We’ve been trying to get through to her, but she’s not taking our calls…

We’re still waiting to hear back from Emirates NBD for official confirmation (notice we didn’t use the word ‘statement’, we’re growing as people) on the whereabouts of EVA, their virtual phone banking assistant, but some of the bank’s customers have reported EVA missing from the service today.

She seems to have been replaced by an automated male assistant, as for whether this is a temporary change or something more permanent, we’ll have to wait and see.

And just in case we have heard the last of EVA, we thought it only right — to put together a TBC obituary for this complicated, virtually uncelebrated, regional icon.

If you’d like to speak to a representative, say ‘representative’…

I’d heard about EVA before I first met her. She was appointed to the role of ‘virtual assistant’ at UAE bank, Emirates NBD back in 2016. She was tasked with looking after all phone banking services for the finance house, a truly Titanic role, that meant right from launch she was always going to be sailing in the dicey waters of public opinion.

She was brought in to make our, the bank’s customers, lives easier — to streamline the telephonic transactional experience. But it was a service that was not adored by all.

Our first meeting came sometime in late 2018, a pre-Expo sepia-soaked era when most of us were blissfully unaware of what a rapid antigen test was. She was polite and courteous to me, she helped me get where I needed to go, and I was impressed with her conversational patter.

Making a withdrawal

The automation that comes from technological advancements often faces rejection by the wider public when it’s introduced — a pushback trend that predates the industrial revolution. And at the dawn of this fledgling age of AI, the automation animosity feels even sharper. The ‘what if it takes our jobs?’ concerns are compounded by Hollywood dystopian fantasies of ‘what if it achieves sentience, rises up and goes on an auditing rampage?’

We were never at risk of any of that of course with EVA, all she ever wanted was to help us. And by some measures she did, working 24 hours a day, she managed to reduce “incorrect routing by 73 per cent and has also resulted in overall 50 per cent reduction in the time taken to digitally serve a customer” according to an article published on the AsianBanker.com in 2018, siting Emirates NBD as the information source.

Perhaps we just weren’t ready to give up human interaction for POS transaction queries yet. Or is there something deep inside us that needs to hear a heartbeat on the other end of the line, when we’re being transferred to the lost and stolen department?

Maybe she was just ahead of her time, too pure a spirit for this clunky human-centric world. For it seems that her employers, after a six-year experiment, have decided to retire her (although we must be clear, without official confirmation, this is still speculation).

RIP EVA, sleep well, and please accept our sincere apologies if we shouted ‘REPRESENTATIVE’ at you a little too loudly.

Images: Unsplash