“It’s only a gimmick.” When I heard myself saying this a few years ago about voice-activated assistants such as Alexa and Google Home, I almost bit my tongue afterward. This was because such arguments were almost always a sure sign of the coming market maturity of a technology, and I was usually accustomed to hearing this from insurance company directors who were well-advanced in their years. That had been the case with PCs, modem-based internet, mobile internet, social media and attention hacking.
However, despite the boom of useful and not-so-useful digitization initiatives, voice-activated technology is still in its early days. There are a whole series of voice skill products, for example by Aviva, LV and Travelers, but they were unable to appease the many critiques. Many people reacted as I did initially – seeing the products as gimmicks.
It is, of course, true that the number of daily users as well as the number of regularly used voice skills is still relatively low, although this was also true of smartphones 10 years ago. At that time, most people still used mobiles without a touchscreen. Many decision-makers also said that no customer would take out insurance using a mobile. They were wrong. Today, it's normal that insurance policies are taken out online via smartphones or with apps. Why therefore shouldn’t this development also repeat itself in voice technology?
Smartphones and voice-activated technologies do, after all, have one thing in common: They help make work processes easier and faster. It is simply quicker and more convenient to take out insurance with Getsafe or Lemonade by app or with DFV or Ergo using Alexa.
We think that the insurance industry also has to look at selling insurance products via digital language assistants, which is highlighted in the study “Digital Insurance 2018,” conducted by Adcubum. This revealed that almost one in five Germans under 35 years old could envisage taking out an insurance policy using a digital language assistant. Additionally, according to a Statista survey of 2018, the number of people using digital assistants has more than doubled in three years. An increasing number of industries are also discovering the strategic benefits of voice technology – for example, car manufacturers with their own language assistants. Encouraged by this development, insurance companies should incorporate Alexa into their information and contract completion process as quickly as possible.
Until now, very few companies in the sector really offer a fully digitized insurance completion and consultation process, for example with Alexa. These include the insurtech company Deutsche Familienversicherung (DFV). The Frankfurt-based business programmed a skill in 2018 that conducts the consultation dialogue and accesses it via an API interface on the actuarial calculation engine. The skill evaluates the questions and provides the relevant product content, including monthly payments, voice-activated and in real time. In this case, integration in Amazon Echo goes beyond insurance contract completion and includes contract updating and payment handling, reducing call center and back office costs.
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Alongside information, branding and sales, voice skill developers are also working on applications for the use of language assistants in the office, which appeals to brokerage firms. Case workers only need say, “Alexa, please inform the assessor for the Meyer case,” and brokers only need say, “Check status of billing.” This is significantly easier than the tedious battle with painfully complex user interfaces.
Even in the early stages of voice-activated technology and assistant systems, those investing in their development can secure an edge over the competition. Wouldn’t it be good to be among those present at the start of this technology of the future and gain market share? Let us make the most of these opportunities and not miss out on them, as was the case with PC, the internet and social media.