Articles - Can AI led conversational commerce change insurance forever

If you’re still following the minutiae of Brexit, if you know exactly what the Backstop entails, and if you understand how the UK’s proposed departure from the EU will affect your consumer rights – congratulations! You’re in a pretty small minority. For most of us, finding out how Brexit will affect us will require us to access expert advice from service providers who have taken the time to understand the impact on ordinary citizens.

 By Gary Williams, Director of Sales and Consultancy, Spitch

 Insurance is one industry that can expect many more calls from consumers who want to know how the UK’s new relationship with Europe will affect their travel insurance or whether Brexit will affect their premiums.

 This huge rise in Brexit-related calls is inevitable and smart insurers will already be examining how they can improve their call centre operations to ensure that they provide accurate and timely advice to callers’ complex questions. But it’s not just Brexit that should provide the impetus for improving the customer call experience – it’s vital that insurers are optimising their contact centre operations to eliminate common complaints that can cause frustrations for callers.

 For many callers to insurance companies, what should be a simple task of ringing to get through to an expert is a tedious and time-consuming process involving an endless array of options, irritating hold music, and poorly-functioning voice menus. By the time a customer finally gets through to a human operative, their opinion of the insurer will have undergone a marked decline.

 This is where new developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and natural language Machine Learning (ML) can bring significant benefits by improving voice-driven customer experience thought pioneering speech recognition technology.

 AI and natural language processing (NLP) are moving past the hype that have characterised discussions in the last few years and is now delivering real value to organisations in a host of industries – including insurance. Industry analysts Gartner predict that by next year half of analytic queries will be generated using searches based on natural-language processing. Meanwhile between 20-25% of searches made with the Google Android App in the US are already voice searches, according to Google.

 One of the traditional complaints about voice-driven customer service is that it performs significantly poorer than speaking to a real-life human call handler. Thankfully, AI has made significant advances in recent years that enable the technology not only to understand voice commands better, but also to identify callers’ intent and sentiment, perform voice biometrics non-intrusively, transcribe calls and flag issues in real time. AI can also ensure that the caller doesn’t lose focus and that they remain interested in what is being communicated to them via a speech-enabled Interactive Voice Response system.

 Such voice-driven technology can be deployed in a myriad of ways that don’t just improve the call experience, but also provide rich data and insight that enables insurance firms to improve their operations as a whole. As a result, insurance firms are empowered to better serve their customer and to offer personalised services to its clientele.

 Take the example of the international insurance company that required its employees to listen to 2.5% of archival contact centre conversations to improve their customer experience. The company deployed an AI-powered omni-channel communication platform that not only enabled it to identify the reasons for poor service calls and make the required changes to business workflows, but also allowed the team to compare the efficiency of different marketing campaigns.

 The company’s technology platform also enables it to evaluate each agent’s performance against several key criteria and to cluster them into skills groups according to their grades – while freeing human operatives from the burdensome task of listening to and analysing historic calls.

 Another car insurer in Switzerland is improving the customer experience by shortening call queues with an AI-powered self-service system. This extracts all the required details before giving the customer the option to have their vehicle fixed by their local garage, a partner garage or a drive-in; in the case of the first two options, the system will automatically issue a ticket to get the work done. If they prefer the drive-in option, they are sent an SMS with a link to an online form to set up an appointment.
 In case of problems, the caller can choose to be routed to a human at any point simply by saying the word “agent”, ensuring the smoothest customer experience possible.

 These examples just scratch the surface of AI’s capabilities. In many cases, technology can even understand customers better than human agents, understanding callers’ sentiment and intent, their speaking habits, conversational linguistics, dialects, idiosyncrasies, slang, foreign accents, intonation, emphasis, intention and enunciation.

 There will always be a need for human agents – for example, to resolve complex queries or when the customer feels uncomfortable speaking to technology. Yet by adding these capabilities, insurers can make huge capacity gains that will shorten wait times and ensure that they provide the best possible experience to every caller.

 As Brexit casts its shadow over the insurance industry, AI- and NLP-based technologies promise the ability to cope with unprecedented call volumes, while ensuring that as many interactions reach a satisfactory conclusion. In the battle for customer satisfaction, investing in modern omni-channel communications could be the best call an insurer ever makes.

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