How the Cloud Enabled Capital One’s Innovative New Chatbot

By Margaret Mayer, Vice President of Software Engineering, Capital One

Back in March, we introduced Eno, the first natural language SMS chatbot from a U.S. bank.

When Eno first became available, we started with an invitation-only pilot — a rich experience that let us observe and learn how our customers wanted to interact with Eno and gave us important insights into how our infrastructure would perform at scale.

Today, we’re thrilled to introduce Eno to millions of our Capital One U.S. bank and credit card customers. With Eno, users can get quick access to their account balances, recent transactions, and even make a Capital One credit card payment simply by texting in natural language.

1. Cloud makes scaling simple. As the Engineering leader responsible for Eno’s performance, I wanted to be sure we could seamlessly grow with our customer base. We want Eno to have the resiliency and scalability of our web and mobile applications, so that Eno is always there for the customer.

We built our chatbot infrastructure entirely in the cloud, and focused on understanding the stress points as we added customers. Working in this fashion allowed us to identify early where we had monitoring gaps and address them. One pain point we discovered was in the transactions per second limitations at our gateway. As we grew, our customers began interacting above our preset threshold during a spike in pilot enrollment, and Eno was not able to respond. We identified the gaps that caused this issue and worked to address it as we scale. Today, that fix is now part of our playbook as we continue to grow.

As the doors open, allowing our millions of customers to interact with Eno, we’ll be able to respond quickly with additional capacity thanks to the nimble nature of our cloud infrastructure, just as our VP of Next Generation Infrastructure Biba Helou outlined in a recent blog post.

2. Customers ask for the same thing in so many ways — Can you guess how many different expressions customers might use to ask for their account balance? I have to say, I thought maybe 30 to 40 ways, when you consider different phrases, abbreviations and misspellings. But, to our surprise, in our pilot alone, we’ve already seen more than 2,200 different ways that a customer will ask for an account balance.

To handle this, our natural language processing employs deep learning algorithms and is able to recognize new misspellings and abbreviations that we didn’t previously train it on. While we’ve been in pilot, we’ve also reviewed Eno’s responses, which let us validate its training and testing. Real customer interactions showed us what we missed.

This was one of my favorites interactions from our pilot:

Customer: Build me up buttercup.
Eno: Looking for an increase? I can’t do that for you yet, but you can request one here…

We knew customers might ask about credit line increases and we wanted to direct customers to the right link to request one. We didn’t know customers would text lyrics from ’60s hits to see how Eno would respond. We loved Eno’s response, so we let it stand.

We did give Eno a sense of humor. Here’s one question we did anticipate, and our intentional response:

Customer: Where do you live?
Eno: I live in the cloud. Not an actual cloud, mind you. I live on the Internet. So many cat pictures… I love it.

Want to know more about Eno’s character and design, and how we made these decisions? Our head of Conversation Design, Steph Hay, details this further in her blog.

3. It’s about a consistent customer experience, not the channel. You’ve probably read that we’ve been investing in an API-based infrastructure. Whether you log in to your Capital One application or text Eno for your balance, you’ll get the same answer, as we use the same APIs. This flexibility represents a great advantage for our customers, who can be comfortable knowing they have current information regardless of their access point. It also significantly simplified our technical integration, so we could focus on the unique contributions of Eno.

The cloud is really enabling us to do all sorts of incredible creative work. We’re interacting with our customers in ways we never imagined before, and we’re able to change, react and scale with great rapidity.

Are you interested in learning more details about our infrastructure and algorithms? As we scale, we’ll be sharing more in 2018 and beyond. To stay up to date, please follow me on Twitter and on the DevExchange Blog.

Learn more about Eno, and sign up here.

Eno is not available to all bank customers.

These opinions are those of the author. Unless noted otherwise in this post, Capital One is not affiliated with, nor is it endorsed by, any of the companies mentioned. All trademarks and other intellectual property used or displayed are the ownership of their respective owners. This article is © 2017 Capital One.