On the Front Lines: Conversational AI

A digital agent has interacted with 250,000 customers through conversational AI and answers 70% of all incoming customer interactions.

Artificial intelligence has become a key factor in the digitization of today’s leading customer-facing industries. While banks and telecoms are among the most visible sectors currently implementing conversational AI in the customer experience, the insurance industry is reportedly outspending both (and many others) when it comes to this technology. Revolving, as it does, around data analysis and processing, the insurance sector has long been beholden to a cost structure that disproportionately relies on manual processes. Even a small shift away from human capital and toward automation will result is significant savings of time and  money. In fact, AI is already being used in front-line claims processing, some uniform underwriting and with first-response customer interactions. Tata Consultancy Services reports that the insurance sector invests, on average, $124 million per company in artificial intelligence, compared with a cross-industry average of $70 million. In the U.S. alone, four of the top 10 insurance carriers have deployed some form of machine learning, and Accenture recently revealed that more than two-thirds (68%) of insurance companies now use AI-powered virtual agents at some level in the organization to engender better customer interactions. So, what exactly is driving a traditionally conservative industry to adopt the latest advances in conversational AI? The results at Storebrand, one of Europe’s largest insurance companies, can shed some light on the question. Since implementing a digital insurance agent powered by conversational AI, Storebrand experienced an increase of 162% in customer interactions through chat in just the first four months, with 70% of conversations successfully handled without the need of any human support. For human agents, these figures are both encouraging and startling. Cognitive automation and virtual advisers are poised to replace traditional first-response customer service personnel with more direct access to insurance information, products and support. See also: And the Winner Is…Artificial Intelligence!   Adoption of artificial intelligence is gaining momentum with other applications in insurance, as well. Applying AI algorithms to accurately predict conversational outcomes, Storebrand’s virtual agents can improve customer service by cross-promoting products, and recommending the most appropriate coverage, before a customer is handed over to a human consultant to complete enrollment. Insurance company brings AI to life It’s common to hear customers complaining of having to navigate mountains of complex jargon and legalese to file claims or simply find answers to their questions. The last thing anyone wants to do in a time of crisis is wade helplessly through confusing website forms or sit on hold. But how do these same customers feel about virtual agents? Nearly three out of four insurance customers say they are willing to receive computer-generated advice about their coverage. The digital insurance agent is doing the equivalent work of eight full-time human employees and is able to respond intelligently to questions on more than 1,900 topics. This translates to an impressive 2,111 calls per week, leading to that 162% increase in customers interacting with conversational AI. Personality is injected by human AI trainers into the automated service itself. Made up of experienced customer service staff, these upskilled employees establish the brand’s unique tone of voice through a machine. This helps customers feel comfortable chatting about insurance, while ensuring that conversations remain meaningful, helpful and consistent. A new face for the customer experience Customer response to Storebrand’s digital insurance agent has been overwhelmingly positive. The agent has interacted with more than 250,000 customers and is now successfully answering 70% of all incoming customer interactions, effectively deflecting these inquiries from human operators. The remaining 30% of customer interactions, those that do require human intervention, are immediately and seamlessly routed to customer service representatives within the same screen for resolution. By combining Storebrand’s own expertise in customer service with advanced conversational AI, the insurer has managed to not only strengthen brand loyalty among its customers but also provide instant, 24/7 support without putting undue strain on its customer center -- all within a short time. See also: 3 Steps to Demystify Artificial Intelligence   Explaining complex products and automating first-response functions, conversational AI is about more than just replacing live agents with less expensive alternatives. It is also about boosting productivity by allowing insurance company employees to focus on more complex tasks and activities. As Storebrand has demonstrated, successful integration of conversational AI requires a commitment to continuous investment, evaluation and adjustment to achieve results. In the final analysis, not only can conversational AI adapt the customer experience to each individual and evolve that experience to advance organizational objectives, but it offers real and lasting competitive differentiation in the marketplace.

Henry Iversen

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Henry Iversen

Henry Vaage Iversen is chief commercial officer and co-founder of Boost.ai. He helps drive global growth at Boost.ai, a privately held software company that specializes in conversational artificial intelligence.

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