Chatbots aren't new, especially within the financial sector. They can be used to support sales and customer service staff to save time and human resources. Here, Marty Agather, speaker, author and InsurTech thought leader, explores the utility of bots and how they are currently being used to great effect in the insurance market.
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
A network of computers is programmed with artificial intelligence (AI) technology and begins to learn at a geometric rate.
While this bit of science fiction played out on the silver screen 25 years ago, reality resembles art more and more every day. Particularly in the fields of artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and machine learning.
So, what's this got to do with insurance?
One word: Chatbots.
The very first workable version of a human to computer communication program was built at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Artificial Language Lab in 1966. This program used pattern matching and scripted responses to communicate.
It worked like this: the program would use pattern matching to see whether the human’s comment or question was in the data dictionary.
If so, there was a corresponding scripted response for the program to display back to the user.
Utility of chat
The advance of human and computer interaction is accelerating at an increasing pace. One of the driving factors is the near universal adoption of text messaging.
Texting has proliferated as the penetration of smart phones has grown and the utility of short interactive conversations is a primary reason. More and more, we expect that utility everywhere.
Almost all retail websites now have a click-to-chat feature. Unfortunately, that click-to-chat feature requires that one or more staff are logged into the application to be available to chat with customers or prospects.
Yet, when you think about the breadth and complexity of the insurance industry, it seems almost impossible that any application would be able to provide a coherent answer to any random inquiry from a customer or prospect.
Believe it. More and more agencies and companies are using chatbots to improve customer experience today.
AI is a hot topic right now in many industries. Some companies like IBM with Watson are industry agnostic. But there are several insurance specific chatbot vendors in the marketplace. The list could go on, so let’s focus the discussion on tools that support marketing and sales.
The opportunities to use a chatbot to improve customer experience in the sales and marketing of insurance are limited only by imagination. A chatbot could:
- Interact with policyholders and provide them with coverage descriptions or deductible amounts
- Provide information on payment due dates and amount due.
- Deliver quotes to prospective customers
- Up sell and cross sell existing customers
Examples in the market
Three companies are building insurance specific 'bots and each is taking a slightly different approach to developing and deploying their chatbots.
Elafris is located in San Francisco. CEO Jake Dinar explained that they respond to the challenge of the breadth and complexity of the industry by being narrow in topic and focusing exclusively on insurance, but wide in consumer access. Their AI leverages any channel a consumer chooses to use when communicating with their agent or carrier, providing the intelligence to allow the consumer to choose how and when they communicate. Today they support SMS, Facebook Messenger, Amazon Alexa and traditional phone.
They started with a quoting workflow and followed on with payment inquiry and claim status, with several others being rolled out to customers. Current clients include agencies, wholesalers, carriers and insurance technology vendors.
ProNavigator operates out of Canada. They are currently installed in 60 agencies and focused on growing that footprint. CEO Joseph D'Souza says that in addition to improving their conversational platform by leveraging the experience of their customer base, they are deploying a second key capability: multi-dialogue conversations.
Humans aren't always logical and ordered; we often change topics. ProNavigator has just released an upgraded dialogue system that has the ability to have multi-dialogue conversations. If the user asks an unrelated question, the system remembers the original topic and brings the user back to where they left off once the question has been answered.
For example, in the middle of gathering information for an auto quote, the consumer may ask about office hours or an insurance question. After providing the response, the bot will immediately bring the user back to where they left off.
Spixii is headquartered in London and working with insurance organisations primarily in Europe. Their vision is that chatbots enable a world where 100% of risk is insured. The Spixii ‘bot changes the tone of the conversation based upon clues that it picks up about the user. For example, response time is faster for younger users, slower for older. In the same way, responses to a younger user might have a more casual language.
CEO Renaud Million says that their primary client base is carriers at this time, and they are focused on the quote and buy process. Effectiveness varies by use case, but they have seen a minimum of 20% improvement in sales completions when replacing web forms with chatbot interaction. Spixii is also seeing success with their ‘bots in the claims process.
A fourth InsurTech is using a chatbot to encourage customer engagement with no plans for reselling the technology.
Raution Jaiswal, CEO of InsuredMine sees the ‘bot as more than a messaging tool. It can be used to make decisions as well.
Through active listening of social media channels, his ‘bot can sense signals that predict insurance events, which then trigger outreach to address insurance concerns.
For example, a post about an impending car purchase could trigger a chatbot conversation, or perhaps even an automated rating session to determine auto premiums.
Long Story Short
Messaging has taken the world by storm. Some estimates are that upwards of 60 billion messages per day are sent. Gartner estimates that by 2020 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human in the loop.
Customer service and sales focused chatbots are being deployed by leading insurance organisations today. The cost for this evolutionary technology is quite reasonable. Isn’t it time that you begin to plan to take the next step in improving your business’ customer experience?