Tag Archives: user interface

CES: User Interface Is Front and Center

This year’s CES is no less mind-boggling than in prior years. With 2.7 million square feet of exhibition space, about 4,000 exhibitors, hundreds of sessions and 180,000 people, it is virtually impossible to take it all in. However, there are a few big themes that always emerge, along with a variety of interesting new products – some are potential game-changers while others are head-scratchers. But, I’ll save a more in-depth analysis for another blog to concentrate on one overarching theme I’ve seen from CES2018 – the prominence of the user interface (UI).

This emphasis on the UI is especially interesting because CES has historically been considered a “hardware” show, with the latest and greatest statistics touted by tech companies. Metrics related to speeds, capacities, pixels, size (some devices keep getting bigger while others keep getting smaller) and other units of measure dominate the discussions and marketing materials. But one prevalent thread throughout much of CES2018 is the dramatic expansion and innovation regarding how we interact with computers and the world around us.

See also: Rise of the Machines in Insurance  

Start with the fact that voice assistants are increasingly embedded into new solutions – Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, Bixby and others from prominent tech brands are leveraged in home devices, vehicles, mobile devices and many other smart things. Next, consider that haptics and gestures are becoming more advanced and being used to control more devices. New car company BYTON unveiled a car that allows interactions via five simple hand gestures (and that vehicle also has a 49-inch touchscreen and has integrated Amazon’s Alexa). Also, interactions based on our movements continue to be enhanced in the VR world.

Another area in which interaction is rapidly advancing is the use of biometrics. Fingerprints are already broadly used to unlock devices and to gain access to other digital assets, but we increasingly see solutions based on iris scans, facial recognition, hand geometry and other unique aspects of human physiology. We can all hope that the days of the password are numbered (YAY!).

Chatbots are emerging in many places, and people are getting used to interacting with them for sales advice, customer service and tech problems. Many still need to be infused with more AI to perform at a higher level, but there is a distinct trending toward more chatbot use. It is also likely that we will see a resurgence of avatars to give more personality to chatbots. At CES2018, I had my face scanned, and a highly accurate 3D model of my head was created in less than a minute. While the early applications of these types of 3D digital capture and creation tools are designed for virtual reality, using the tools for customer interaction is a natural extension.

See also: Cyber Threats: Big One Is Out There  

Add to this mix the amazing advances in augmented and virtual reality, the appearance of all manner of screens (every size, shape and location possible), tech that adds the sensations of touch and smell to our virtual interactions with machines, and you get a formula that engages all our senses. The digital, connected world is in its infancy and is poised to transform our daily lives. One thing is clear, the way we interact with the world around us will be based on the types of UI advancements that are so front and center at CES2018.

One final wish: Imagine a world without passwords, where TV remotes are a thing of the past, using your fingers to type on a keyboard is rare, and mice only show up in the barn. Sounds like nirvana to me.

Chatbots and Agents: The Dynamic Duo

Just like Batman and Robin, strong teams are made up of complementary partners. In the insurance world, this partnership is often the human agent and a technology counterpart. Take a Geico agent and the virtual assistant Kate. Kate’s AI-enhanced offerings and “always on” abilities serve as the perfect sidekick to the local insurance agent.

As customer expectations have evolved, the insurance industry has had to change along with it. We’ve seen this with the rise of digitally native insurance companies like Hippo that streamline the application and sign-up process for homeowners insurance, as well as with more traditional organizations like Amica Insurance, which is revamping its digital strategies by working with IBM to give adjusters stronger tools to fulfill routine tasks.

See also: Hate Buying? Chatbots Can Help  

Today, anything short of a flexible, convenient and digitally mature experience is behind the times. It’s important for insurance companies to recognize that, given these advances and the diverse needs of policyholders, they will need to scale their offerings and implement more advanced services to support human agents. Though humans will never be replaced by chatbots, chatbots’ unique ability to personalize and automate processes has enormous potential in enhancing the relationship between the insurer and the policyholder.

How Can Chatbots Enhance the Insurance Experience?

Customers are becoming more and more comfortable with user interface (UI) technologies like Amazon Echo and Google Home and are exhibiting a more diverse set of expectations for digital capabilities in every facet of their lives. Chatbots can help supercharge insurance organizations with their ability to simplify everyday tasks. These virtual assistants have the potential to enhance efficiencies for both the insurer and the policyholder, especially when it comes to researching offerings, purchasing a policy and filing an insurance claim.

Policy Exploration

Researching different insurance policies can be a daunting task. It’s difficult for buyers, especially first-timers, to know what the best policy might be for their needs and budget. When looking at the insurance equation from the top of the funnel, chatbots have the potential to help win a customer’s business with their intuitive interface and educational support. Getting the right information up front is important for customers so that they aren’t surprised by anything down the line. Chatbots can process data at extraordinary speeds and help to make sure that customers are getting the right policy and the necessary information so they feel comfortable with their purchase. With the ability to quickly scan through the wealth of information on the internet and recognize user patterns, chatbots can ensure that policy offerings are accurate and tailored to the needs of the customer, helping insurance organizations make a great first impression.

Purchasing

When it comes to purchasing a policy, the process can be clunky, filled with unfamiliar industry jargon and massive amounts of paperwork. Chatbots can make the quote process much smoother for buyers by helping customers quickly navigate the intricacies of the buying process, while also simplifying it by auto-filling difficult questions with the assistance of third-party sources and natural language capabilities. Insurers are freed to work on more complex customer needs and issues without being bogged down by endless amounts of paperwork, leading to greater internal efficiencies.

