Why AI-powered Automation?
While automation is not new to the insurance industry, advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are providing greater opportunities to help insurance companies automate customer engagement and the underlying processes and workflows that fulfill their needs.
Two categories of AI technology have emerged that are transforming the insurance industry, namely Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Conversational AI. While both technologies emerged with a different focus and have been considered to be quite separate, the lines between the two are increasingly blurring as insurance companies push hard to automate as many aspects of their business as possible, from customer-facing interactions and processes through to back-office operations and workflows. As such the age of the digital worker has emerged, where virtual assistants or bots work alone or in collaboration with human staff to get things done faster and more efficiently.
Powering Automation with AI Technologies
Insurance operations are characterized by highly repetitive and rules-based back-office processes. Claims processing, for example, requires manual handling of high volumes of emails and paper documents, extracting relevant data, and entering it into claims systems for processing and resolution. These tasks are labor-intensive, costly, time-consuming, and subject to inaccuracies and delays.
RPA streamlines the back-end processes in claims management, eliminating many manual error-prone steps, and speeding up the claims resolution cycle. RPA bots can extract relevant data from large volumes of documents and organize unstructured data in highly automated ways. Then by applying machine learning, this data can also be analyzed for compliance and fraud purposes.
Where RPA focuses more on automating high volume back-office processes that are repetitive in nature, Conversational AI technology in the form of bots or digital workers is geared toward automating the user engagement aspect of a business process, ie. where a customer or employee interacts with the business.
The word bot can be confusing as it is used across both technologies even though the context and focus differ. In the world of conversational AI, a bot or digital worker emulates human conversation in order to solve customer problems using natural language as the interface, with AI backing it up. So digital workers are central to automating key customer or employee interactions across the business.
Going back to the claims example, whenever a customer needs to make a claim, a digital worker can support the journey that they take in reporting the incident, providing all the necessary details via image or document uploads, scheduling repairs or assistance, following up on claims status, getting reimbursed, and accessing policy information relating to the claim. Interactions and workflows can be fully or partially automated by the bot, handing over to or collaborating with human workers when necessary.
How fast and efficiently interactions and processes are managed throughout the complete journey impact the overall customer experience, operational costs, and the speed of claims resolution. The combination of AI-powered conversational and process automation are integral to achieving these goals.
Using a Digital Assistant as a Path to Automation
The ways customers want to interact with their insurance company has changed, shifting away from traditional phone and email channels towards live chat, SMS, voice-activated and messaging channels. Moving a customer from a voice channel to a message-based channel opens up a whole new path to automation.
A digital worker can be deployed to automate many different customer interactions, for example. from the very first point of contact in a quotation inquiry right through to handling policy or mid-term adjustments, assisting a customer reporting an incident and filing a claim, collecting payments, or proactively reaching out to renew insurance policies.
Digital workers can do more than just simple Q&A type interactions. They can understand high-level customer intent and act on it, even taking a customer through a complete multi-step journey, such as assisting them through an online quotation process and policy sale, onboarding them with a new policy, or making a claim.
They support a more convenient engagement model that eliminates costly and labor-intensive tasks. For example, a digital worker can request documents from a customer in the form of image uploads. Then using image recognition, they can extract and validate the data which can be automatically entered into a backend system that the bot integrates with.
In the context of an insurance use case this helps make things like customer onboarding, claims, and renewals faster, more convenient, and efficient. It eliminates the need for customers to attach documents to emails or send a copy by mail. It can drastically reduce the manual workload for insurance staff in handling all the necessary proof documents and inputting or updating them to the system.
Digital workers can also introduce rich media into conversations in the form of video, audio, or other interactive elements, enhancing the experience by allowing existing digital assets and content from the company’s knowledge base to be inserted into conversations. An interactive form, for example, can be sent by a bot to a customer allowing them a faster and easier way to update their profile information or complete an application form.
Besides digital workers offering a more convenient and frictionless way for customers to engage, they provide an efficient and more automated way for customers to self-serve, thereby deflecting calls and workloads from human workers. The resulting cost savings that are achieved through this insurance automation are hard to ignore.