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July 6, 2017

Auto Claims: Future May Belong to Bots

Summary:

By 2020, chatbots will power 85% of all customer service interactions. Why? Speed, convenience and user-friendliness.

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

Despite a decade of prominence, the Age of the App may be over. The future of auto claims could belong to the chatbots.

Equipped with AI and machine learning capabilities, these computer software programs can conduct natural language-like conversations with customers in real time. Already, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are working as personal assistants and shoppers, while others serve as bankers, officer managers, HR administrators, concierges and more.

And it won’t be long before chatbots quickly expand throughout the insurance sector. They are already starting.

Compared With Chatbots, Apps Are a Nuisance

Because the insurance industry is traditionally slow to adopt new technology, apps are still considered “cutting-edge” by many insurance carriers. Compared with chatbots, though, mobile self-service apps may shortly be seen as the customer-service equivalent of a horse and buggy. According to Gartner, 20% of all brands will abandon their mobile apps by 2019. By contrast, Gartner forecasts that, by 2020, AI bots will power 85% of all customer service interactions.

What’s behind this warp-speed transition from apps to bots?

Speed, convenience and user-friendliness.

See also: Much Higher Bar for Customer Service  

While mobile self-service apps do represent a great leap forward for some policyholders, even those who love them were never thrilled about the time and patience required to download and install them and learn to use them. And many people have grown weary of their cell phone real estate being occupied by one-time apps. For every 10 apps downloaded by consumers, seven are uninstalled after just two weeks without ever being used.

Interacting with a chatbot involves no user’s manual. Customers can message (24/7) to converse with an intelligent chatbot that, for all practical purposes, behaves like a human – one fully equipped to handle all their auto insurance concerns.

In fact, chatbot-powered customer service could be even better than the “traditional” variety for mundane questions. For example, customers will no longer have to endure a menu of phone prompts before they’re connected with the appropriate person. Instead, the bot will be able to answer most questions or guide them through the steps needed to achieve the desired outcome in the format we’ve become accustomed to, text messaging.

Improving the Customer Experience

Imagine a self-service claim in which the vehicle owner interacts with a chatbot. The customer starts by verifying his identity and is then orally or text-guided through a series of steps to complete the entire process.

The chatbot asks questions. The customer answers. The customer submits photos or videos of the damaged vehicle, and the chatbot either responds with additional questions or walks the policyholder through the next steps. Once the process is finished, the bot transmits the details of the transaction to the carrier, which determines the right outcome for the claim – e.g., whether an estimate needs to be written by a human, through an AI photo estimating solution or through having the owner bring the car to a repair facility.

At some point, policyholders will even receive auto claim payments through the chatbot, further streamlining the claims process. This is already happening in some areas of insurance.

And because chatbots can learn and acquire more knowledge with every transaction, they will make the customer experience better as they continually collect and process vast amounts of data.

For customers, dealing with a chatbot for assessing vehicle damage will be like having an appraisal assistant standing right next to them. Of course, many people will realize that they are not, in fact, talking with another person, but communications will be so seamless and natural that they may eventually forget this.

For insurers, chatbots will lower costs by allowing companies to replace many customer service personnel. For example, customers have a tendency to call their insurers multiple times to inquire about their claims and ask basic questions. Such interactions could be easily automated using a chatbot.

See also: Hate Buying? Chatbots Can Help  

Incorporating Chatbots into the Claims Department

While chatbots have many applications, by no means is technology the right solution in every customer service interaction. There are many times when the human factor is far superior. Chatbots are one more tool in the toolbox. Here are two smart uses for them in a claims department:

1. Guiding customers, step-by-step, through the claims process using structured questions and answers. For example, if you want a vehicle owner to complete a mobile self-service claim, you could employ a chatbot to guide them through the verification process, as well as the submission of photos/videos and other documentation of the damage. Once this is done, the bot might transmit the claim to your company and an auto repair facility. An added benefit is that you will be collecting lots of data to help process not just this one claim but to enhance the customer service experience on all future claims.

2. Answering an array of FAQs submitted by policyholders – FAQs for which carriers currently deploy vast CS resources. Creating a human-like experience for managing thousands of customer inquiries could dramatically lower your customer service costs.

Ironically, the biggest benefit of chatbots is enhancing the customer experience by providing services that are faster and more personalized – a machine-made level of personalization.

So while apps still have a place in the insurance industry – for now – it’s likely that some of them will be out of a job, thanks to the rise of the chatbot.

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About the Author

Ernie Bray, chairman and CEO of ACD, has more than 20 years of experience in the insurance and automobile claims industry. Bray is a dynamic force in driving innovation and technology to transform the auto claims industry and connect a highly fragmented business sector.

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