Insurance: why we shouldn’t be afraid of robots

The insurance sector hasn’t fully capitalised on it yet, but the robotic revolution is happening now and professionals in the market stand to gain from it. To cite a few examples, today we are seeing the automation of more onerous tasks, the emergence of virtual “smart” advisors and humanoid robots to greet us in stores. None of these advanced technologies are here to replace humans, but rather to help us better negotiate the leap towards a higher level of efficiency in customer relations, marketing, and HR. Here are a few key points for getting the best out of the unavoidable context of robotisation.

According to Gartner, the specialist advanced tech consultancy, the current level of automation seen in banks and the insurance sector is simply not apt to meet the challenges we face today and it is irrevocable. Since this analysis of the situation in the last quarter of 2016, the robotic revolution has become the hot topic for operational improvements within companies from the insurance sector.

In France, of course, we chose to automate back-office operations through urbanisation programmes and BPM, whereas the Anglophone world has opted to automate offshore operations and carry out a more agile front-office automation. But industrialising the back-office has left us with many repetitive tasks, which essentially remain manual and well suited for agile automation. For insurers, then, it is in their interest to navigate this inevitable swing towards robotisation. Robots are capable of gathering, validating and analysing information, saving data, calculating, deciding and producing, as well as communicating and being held accountable, amongst other things. Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Chatbots and humanoid robots are the three variations available to insurers, particularly for strengthening customer relations and shortening turnaround times.

Automation tools come in several options

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools are making their way onto the scene. With no programming required, they make it possible to define or store repetitive human behaviour patterns, to simulate them and, finally, to perform them. Moreover, the simpler the task, the more efficient it is. Chatbots, for example, can become virtual advisors for customers communicating via the Internet, social media or by telephone. They can answer customers’ recurring questions (eg. FAQs), or even understand a specific request and execute it instantaneously; such is the case in some banks where customers can now increase their cash withdrawal limit this way, for example. Finally, let’s not forget social robotics, an interface with strong human interaction. Speech, emotions, gestures and social behaviour allow them to greet, assist, and inform customers; Pepper or even Nao are now well-known examples of such robots. The key is knowing which solution to implement, for which type of job and what the quantifiable benefits will be.

Advantages

When with customers, robots support advisors

With regard to communicating with customers, a social robot can, for example, take care of the first stage of physical communication when the advisor in unavailable, all through memorising the context of the store visit. Now this is what we call efficient and smart use of waiting times. For example, the first humanoid robot Nao, or its big sister Pepper (both created by the French company Alderaban and later acquired by Soibank Robotics), are able to read emotions and speak. They can, for instance, greet customers in store, in a completely relaxed manner, ask them to verify their personal information on a tablet, inform them of the latest products, etc. All in all, the robot can warm the customer up before they meet the “real” advisor.

More often than not, customers will contact their insurers when they need to take out a new policy or in case of an incident (damage to home, car, etc.). All of these factors together generate stress, and the insurer has to be ready to optimise this moment for the customer. The robot, then, reinforces the presence and impact of the advisor because it creates an empathetic relationship.

Shortly, a robot will even be able to follow a conversation between an insurer and their customers, bringing the advisor the relevant arguments they might need for the discussion. For instance, if a customer mentions moving home, the robot will be able to make the link between the house move, the growing family, and the potential for a new policy. The automated tool will use cognitive platforms to determine the probability of the house move being linked to a future new addition to the family.

When with employees, shortened turnaround times with RPA

In the same vein, using robotics is a way of helping employees to make their work easier. RPA can, for instance, prioritise the 2,500 emails they receive on a daily basis. By pulling out emails relating to customer claims, and by preparing the files, the robot helps employees to save precious time so they can concentrate on jobs with real added value. This will also drastically reduce the insurer’s response time for processing these claims.

In terms of reputation, the robotic revolution is a major advantage. In just a few minutes, RPA software can process undistributed expiration notices for thousands of customers (by looking up the right addresses, sending out reminders, etc.). If the job were completely manually, it would take around 10 people and 2 months to reach completion. The company stands to gain in terms of quality, quantity, and better reaction times. The key thing for the insurer is then to redeploy employees onto more interesting and less repetitive jobs, resulting in a better customer experience. With more fulfilled staff, more satisfied customers and a positive impact on results, the virtuous cycle is underway.

Finally, more automated services mean fewer human errors (and therefore fewer costly solutions and fraudulent activity, also), improved and quicker quality of work (thanks to the possibility of 24/7 operations), and a reduction in operating costs.

A winning HR policy

The company also stands to gain when it comes to HR, because fewer manual and repetitive jobs means fewer problems at work. Employees will be more satisfied in their work, with fewer absences, and fewer new recruits to train up when old ones leave. We need to remember that good advisors aren’t robots, and robots won’t replace good advisors.

But be careful here, because in spite of the fact that technology has come on in leaps and bounds these past few years, robotisation doesn’t always equal success if we don’t use the right methods. First we must systematically assess what robotisation can bring to the tasks in question, in terms of completion times, operating costs, gains in quality, as well as organisational and human impacts.

>We also need to take into account potential obstacles, particularly technological ones. It might be tempting to choose the solutions with the best marketing, but if a robot struggles to understand your language, for instance, or if the video quality doesn’t allow reliable image recognition, then the investment will be counter-productive. This is why it is so important to consider all the criteria before putting these tools into use.

Humans and robots going hand in hand

When it comes to the impact of its generalised use, robotisation is making some big promises. Be sure to fully measure the real costs of implementing these tools against what it will bring to your company. Not all new technologies are worth the investment, and they are changing at a rapid rate. Robots aren’t perfect, autonomous, or self-learning (yet). We are entering the “cobotic” era; during which humans and robots will work together towards an efficient service for customers, employees, and finally, businesses.

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