It’s unlikely that chatbots will replace humans in the insurance claims process altogether, but they certainly will transform the profession in the coming years.
Chatbots, digital conversation platforms driven by artificial intelligence, are getting more and more advanced, leading to greater adoption in industries of all kinds. From Allianz’s all-day virtual assistant Allie, to Canadian insurer RBC’s Arbie, to GEICO’s Kate, a virtual assistant who responds to basic policy and billing inquiries within an app, virtual chatting channels have grown rapidly. It’s been so fast, in fact, that Gartner recently quipped that “by 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse.”
Chatbots won’t completely replace dinnertime conversations (let’s hope), but many businesses have dialed up their use of the technology to automate certain processes that had previously depended on human labor. One of those industries is insurance, which is now chatbots to handle policy purchases and claims in mere seconds. A 2017 Accenture survey of insurers revealed 68% currently employ AI virtual assistants like chatbots internally to facilitate processes or expedite customer interactions.
Can We Chatbot?
Several factors have accelerated chatbots’ popularity, foremost among them being the public’s growing comfort with the idea of “talking” to a chatbot. That’s due in large part to the more humanlike attributes of voice recognition software. By identifying speech patterns and even non-verbal cues, today’s chatbots so closely mimic human conversation that people believe their queries are being managed by a person.
Chatbots do more than converse, however. These virtual assistants crunch data, label and organize information (such as photos), review closed claim information, and make recommendations. By scanning the data, chatbots separate routine claims that can be administered through the chatbot from those requiring human assistance. Chatbots also have the ability to flag discrepancies that could signal fraud, such as abnormal drug prescription patterns.
Insurers, meanwhile, prefer chatbots because they’re easier to build and deploy than mobile apps, yet are still accessible via smartphones. The capacity to serve more than one customer at a time gives chatbots an advantage over humans, as well.
Finally, chatbots automate the claims process by keeping policyholders engaged with quick, personalized service. “When they are designed to have personalities that align with the brand powering them, they move from being simply transactional to transforming the customer experience,” writes Alex Sun, CEO and President of Mitchell International, in VentureBeat.
Will Chatbots Take Over Insurance Completely?
The answer for now is “not yet,” but AI will continue to underpin more and more essential industry tasks. In a piece for TheDigitalInsurer.com, insurtech advisor and speaker Rick Huckstep described how he purchased travel insurance through a beta-tested chatbot (At one point, the chatbot replied, “That sounds cool, Rick,” and noted the weather forecast for the trip). The process, he says, was “much more engaging than filling out a static web form online.”
Nevertheless, Sun cautions, industry adoption of AI presents some hurdles, particularly regarding complex claims overseen by strict regulations. He advises insurers to invest wisely, decide which procedures would benefit most from AI, and determine whether their existing systems can blend with the technology. “[Insurers] need to identify partners, hire or train for new skill sets, and put new development processes and infrastructure in place,” he says.
Sun recommends insurers test the technology prior to instituting a widespread AI program. “There are plenty of places to start,” he concludes, “and getting started is key to laying the foundation for future innovation.”