Agents and AI: A Winning Combo in Contact Centers

Human agents receive the support to make their jobs more manageable, reducing contact center churn while improving customer engagements.

An artist’s illustration of artificial intelligence (AI)

In recent years, contact centers charged with managing customer experience (CX) have undergone a transformation. Specifically, customer service agents, with calm voices and readiness to assist, are getting a boost from artificial intelligence (AI). 

When done right, contact centers deploy AI to augment agent capabilities and automate and streamline workloads. However, as the world experiences an increase in natural disasters, insurance claims are on the rise at a time when agents are reaching a breaking point.

I am a firm believer that human agents are essential. I’m also pragmatic and even optimistic that – powered by AI – human agents can receive the support to make their jobs more manageable, which will help reduce contact center churn while improving customer engagements. Here are three trends that will make a difference in how AI plays out in the insurance sector in 2024.

1. The Ascendance of Specialized "Closed AI" in Business and Insurance

In the realm of business applications, viewing AI as a broad category rather than a singular entity offers a more nuanced perspective. Various AI technologies are finding their niches across different business functions, with certain tasks benefiting from AI's capabilities, while others might inadvertently complicate processes by attempting to integrate AI where it's not needed. A notable trend emerging, particularly within contact centers and extending into the insurance industry, is the rise of specialized "closed AI" applications.

These closed AI systems are designed to perform specific functions. The contact center can include tasks like customer conversation transcription, summarization and sentiment analysis without the need for extensive training and integration into business systems. On the flip side, you've got "open AI" options that really need agency to mesh well with your business's inner workings and require resources, expertise and data to train the AI models. Closed AI is pretty much ready to go with only some minor configuration, offers more control and can be ideal for tasks like automating repetitive work around handling claims, such as summarization or follow-up actions.

See also: 5 Ways Generative AI Will Transform Claims

2. Keeping the Human in the Middle

The importance of maintaining a human-centric approach in AI deployments will increasingly resonate throughout 2024, especially within the insurance sector. During a series of AI-focused seminars across various U.S. cities in September 2022, the discussion centered on the use of AI in contact centers, underscoring the heightened risks and costs tied to autonomous chatbots as opposed to those that augment the skills of human agents.

Even with ChatGPT shaking things up in the AI world, experts agree on the importance of keeping a human touch in AI-driven interactions. This is especially true in insurance, where a personal touch in customer service really matters.

This doesn't just cut down on risks and costs—it also makes customers happier and agents more effective—all by using AI as a helping hand versus a replacement.

Initial experiences with AI-driven chatbots have, at times, led to consumer dissatisfaction. While newer language models have improved at understanding user intents, the challenge of programming these systems with sufficient guardrails to act autonomously without causing user frustration remains.

By keeping human agents engaged with the help of AI, insurance companies can make the best of both worlds: AI's smarts plus the personal touch only humans can provide, making every customer interaction smoother and more enjoyable.

3. Market Challenges for Specialized Chatbot Providers in the Insurance Domain

The landscape for specialized chatbot providers, once distinguished by the sophistication of their AI solutions, is becoming increasingly competitive. These providers are no longer only competing against each other but are also up against major tech giants equipped with advanced large language model (LLM) capabilities.

Furthermore, as AI technology becomes more accessible and standardized, the value offered by these specialized chatbot services is diminishing. Many are finding it necessary to pivot, serving more as gateways to the broader LLM frameworks developed by industry leaders such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, OpenAI and Hugging Face.

As AI becomes more common, it's putting a great deal of financial pressure on these companies; making it tough to stand out in a market that's starting to prefer all-in-one customer engagement solutions instead of just AI features on their own.

See also: Balancing AI and the Future of Insurance

In Insurance, Personalized and Efficient Customer Service Is Key

In 2024, the trend toward embracing specialized closed AI applications will accelerate as it removes the speedbumps to implementation, particularly within the insurance sector, where such technologies can streamline operations and enhance customer interactions. At Upstream Works, we're focusing on augmenting the capabilities of human agents with AI. It's all about blending tech smarts with a personal touch, which is key in the insurance world, where top-notch, personalized and efficient customer care is key to satisfaction and loyalty.

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