In common with many other sectors, the insurance market continues to experience the effects of digital disruption.
Long-established behemoths are up against nimble, digital-first upstarts with lower cost bases and a laser-sharp focus on winning mind and market share, by offering keenly priced policies and highly responsive service.
The Covid-sparked pivot to digital has compounded the challenges faced by the ‘old guard’. During the course of the pandemic, dealing with service providers of all stripes – insurers included – became the default option for millions of Australians.
Overwhelmingly, those consumers want – expect! – the experience to be easy and efficient when they contact an insurance company to obtain quotes, purchase or renew a policy, lodge a claim or enquire about its progress.
Higher than expected call volumes
Alas, expectations and reality are often poles apart. Keeping customers waiting on the line for extended periods of time is still the norm for many insurance providers.
In large part, that’s because insurance-related enquiries are very often not simple. Products are complex and so are customers’ circumstances. For every easily answered question, there’s a complicated query which may take an agent many minutes to resolve, if indeed they’re able to do so without escalating the case to a senior colleague.
Insurers that want to improve their customer experience by slashing wait times and increasing the incidence of on-the-spot resolutions have two choices. They can expand the size of their workforces and accept the hit to profits that is likely to ensue, or they can turn to AI technology to help them manage customer interactions smarter, faster and better.
Exploring the AI options
How best to deploy that technology is the $64 million question. Some insurance providers may look to go ‘all in’; introducing virtual agents powered by Conversational AI – powerful, new generation technology that can facilitate dynamic conversations with customers.
Natural language processing capability enables these virtual agents to ‘understand’ complex requests and context, accommodate conversational variations and deliver accurate, helpful responses to enquiries, at speed.
They can reliably finalise a wide range of interactions, rather than merely leading a customer a couple of steps down the path to resolution before redirecting them to a human counterpart.
Easing into AI
Other insurers may take the view that their customers will respond better to a more subtle, phased approach to AI, one which sees Conversational AI-powered ‘whisper agents’ deployed to assist hard pressed contact centre workforces.
Their role is to guide human agents through processes, providing suggestions and answering questions but not interacting directly with customers.
It’s a more conservative, lower risk modus operandi for insurers whose customers may not be entirely ready for the shock of the new, that is, entire interactions powered by AI.
It enables customers to enjoy the familiarity of person-to-person interaction with human agents who control the conversation but who are able to draw on a secret superpower – instant access to a wealth of information and resolutions that enable them to handle requests more efficiently.
Whisper agents can be trained to know everything there is to know about an insurer’s policies and procedures. They’ll only provide information that has been vetted by the organisation’s underwriting and compliance teams and they won’t deviate from established processes.
Giving human agents instant access to this dynamic repository of corporate knowledge can accelerate the call resolution process and ensure customers receive information that’s consistently accurate.
Getting faster and better
It’s an AI strategy that’s already paying oversized dividends for one major US insurer. In 2020, it trained the Amelia Conversational AI platform on 50 unique, industry specific topics.
While on the phone with customers, the company’s human agents interact with the platform via a chat interface which leads them step by step through a gamut of common procedures – think coverage change, reinstatement requests and the provision of Certificates of Currency.
Since the platform’s deployment, the average call duration has dropped from 4.6 to 4.2 minutes – a substantial productivity gain, given the organisation typically fields around 250,000 calls and conversations a month. With Amelia, the insurer’s first call resolution rate has also risen to 75%.
Reaping the returns
There are similar returns to be had for Australian insurers that are prepared to invest in strategies and programs of work that harness the power of Conversational AI.
If your organisation hopes to keep up and compete long term, there’s no better time to start exploring the possibilities.