Our lives are changing rapidly, driven by the technology we now use on a daily basis. It seems like this digital transformation just started but it’s is not new. It’s been underway for twenty years and is now upending many long-standing practices in sectors like finance and insurance. We may have forgotten but the addition of tech to the insurance and financial sectors has been a consistent progression, a stream of change–copiers, voicemail, computers, email, the internet & websites, e-commerce, social media, phone apps, online chat and, now, artificial intelligence and big data. Every advance changed what we expected in our day to day business lives. New technology implementations are rarely straightforward but after the initial adjustments it’s hard to understand how anything got accomplished without it. Can you imagine typing up insurance policy documents on a typewriter? Or being forced to send paper mail for all communications?

Companies have been the drivers behind innovations, embracing technology to achieve new efficiencies so they are able to do more with fewer resources. But in the most recent waves of tech adoption, it is consumer expectations that are the motor behind the disruption. They are demanding better interactions, more availability, and insist any company that wants their money to deliver on these requirements. Today, insurers that can’t accept online payments or let policyholders review their coverage online are becoming dinosaurs. Tomorrow, firms without a tailored, personalized way to market to and serve the masses of customers will be the next ones going extinct.

So what tech is next?

Following what consumers now crave, there seems to be a paradox–customized, personal and authentic customer experience but through the distance of the online, mobile and texting connection. What can be human at scale? What can understand each person, each context, each history in an instant?

The answer to these questions has become artificial intelligence enabled automation. These tools take many forms but the most popular has been the proliferation of chatbots, talking and chatting software helpers. Able to carry on human-like conversations, sometimes these virtual assistants are associated with devices, like Amazon’s Alexa or Siri on iPhones. Chatbots can live almost anywhere, a company website or its phone app, where the virtual customer service chatbot can serve consumers, acting as a customer service representative or engaging marketing tool and sales agent. Better still, chatbots easily join in the conversations that a billion Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and SMS users are having every day. Consumers and their smartphones are daily connected, ready for messages and ready to contact companies they buy from via these messaging and assistant applications.

Early versions of assistants like Siri and Alexa have been targeted for wide application but with limited depth. This strategy has confounded some users trying to find a way to make use of them. The current chatbot generation is evolving quickly. A few months ago, Google’s artificial intelligence virtual assistant astonished audiences that heard it “speak” over the phone to hair salons and restaurants to make appointments, without the businesses catching on that they were talking with a virtual assistant. Microsoft’s CEO even went so far as to declare that chatbots are the new apps.

Next generation chatbots

Now arriving on the scene are assistants that have a very narrow focus but a lot of depth. Many sales and customer service tasks have moved online or to apps. Now they become opportunities for improved customer experience with a virtual agent. Virtual agents listen and talk in human language, understanding tens of thousands of variations for each customer answer or question. A Facebook insurance agent understands “I had a crash.” and “Was in an accident.” or “Got 2 make a claim.”

Companies can invest in an array of specialized chatbots to take care of specific tasks or phase in new skills as customers show engagement with the new AI agent. While starting out with launching a chatbot may seem intimidating, some offerings let firms begin with small implementations.

Once the chatbots are trained, they continue to learn from each interaction. Changes can be implemented in moments and the virtual agent never strays from the company’s required information.

Good listeners

Chatbots remember what insureds were talking about. Someone who clicks on a company’s ad and starts talking to the Facebook insurance agent can leave and come back hours or days later to finish up adding services or exploring options. If a policyholder is part way through submitting claim information on Facebook Messenger, they can come back to the conversation on their favorite messaging app or pick up the conversation on another channel, like Amazon Alexa.

Context and understanding

Virtual agents can connect to account information, databases and policy documents to understand the customer’s context. The virtual agents tailor conversations to match what matters to the customer.  With machine learning capabilities, the chatbot is an extremely effective sales agent, knowing which policyholders will welcome an offer or promotion, and exactly when to suggest it.

Efficient and effective connections

The new generation of chatbots have proven efficient at performing tasks that are repetitive, meticulous or lose firms money when handled by live agents. Have a flood of calls after sending out notices? The virtual agents can handle 5 or 5,000 simultaneous conversations, never adding to hold times and customer frustrations. As a sales tool, the intelligence backing up the virtual agent conversations gives customers information that is meaningful to their situation, making them feel like the company understands them.

To see how Elafris Virtual Insurance Agents can help your company, speak with us to schedule a free online demo.

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