, and it is wrong that discrimination continues to play a role in our banking. For example, in December, the media revealed that a black customer and a black employee at JPMorgan Chase were unable to gain access to the same opportunities as their white peers. As a result, the bank implemented mandatory diversity training and said that it “would pay more attention to employee complaints.” Today, the pandemic continues to highlight issues of discriminatory banking practices against minority business owners. While banks are doing their best to weed out discrimination, it continues to rear its ugly head.

Customers tell us what we need to know, but often indirectly. I created the Bias Index because I understand the value of customer voice data, I have expertise in the advanced analytics capabilities needed to extract this intelligence, and I am passionate about eliminating bias from our institutions. Bias is wrong and there is no place for it in our institutions’ decision-making processes.

Financial institutions need to address issues of bias in order to enforce fair banking practices, establish safe and sound lending practices, ensure compliance, and prevent lawsuits.

How does the Bias Index pinpoint discrimination?

The Bias Index is an AI predictive model that digests the contextual reference of a complaint to reveal the root of the complaint, allowing financial institutions to focus on repairing products or unjust practices.

Using the PositivityTech platform, financial institutions can uncover customer complaints that shed light on disparate treatment and their impact. Here are two examples of such complaints:

“I received a call from an unknown collection agency stating they were a collector for X… The representative on the phone had a very intimidating and condescending tone and threatened to garnish my wages if I did not make a payment that moment… My recent knowledge of X’s class action lawsuit gave me the courage to speak up about the injustice I faced as a military service member. I believe I was subjected to illegal collection practices from X’s use of administrative offset — a procedure whereby federal payments, such as social security, veterans’ benefits, and tax refunds are withheld to collect debt.”

“The employees refused to be sensitive to my pronouns’ and name change. As a result, my account was closed after years of torture from this credit card company. I’m still left with a punishment and a persistent reminder.”

With a well-designed and implemented program of self-testing, financial institutions can safeguard their customers. Yet, to truly prevent discrimination, banks need to do more than self-testing. With its proprietary tools, including the newly developed Bias Index, the PositivityTech platform pinpoints the root cause based on customers’ voices, predicts future unfair actions to ensure better decision-making, takes steps to prevent systemic discrimination, and proactively strengthens your institution.

Why is it normally so challenging for institutions to identify biases and systemic discrimination?

Interestingly, less than .02% of CFPB complaints identify discrimination as the reason for their complaint. Context matters. Subtle bias may be described in the financial institution’s action, or the interaction with the financial institution’s employee.

Furthermore, while the PositivityTech platform’s proprietary Severity Score captures the overall frustration within customer complaints, subtle bias is a sub-specialization. Complaints that contain words like “decency” and “bias” are 30-40% more severe than the average complaint. However, many of these complaints are not due to some type of prejudice.

With the PositivityTech platform’s Bias Index, we are activating the science of transforming negatives to positives in timely and impactful ways. If you are interested in learning more about how the Bias Index can help you identify and weed out systemic discrimination in your financial institution, please get in touch with me at marcia.tal@positivitytech.com. I look forward to hearing from you.


A Method For Listening To Our Customers

I hope you, your families, and your teams are staying safe during these unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world overnight, shifted our priorities, and forced our institutions to confront a range of new challenges. These include scams, such as false offerings about COVID-19 vaccines, cures, and tests; fake coronavirus-related charities, and scams targeting Social Security benefits.

Financial institutions now handle an onslaught of inquiries and are directing customers to adopt their digital channels as their communication entry point. As unemployment increases and many customers are unable to make their payments, financial institutions are being proactive and offering new options to help their customers.

With customers turning to their banks for assistance and support, financial institutions have a front seat to the pandemic’s vast impact on individuals and businesses. They also have processes in place to capture massive, expansive volumes of data — hidden assets — which can help them work through both immediate and continued challenges.

How Conversations Help Institutions Plan For The Future

In this crisis, financial institutions are doing their best to respond to their customers’ voices. Understanding and analyzing these conversations is important for planning ahead and anticipating future needs. The following method includes four steps that institutions can take to get ahead of the curve.

1. Listen to customers’ voices

Financial institutions may not have the capacity to respond to each inquiry immediately. They can be transparent about that, while still showing customers that they are interested in personally connecting with them, listening to them, and ultimately helping them. When a customer sends a message via digital channels, the bank can reply with a message that confirms receipt and provides a time frame for a response. Directing customers to automated responses that do not answer their specific questions runs the risk of demonstrating that they’re not listening and increasing customers’ frustration.

