New technology is redefining how agents sell insurance — and some are already embracing it.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has already begun to play a huge role in our everyday lives, from our internet searches to changing how we shop online. So it should come as no surprise that AI has captured the attention of insurance industry executives who overwhelming say this technology carries the potential to radically transform the customer and agent experience.
When Accenture surveyed industry leaders and insurtech experts for its “Technology Vision for Insurance 2017: Technology for the People,” 75% said AI “will either significantly alter or completely transform the overall insurance industry in the next three years.”
Enhancing the customer experience tops the list of ways the insurance industry can benefit from AI. Near 80% of those polled believed AI will advance how insurers obtain information and interact with clients, with 55% pointing to improved data analysis and customer insights as the main advantage of integrating AI into user interfaces.
“Our research shows that insurers are investing in AI technologies to, among other things, improve customer interactions based on written and spoken interactions, gestures, interactive touch displays and hybrid mixed-reality platforms that merge the virtual and the real world, with each customer exchange becoming increasingly personalized,” John Cusano, Senior Managing Director and Global Head of Accenture Insurance Practice, said in a statement.
Integrating AI into insurance industry functions poses some risks, most of which center on protecting privacy and ensuring data quality. Insurance companies also must revamp their IT systems to support the robust technical requirements of AI, Cusano said. Yet those insurance enterprises that do so will ultimately be rewarded. “Insurers that focus on empowering people with a human-AI experience and intelligently integrating AI into their company will benefit from a powerful combination that drives deeper customer engagement, stronger brand loyalty, and more-sustainable profits,” Cusano said.
Insurers on AI’s Frontier
According to the Accenture report, 68% of those polled revealed their organizations already use AI in some capacity, typically as virtual assistants providing customers or agents with answers to basic questions or advice about complex insurance products.
One example is Allstate Business Insurance Expert, or ABIe. When an Allstate agent calls to obtain a commercial insurance quote, he or she is greeted by a virtual “personality” that combs through what Accenture terms “contextual knowledge and intelligent content” to find an answer. “Asking ABIe is faster than phoning the call center and is the preferred way for Allstate agents to get help,” the Accenture report noted.
Insurtech startups like Next Insurance have leapt into the AI world, too. Through its digital platform, Next Insurance provides policies to small businesses and entrepreneurs. It recently expanded its offerings to personal trainers who can now buy coverage via a Facebook Messenger chatbot. Next Insurance’s co-founder and CEO Guy Goldstein said the company’s chatbot connects with prospects through voice recognition, text, and speech conversion software.
It’s All About Choice
AI wouldn’t be making inroads into all business processes if it weren’t gaining widespread public acceptance. Nearly 75% of insurance customers Accenture surveyed were receptive to insurance purchase recommendations generated virtually via a computer.
But they also want a choice as to how they receive information virtually. As the Accenture report points out, AI facilitates varied interactions, from text-based chats, spoken conversions, gestures, and even virtual reality. “People can choose how much and what kind of interaction they want to have with the company at any given time,” the Accenture report stressed.
That could mean interacting with a live agent at some point in the customer-agent relationship. So while AI can improve and streamline some touch points in the customer experience, agents must stand ready to help when clients and prospects want to speak to a human.