Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly being used in the insurance industry to automate and optimize complex processes. This functionality naturally leads to improved efficiencies for providers and enhanced features for customers. While there is much discussion about the business impacts of automation, intelligent technologies can offer one additional (and possibly surprising) advantage in the insurance space: making services more human.

Digital Colleagues with the Human Touch

Much has been written about the outmoding of the human workforce via technology. These concerns have been present throughout the industrial revolution, but time and again have proven unfounded (indeed, the US – one of the most automated economies – is currently boasting record low unemployment).

History has repeatedly demonstrated how human workers are able to adapt to new technological paradigms (if not embrace them). Keep in mind that it wasn’t so long ago that workers feared computers in the workplace; fast forward to today and most of us couldn’t imagine our jobs without them. Now that advanced intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) like Amelia have come on the scene, we find many similar apprehensions. But just as with past technological disruptions, these solutions will end up automating rote and repeatable tasks, not replacing workers. In fact, we are already seeing many insurance companies build hybrid workforces in which human workers work alongside digital colleagues to make them more productive.

For example, Allstate  transformed its call centers after hiring Amelia as a whisper agent to provide her human colleagues with access to information and protocols. In this case, Amelia shoulders the “cognitive load” related to customer engagements, leaving the agent to provide the human touch over the phone – and the collaboration has proven to be a successful one thus far. In the first few months on the job with Allstate, Amelia has on average assisted agents on more than 250,000 conversations each month. Furthermore, she has reduced average call duration by 9% and sharply increased the number of customer inquiries solved on the first call from 67% to 75%. Amelia also has reduced the time it takes to train human agents and allowed the company to bolster its compliance function.

Let Humans Be More Human

AI systems inject efficiencies into organizations via the automation of routine high-volume business processes. However, this has many indirect benefits for both customers and employees in that it frees human workers from what some could view as tedious and routine tasks, so they can spend more time addressing unique or complex business needs.

Advanced IVAs can easily automate tasks such as information gathering (e.g., “What’s your name and ID number?”), answering FAQs (e.g., information related to deductibles), or rote administrative resolutions (e.g., website password resets). This automation allows human agents to spend their time applying uniquely human traits to tasks that can’t be automated such as empathy and creative problem solving.

More-Human Machines

AI systems will continue to evolve so they can both identify and exhibit human-like qualities. Sentiment analysis, for example, allows AI systems to identify human emotional states, which could be used to refine the customer journey and provide better services, such as when there’s a spike in frustration at one point in the engagement cycle that lets a business know there is a recurring problem requiring a fix. For example, if a user utters a profanity, this could indicate anger or frustration, and the system could place them at the front of a queue to speak to the next available human agent.

Future systems could be designed to exhibit different conversational styles based on context. This awareness of human emotional state would be at home in the insurance industry, where many processes are attached to deeply personal events. For example, if a health insurance customer wants to inquire about adding a new child to their account, the VA could open with, “Congratulations on the new addition to your family!” and additional, more personalized questions.

Fears that machines will remove the humanity from businesses are, at this point, greatly overstated – in fact, AI systems might make companies more human than ever.

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