2. Save and use “voice of customer” data

Your customer’s voice is your most valuable asset, and when these voices are collected as written narratives, they include a wealth of important data. Regardless of when financial institutions are able to respond to their customers’ inquiries, they can protect and save their narratives in order to uncover insights and learn from them later.

3. Integrate data effectively

In order to gain value from customers’ conversations during their phone calls and from the narratives within the IVR, messages, chats, and social media comments, banks must find a way to integrate this data at scale. The PositivityTech intelligent platform was designed with proprietary data ingestion capabilities that can ingest data of any format and structure and seamlessly utilize its intelligence. By bringing this diverse data together and viewing it in a single format, banks can understand their customers’ current needs, forecast their future needs, and create strategies to meet those needs.

4. Tell a visual story with data

A picture is worth a thousand words, and simple visualizations can tell a rich story. With customer data ingested and integrated, institutions can create dashboards that answer critical business questions and help institutions monitor their customers’ needs during this time of crisis. The PositivityTech platform was designed to answer critical questions through dashboards and simple queries.

Use Your Customers’ Voices To Help With Reprioritization

As you recreate your 2020 priorities, I encourage you to approach your customers’ voices as critical intelligence and to use this method as a guide. If you would like to discuss how the conversations you are having today can help you reprioritize, please email me at marcia.tal@positivitytech.com.

Stay healthy and safe.


How To Maintain Your Relationship With A Customer After A Scam

Fake check scams impact financial institutions – and institutions’ relationships with their customers. It’s a perfect storm. Banks have complicated and inconsistent policies. Scammers know this. When fake checks are deposited, the bank may not realize that they’re fake and the money may become available before the bank and the customer realize what has happened.

Using the PositivityTech intelligent platform, we explored customer complaints about fake checks and discovered the impact this issue has on both banks and their customers.

Why fake checks destroy customers’ relationships with banks

After being victimized by a fake check scam, bank customers turn to their banks for help. As the bank identifies the scam, it often closes the customer’s account, charges fees, and makes it impossible for the customer to access their funds. Ultimately, the customer becomes a victim of the scammer and the bank. The customer loses money, credibility, and trust in their bank. Customers feel like their money is unsafe and that their issue was not dealt with in a timely fashion.

The following complaints illustrate these issues:

“This has been a nightmarish experience that has caused a great deal of hardship to my family with a total lack of communication and lack of empathy or urgency by XXX Bank. And I feel that it is due to their failure to identify a fake check and to properly identify their customers before handing out such a large sum of cash. My funds no longer feel safe at this bank.”

“It doesn’t make any sense to me. I am the victim and yet the bank made me out to be the villain and once again punished me.”

  • According to the PositivityTech platform’s proprietary Severity Score, complaints about fake check scams are 25% worse than the average score for all complaints.
  • According to the PositivityTech platform’s proprietary Account Closure Score, customers who complain about fake check scams are three times more likely to close their accounts than customers who complain about other issues.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there has been a 65% increase in such scams since 2015. Success in banking depends on customers trusting an institution enough to deposit their money there.

Listen to customers’ complaints to uncover hidden opportunities: How banks can improve their fake check scam protocol

Who should take responsibility for fake check scams? Customers need to help protect themselves and banks need to take action to avoid these scams. Banks can take the following steps to improve how they prevent and handle these scams — and protect their relationships with their customers:

  1. Create more targeted protocols for screening fraudulent checks and flagging potential risks.
  2. Develop more granularity and segmentation to refine policies.
  3. Respond to fake check complaints in a timely manner.
  4. Communicate respectfully with customers about these scams.
  5. Understand that these fake check scams are not isolated to one transactional occurrence. In fact, these scams can deteriorate the relationship between customers and banks.
  6. Develop education for customers about preventing fake check scams.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you use the PositivityTech platform to implement cutting-edge analytics, predictive tools, and preventative actions to impact all categories of customer complaints and to turn negatives to positives, please get in touch with me at marcia.tal@positivitytech.com. I look forward to speaking with you soon.


Executives Share Their Top 5 “Complaint Priorities” For 2020

Since launching the PositivityTech intelligent platform, we’ve met with dozens of financial institution executives. They have shared their need to listen more closely to their customers and to take action on the systemic patterns that manifest in their customers’ complaints. Here is what we’ve heard from them:

“We have so much innovative technology, and yet, we still don’t really know our customers.”

