'An AI Walks Into an Electronics Store...'

Customers may prefer interacting with a smart-bot--no judging, no fatigue, no bad days. There is empathy in any process that respects our time.

A new computer algorithm has just written the world’s funniest joke.... [Punchline at the bottom.]

During the last year, rapid advances in data, AI, and cloud solutions have accelerated, and a portfolio of AI assets is making everything more DIY than ever before.

More customers are more satisfied, while expenses go down and profits go up. Data gets more accurate and more precise when it is collected right the first time, by folks with direct involvement at the right place, at the right time and in the right process.

Sure, the potential for a diabolical AI to warp the insurance value chain and create illicit data trafficking is the salacious fodder of tabloids of the techno-Luddites. But, name-calling aside, letting people interact directly in a protected fashion with self-service channels in a personalized fashion has only seemed to widen hours of availability, lower operating expenses, increase transparency, improve communication, decrease cycle time, eliminate travel, enable social distancing, establish authentication and verification of identities and data, create faster payments and improve satisfaction.

It seems that the more tasks customers can do themselves, the less they must wait for expensive, slow, serial, synchronous, manual and human-error-prone, analog processes to do for them.

Same for agents, underwriters, employees, claims handlers, vendors and executives. How else could we all be functioning after a year of working at home?

We all still like a timely, helpful, empathetic and friendly voice when we want one (or even a live-video channel), but many find that an avatar or smart-bot can in many ways be e-better. No judging, no fatigue, no “bad days,” just the facts. There is implicit empathy in any process that respects our time.

As for ethics, it’s not even a required course in the MBA curriculum, but, because these robot processes establish a permanent digital record, it is easier than ever to audit them and not devolve to a “he/she/they said contest.” Even a gender-neutral machine can repeat the facts on record from the DIY process. Got a problem? E-litigate it (if you can’t settle with escalation). Facts/data can change, and adding them to the process should influence the outcome as appropriate. Misrepresent the facts, and that is on permanent record, too.

We have not yet seen “pick the robot voice and language you prefer,” but that technology to remove the potential for implicit bias of a gendered voice is on the horizon.

Facts can be recorded, with an ever more attractive set of options for responding, such as:

  • “Would you please review the pre-filled data and say 'OK' to continue?"
  • "Say 'yes' to opt in your data from your smart-car or smart-phone to complete your submission”
  • “Use the hotlink just texted to your smartphone and take a picture
    • for a claim we will ask for a few pictures,
    • for your odometer-based billing, please also type in what you see on the picture as digital authorization for immediate processing,
    • for underwriting, please follow the prompts for your car, home and valuables."
  • "Say, 'I have completed the task' as your voice signature, or simply push the green 'agree/OK' button."

A digital transcription of the session will be available on your app, in your portal and via e-mail, and your integrated communication will be available for agents, adjusters, repairers/vendors, underwriters, customer service, billing, etc.

See also: Despite COVID, Tech Investment Continues

When it works well, we are empowered.

When we need to exit to a human, we want the connection now, and we want the human to start where the machine left off. The machines don’t get frustrated, but customers do, and we hate repeating ourselves after creating a permanent record already. Our time is valuable. Simply notify us when you are ready to talk?

The only thing for sure – “easier, faster, more trustable, cheaper, convenient and more delightful” is a one-way street for customers.

They are voting with their feet for personalized risk rating and automated channels, especially during low-mileage driving and long hold times common during COVID.

People really are counting their mileage for usage-based pricing, but proven claim-free drivers may not need their every movement traced to just get miles verified -- we already can use third-party data and smart car data; why is that not already DIY, too? Get the picture, and you will get the joke.

The punchline “…but the algorithm's joke is only machine-readable.“ [Machine laughter: "Harharhar...."]

Marty Ellingsworth

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Marty Ellingsworth

Marty Ellingsworth is president of Salt Creek Analytics.

He was previously executive managing director of global insurance intelligence at J.D. Power.


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