Claims and Payments

The situations in which policyholders file claims don’t always happen within traditional business hours. The 24/7 nature of chatbots makes sure that customers have access to assistance when they need it, whether that means information about their policy or guiding them through what to do in the case of a car accident. The payment and claims process typically involves multiple steps, and the automated nature of chatbots can help streamline this experience in a way that helps both insurers and policyholders. A large number of calls that policyholders make to their insurance organization are about the claims process. Chatbots can field these calls and provide users with a complete look at the status of their claim in real time, just as if they were tracking a UPS package. Given that calls are typically about the status of a claim, chatbots are particularly good at fielding them because they can access this information within their database.

See also: How Chatbots Change Open Enrollment  

Looking Forward

The insurance industry still needs a drastic digital transformation as it migrates from policy-centric strategies to more customer-centric ones. In addition to updating their technology, insurers need to shift their antiquated mindsets and processes toward innovation, especially as younger generations with higher digital standards gain greater purchasing power. If these organizations want their digital transformation to be sustainable, they’ll need to integrate digital mindsets throughout the culture of their organization, making sure everyone understands the value of digital investments and will continue to implement them.

As it stands, just 42% of insurance organizations support a seamless user experience. If insurers want to satisfy users, they’re going to need to emphasize their omnichannel offerings, like chatbots, to create a solid foundation for further technology advancements. As the needs of the digitally savvy consumer become increasingly important, each insurance company will need to figure out how to stay relevant to this new generation, and having a chatbot by their side is a step in the right direction.

No More Need for Best-of-Breed Solutions?

Every five years or so, the insurance industry changes course. Hard market, then soft market. Keep the lights on, then innovate. Build, then buy. Outsource, then in-house. Best-of-breed, then suite.

Unlike with most politicians, some measure of this waffling is certainly beyond the control of insurers truly in the thick of it. However, other preferences reflect the uncertainty of markets and economies, the fluctuation of consumer expectations and demands and what some may call downright desperation to stay ahead of the curve.

Technology has long been recognized as an enabler, and it definitely fills that role when planned for strategically and implemented well. As the industry has taken up the challenge of providing faster, better, more personalized service to consumers, the demand for technology to facilitate the necessary processes has increased, as well. Core system modernization has become a top priority for insurers across all lines of business (LOBs). This means analyst firms and consultants are being engaged at a staggering (and expensive) rate to help spec out requirements, develop the request for proposal (RFP) and narrow things down to a very short list.

Interestingly, the biggest question for most insurers is not whether all of the core administration systems need to be replaced, but rather how and when is the best time to do it. Enterprise rip-and-replace projects traditionally come with a big stigma, a heavy dose of fear and bit of skepticism. Can it be pulled off successfully? With advances in technology such as the move toward cloud for deployment, the incorporation of configuration tools that promote insurer self-sufficiency and better implementation methodologies, the dark skies are definitely clearing.

Today’s most modern enterprise suites provide better integration, better capability and better results than niche-focused solutions of the past. While suite components can, by and large, all be implemented individually, pre-integration, reliance on a single data repository, use of a common architecture, an ensured upgrade path and common user interfaces mean these solutions still have a serious competitive edge over standalone systems. But does this really mean there is no more need for best of breed?

Better Integration

Once famous for creating silos and building “kingdoms” within the enterprise, insurance technology has come a long way. Recognition that insurance processes could be completed faster, and with greater assurance of accuracy, if every relevant employee was looking at the same information, insurers are turning to enterprise suites as the solution of choice. The core administration (policy, billing and claims) components of most modern enterprise suites offer increased integration and conveniently draw information for customer service representatives (CSRs), agents and underwriters from a single data or document repository. Further, by building on similar workflows, user interfaces (UIs) and processes, enterprise suites minimize change management issues and decrease downtime needed for training.

Better Capability

It’s pretty common to hear technology vendors talk about how their solutions let insurers concentrate on core competencies, but rarely is this turn of phrase actually applied to technology vendors. Insurance suites of the past typically built out full, robust capability for core administration processes, but only invested in the bare minimum when it came to supporting processes, functions and components. The best enterprise suites available today not only handle, but excel at, providing capability for peripheral processes that support core administration, including reinsurance, underwriting, document/content management, accounting/general ledger, agent/producer and consumer portals. This depth of capability was once only available to insurers through best-of-breed solutions, but now only highly customized situations and processes require such niche-focused systems.

Better Results

Even though everyone suspects it’s a much higher number, best guesses throughout the industry say that insurers replace core administration systems only once every eight to 10 years. That low frequency hardly allows internal IT staff to gain any kind of proficiency in implementation methodologies or change management. The tightly integrated nature of suite components eases implementation challenges measurably, and at the end of the day, once you get into a groove, why get out? By taking advantage of teams already established for one replacement project for another, insurers can lessen business interruption significantly. Plus, using an agile implementation methodology that incorporates iterative releases will eliminate the scope creep and missed expectations inherent to waterfall projects.

Conclusion

Five or 10 years ago, it may have been necessary to buy a best-of-breed technology solution to get capability specific to a certain LOB or process. However, modern enterprise suites, whether implemented together or individually, today offer the same robust capability once offered only by best-of-breed solutions, but with better integration, faster access to critical data, significantly easier upgrades and ultimately, better results.