Insurance is among the most affected sectors by COVID-19. In such crises, uncertain conditions increase customer concerns, and this means huge spikes in customer contacts, claims, and complaints.
Insurance companies are under the pressure of answering unprecedented volumes of queries from customers and stakeholders. That requires being ready to serve 24/7 across any channel, which is only possible with more digitalized services. Insurance companies with advanced digital services are in stronger positions than their competitors.
Lately, we organized a webinar; Where Will Rapidly Digitized Customers Take the Insurance Industry. Our General Manager Serdar Karadayı and Groupama Turkey’s CIO Serdar Birlikçi discussed the effects of COVID on the insurance industry and looked for answers to:
- How was the behavior of insurance customers affected during this period called New Normal?
- How have the channels they preferred to receive service changed? How will artificial intelligence and digital technologies affect this change?
Below you can find the key takeaways from the webinar and our opinions on today and tomorrow of the insurance industry.
Digitalization is the Key
Digitalization has always been on the agenda of insurance companies. Tech-savvy companies have been making investments in digitalizing their services for some time now. They offer various self-services to their customers across multiple applications such as conversational IVRs, chatbots, smart assistants, and mobile apps. These solutions allow companies to offer uninterrupted self-services across multiple channels. This becomes extremely important during the time of crisis, such as the pandemic since many physical service channels are no longer available, working hours are limited, and many customer service providers are not working with the full workforce. Digitalized services allow customers to self-serve without being limited with time or channel.
Conversational AI is the driving force behind digitalized solutions. With these technologies, customers can interact with systems simply by voice or text in a natural way. This not only provides enhanced experience for customers but also increases automation and minimizes costs for companies. On the other hand, conversational analytics solutions analyze all recorded interactions and provide companies with invaluable insights into customer experience, agent performance, and customer service efficiency. This enables in-depth monitoring and performance evaluation for continuous improvement.
Serdar Karadayı: “Conversational technologies offer uninterrupted and accurate communication. For example, when you make a chatbot project, you can deliver the system needed by both your customers and your agencies with an omnichannel approach. You can also analyze the services provided by agencies and customer representatives with artificial intelligence to identify areas where you underperform.”
Serdar Birlikçi: “Artificial intelligence doesn’t only provide efficiency; it also offers benefits in building strategy, developing new products, and understanding customer demands correctly. The biggest benefit for us is creating the infrastructure that will provide the best service to our stakeholders and making the necessary corrections by evaluating this experience. We aim to take advantage of this technology at all end-to-end service points. Making investments as early as possible helps you to get better results.”
The Future: What to Expect from Customer Services in the New Normal?
Call Centers Are Here to Stay
Call centers are no longer among alternative channels. They act as the primary customer service channels, especially in such situations when people would like to get immediate service. So, call centers will continue to be one of the most important elements of customer services. But they will need to evolve into a hybrid structure with AI-based solutions in a way that supports multiple channels like bots, smart assistants, messaging apps, etc.
Serdar Birlikçi: “Call centers play a key role in customer experience. The experience there determines everything. Call centers should be accessible 24/7 for all stakeholders for the perfect experience. Artificial intelligence is the way to do this.”
A New Way of Work for Call Centers
Although working from home was not common in the call center industry, call centers were among the fastest adopters of this new style during the pandemic. This mandatory change helped them to realize working from home might be an assessable option. Since many call centers got efficient results, it looks like some form of working from the home formula will continue to be an option for the future.
The need for accurate and objective performance evaluation will increase in parallel with the number of remote customer representatives. And this will guide companies to benefit from AI-based analytics and performance evaluation solutions.
Serdar Karadayı: “There will be no building dependency in the call center industry after the pandemic. Telecommuting will increase the importance of analysis. By using the data, we get from the analysis, we train AI. This helps us to increase automation while making planning and management processes more accurate.”
What Does the Future Hold?
During the pandemic, customers found alternative ways to reach companies to get the services they need. This challenge forced many organizations to adopt an omnichannel automated service approach. Obviously, in the new normal customers will continue to expect high-quality service on time, across any channel they prefer. More companies will be working hard to answer these expectations. They will also need to keep their costs minimized. This concern will direct them to automation, which is possible with AI.
Serdar Karadayı: “Digitalization and artificial intelligence investments will accelerate in the coming period. Customers want fast, accurate, and uninterrupted service. Technology is the way to do this. Topics such as data analysis and reporting will become important.”
A Hybrid Approach
Increasing use of AI doesn’t mean the end of human-assisted customer services. Humans will continue to take part in complex tasks that require strategic thought or emotional understanding. Although customers will prefer digital options like chatbots and smart assistants for routine transactions, they will prefer human support for more complex service needs. This requires a strategic partnership between humans and AI. Insurance call centers need to design smart AI dialog flows where customers can easily self-serve. They also need to position live agents on the right customer contact points in a way that provides an uninterrupted customer journey.
AI is a Long-Term Investment
AI is a long-term investment. So, starting as early as possible would give companies enough time to implement in-depth projects. AI projects have many different phases, like preparation, testing, monitoring, and evaluation. Each phase requires careful planning for the right implementation.
To accomplish this, setting the right goals and following a plan is important. But what is more important is finding the right partner. AI projects are complicated and require professional support. So, while deciding on a technology provider, insurance companies need to look for technology and industry-specific expertise, UX-oriented approach, and competence in professional services. Besides, a harmonious relationship between partners would contribute to the success of the project.
Serdar Birlikçi: “Here are my recommendations to those who want to invest in artificial intelligence. First, start early. Explain the details of your plan to your team. And wait to see the results. Starting early is important in artificial intelligence projects; we need to get into the subject immediately. Explaining the project well is very effective in breaking resistance and embracing technology within the company. When you wait to see the output without a hurry, you see that the employees come up with new ideas. The practice is more effective than theory. As people use technology, they come up with new ideas that add value.”
Serdar Karadayı: “It is important to choose the right partner for the success of an AI project. While making a decision, it is necessary to answer this question, “How does the product carry me to the future?” Because technologies are in constant development. That is why continuous improvement and long-term cooperation are required.”
To learn more about the influence of digitalization on the insurance industry, listen to our webinar (in Turkish).
Author: Hilal Bakanay, Senior Marketing Specialist, Sestek