1. Financial institutions want to proactively protect and strengthen their businesses by turning complaints into strategic assets.

Today, the rise in customer complaints attracts media attention, amplifying consumer voices and driving regulatory scrutiny. To ensure our financial institutions are ahead of these issues, executives need to manage complaints proactively instead of resolving them one at a time.

“We have a lot of untapped customer data that is unstructured, and we want to understand its value to the customer experience.”

2. Financial institutions are beginning to recognize that their customers’ voices are their most valuable assets.

Executives understand the value that can be derived from customer complaints. Customer complaints can help executives flag future risks and take important preemptive steps, which can impact business performance. Managing customer complaints is like managing a portfolio, and can offer a multitude of new business opportunities.

“So much of our work is manual. We need to become more efficient at integrating our data.”

3. Financial institutions want to understand their market share of complaints. 

Executives want to know how their customer complaints compare to their competitors’ customer complaints. This necessitates integrating data from internal and external sources, including customers’ voices and behaviors. When executives see that the PositivityTech platform has this capability, they are intrigued.

“Different parts of the organization use different tools and methods to understand the customer journey.”

4. Financial institutions need to better align their complaint categorizations. 

Every executive we’ve spoken to has shared their need for standardized customer complaint categories. The PositivityTech platform develops categories that merge what customers say with how financial institutions can meet their needs.

“We need to be able to securely and efficiently integrate diverse data sources at scale with an end-to-end view of customer interactions.”

5. Financial institutions want to utilize complaints to impact their financial performance.

Instead of solely focusing on the volume of complaints, PositivityTech’s scalable platform focuses on the severity of complaints, which helps predict multiple business drivers, such as account attrition, customer engagement, and environmental risk management. All of these business drivers play a role in a business’s financial performance.

Our meetings continue to validate that the PositivityTech platform is helping financial institutions listen to their customers like never before, preempt regulatory and reputational risk, and grow their revenue in new ways.

If you’re interested in discussing your financial institution’s 2020 goals, we’d be happy to schedule a meeting. Please email me at marcia.tal@positivitytech.com. I look forward to hearing from you.


Are Gift Cards Really The Best Gift Of All?

The holiday season is here, which means that gift shopping season is well underway. While some of us spend hours selecting the perfect gifts for our loved ones, many of us will give our family and friends gift cards — which they may actually want most of all. In fact, according to the National Retail Foundation, gift cards are the most requested “wish list” items for the holiday season.

Yet, gift cards come with their own sets of challenges, including fraud and difficulty of use. For example, when people purchase gift cards from a store, they may not realize that the PIN number is already visible. If its covering is scratched off, someone may have accessed the gift card’s value.

Another gift card scam begins with a phone call from an imposter who shares that their victim’s Social Security number is suspended due to suspicious activity. After the imposter asks the person to confirm their Social Security number so that they can reactivate it or issue them a new number, they require the person to send them money with a gift card.

According to 2018 FTC data:

  • Since 2015, reports of gift card scams have increased 270%.
  • 41,000 fraud reports to the FTC involved gift cards.
  • From March 2018 – March 2019, people lodged more than 76,000 complaints against Social Security imposters.

Turning to banks to solve gift card scams

Though payments made to scammers through gift cards are untraceable and disconnected from one’s bank account, individuals continuously turn to their banks to help them recover their lost money.

Using the PositivityTech intelligent platform, we explored financial institutions’ customers’ complaints about gift card-related issues, including this one:

I was the victim of a Social Security gift card scam. I was called on my cell where the number of the SSA appeared. I answered the call and was told that my SS# had been used in criminal activity. To protect my money in my bank, I was to purchase the gift cards, scratch them, take photos, and send them by email to X, where my money would be protected until they issued me a new number…. I asked the bank to help me and give me credit for the scam charges and sent them all of the documentation. The bank completed the investigation and responded that all charges would remain on my statement…. I need help. 

By holistically studying all of the customer complaints about gift cards in the CFPB using the PositivityTech platform, we found that:

  • Top complaints relate to challenges customers have experienced when using gift cards.
  • 58% of customer complaints about gift cards relate to fraud.

Empowering banks to prepare for their customers’ complaints

With consumers spending more than $130 billion on gift cards per year, we expect customers to continue sharing their gift card-related complaints with their banks. After being defrauded, customers want to retrieve their money.

If you would like to discuss how you can turn negatives into positives and make the holiday season more joyous for your customers, we would be happy to speak with you.

Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday season!