In a very short period of time, the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed a new way of working and interacting with customers. Most organizations will have been caught flat-footed, and whilst there has been great progress towards implementing a WFH system, in the insurance industry there are often regulatory, legal or security reasons for not being able to access customer data from an offsite location like our homes. Whilst chatbots are not the answer to everything, and are often over-hyped by vendors, in these strange times, they may well be a quick and easy solution to sustain customer engagement and gain some relief for a short-staffed Call Center or Support Desk.

Let’s be clear…Chatbots are not new, and in the 1950s computer scientists Alan Turing and Joseph Weizenbaum imagined the concept of computers communicating like humans do – developing the ‘Turing Test’ and subsequently inventing the first chatbot program, Eliza. The Turing Test was developed by Alan Turing to test a computer’s ability to replicate intelligent behavior considered to be equivalent or indistinguishable from that of a human. It is no surprise then, that for the insurance industry that chatbots are top of mind when looking to reinvent the customer experience whilst also cutting down on costs in job roles ripe for automation. In recent years, the White House has stated that at least 83% of jobs paying under $20 per hour, and 35% of jobs paying between $20 and $40 per hour, are at threat of being taken over by automation technologies like chatbots.

So for those of you who have been stranded on an island, you might be asking what exactly is a chatbot? Chatbots are essentially software programs pretending to be people that you can interact with through text or voice. You can talk to these chatbots in your messaging apps, websites or voice enabled devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, much like you would any other contact in your list, to get the day’s investment briefing, make an insurance claim or just pay your monthly premium.

In the context of conversational commerce, chatbots are becoming the bridge between consumers and businesses and appear to be a good answer for insurance firms to manage millions of one-to-one conversations with their customers. Insurers should look at chatbots as the opportunity to combine intimacy and automation to help them deliver a more personal customer experience.

“Chatbots and Natural Language Generation with advanced Artificial Intelligence are bringing back the B2C dialogue where it’s been missing most: online”

Now before we get carried away with robots stealing all the jobs, it is safe to say that chatbots haven’t evolved to the point where they can completely pass for a real person (yet!), but messaging apps have evolved to drastically improve a part of the business that never quite carried over from agents and brokers to self-service mobile/online: sales and claims support. It is only possible now because the technology as a whole has experienced explosive growth and mass consumer adoption, catalyzed by Apple, Google and Amazon. Compared with insurance services offered through social media channels, chatbots can offer customers a more engaged and private communication channel than any social network.

In one chat with a customer, insurers can:

  • Help someone through a set of questions to create an accurate illustration or quote
  • Aid the customer in selecting the best fit insurance product and automate policy generation.
  • Handle any complaints or concerns personally.
  • Upsell or cross-sell other complimentary products or riders.
  • Offer simple FAQs to commonly asked questions
  • Get customer satisfaction feedback.
  • Provide a claims processing update or status
  • Apply for final settlement, life, auto, renters, or jewelry insurance policies.
  • Deliver important, time sensitive transaction notifications.
  • …All at the pace of instant messaging.

By combining hands-on service with some element of automation – alert notifications and auto-dialers, for example—insurance organizations can manage customer relationships a little easier and with a greater degree of personalization.

While conversational UI isn’t yet ‘turing’ enough to become the “face” of the insurer’s brand in a sales or customer service role, it is at an inflection point where it can take on some of the many manual and repetitive burdens that come with running a first-line support for business—particularly when that support is executing mundane tasks for underwriting and operations. Today, the most effective bots work well because they serve a specialized function, and offer a customer experience that begins with a few options or yes/no questions, before branching off to ask you further detailed questions as required or performing an action based on the information that you’ve provided.

For insurers contemplating how to implement a chatbot in 2020, it is imperative that they think of “conversational commerce” as a way to turn dialogue—the natural back-and-forth exchange of information—into a more meaningful discussion with consumers and businesses. Whilst chatbots are not new, insurance firms should not underestimate the amount of attention, buy-in and innovation needed in developing them effectively, and should look to trusted technology partners who have experience in developing chatbot and natural language (NLP) solutions. In the world of chatbots ‘first impressions’ are everything, and when you think about it, the sincerest and most special form of engagement a customer can have with its insurance provider isn’t a retweet, a Facebook Like, or even an email opt-in. It’s a conversation.

How Thynk Digital can help you

The Thynk Digital innovation team has extensive experience developing multi-language, multi-channel chatbots. From purely self-service chatbots that can answer simple questions for your customers, to complex assistant chatbots that support your staff and brokers – we have the expertise needed. Thynk Digital is a Microsoft Gold Partner and has natural language experts in Microsoft, Google, IBM and Dialog flow chatbot solutions. At our Global Innovation Center (Thynklabs), we work with leading global insurers to identify practical applications for natural language processing and chatbots, and develop innovative solutions that truly upgrade the services provided to your customers.