The insurance industry has helped drive new technology and automation since the earliest days of telephones and computers. Within memory is the era of data processing and room-filling mainframe computers with their army of keepers. The industry’s voracious appetite for better and faster data computation pushed the advances in computer memory, parallel processing, and new computer languages and paradigms. This first-wave of digital transformation transformed the industry but at huge expense and with many false starts.
Recently, with the explosion in data produced and computational power, the next wave of automation is coming, set to change the industry once again. Artificial intelligence tools will help solve three nagging dilemmas holding back insurers– 24/7 service demand, large-scale personalization requirements, and failing and outdated systems integration.
Policyholders expect help, no matter the time or the day. Nevermind that it’s 11 pm on the 4th of July, insurers’ teams need to be ready to serve and advise. This is a rankling dilemma for everyone, from small insurers to the largest carriers. Staffing call centers around the clock to catch these inquiries would be outrageously expensive. Some have turned to outsourcing call handling yet this has been unpopular, risking consumer alienation and needless loss of acquisition costs and well-nurtured relationships.
So we should turn to self-help to fill the gaps, right? Consumers prefer self-help to live assistance so that often seems like a good strategy. The financial industry re-engineered their retail banking sector on the back of self service and consumers embraced it. Why should consumers not make the same jump with their insurance needs?
We have tried that for dozen years or so. Keeping online self-help and apps up-to-date is expensive, requiring ongoing maintenance and training. Website and app resources seemed to be the answer but results have a spotty record when it comes to truly serving what the users need. They certainly don’t bridge the divide between the language insureds use to ask for help and the industry jargon that is found online.
The solution is AI-enabled virtual agents. These chatbots speak the same language as the customer and can patiently answer questions for 1 or 1000 customers at the same time. A history of each conversation is available for review and becomes part of the machine learning that helps improve the service to each customer. No longer will customer feedback surveys complain about wait times.
Customer preferences seem incongruous. They want friendly service that understands them, empathizes and doesn’t waste their time with options they don’t want, but they overwhelmingly say they want to avoid speaking with live agents.
If time and cost was no object, agencies and carriers could provide highly trained, experienced agents and service agents to give white glove service to every customer, and create volumes of self-help and marketing materials to let customers explore on their own. But insurers have to be pragmatic.
Not only are AI virtual agents available any time and able to take care of surges in requests, they also can learn to tailor conversations, services and even target selling which products and when. Where does this skill come from? Virtual agent platforms can be connected to insurer databases and public sources so it can analyze and learn about each client, and an infinite variety of segments of the market.
Unlike an agent who may have to guess when a customer will welcome an added product, machine learning makes the chatbots the most astute seller in the company.
One area often overlooked for virtual agents is to help integrate all of the systems the insurer works with on a daily basis. It may be amazing to see a seasoned agent or service agent who deftly navigates all of the databases and systems. But so many systems are core to the business of insurance, it has created a training nightmare and a risk that all of this human juggling is prone to errors and delays.
Why not let the genius AI virtual agent figure out all of this interconnecting and dependencies. This virtual agent can “speak” to the live agent, completing tasks as directed, gathering and presenting information all in human language. No more memorizing codes, fields, logging in, headaches and delays. And all of this activity is logged to allow for monitoring and auditing.
Many activities that agencies and carriers perform on a daily basis are vital to serve customers but they don’t really add to the bottom line. Virtual agents can perform many of these tasks from start to finish, like providing Proof of Insurance cards, quoting new policies, and accepting payments.
Payment chatbots are some of the most exciting and straightforward examples of how these AI-helpers can transform the business. Virtual agents that can take payments inside of a conversation and offer a variety of payment methods. The conversation can happen in an app, a website, on a chat app like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, or on a device like Amazon Alexa. Even SMS phone text works.
The payment flow is only part of the power of payment chatbots. Payment agents can also give reminders of upcoming bills, including amounts, answer questions about if and when a payment was credited, and answer questions about billing.
So a policyholder gets a reminder via phone text on Thursday, five days before his premium is due, with a link and prompt to complete payment right then using the link. The customer asks which payment method he used last time and the chatbot instantly replies with the payment method and amount, following up by asking if the customer would like to pay the bill now using the same method. He can decide to pay then or ask the chatbot to remind him again about the payment on Saturday, after he can check the balance in his checking account before making the payment.
Best of all, the well-trained insurance chatbot doesn’t let these follow up tasks fall through the cracks. Reminders get sent, information they give policyholders is correct, and they never get tired.
Payment chatbots are just the beginning of the range of virtual employees that agencies and insurance carriers can deploy to eliminate the busy work and let their teams focus on building loyal relationships with their customers.
To see how Elafris Virtual Insurance Agents can help your company, speak with us to schedule a free online demo.the