Robots are proving to be increasingly effective helpers for insurance companies, too – especially when routine processes are involved Bots are being used increasingly at ERGO across the globe to take pressure off employees and ensure satisfied customers Fabian Stolz, Head of Robotics at ERGO, talks in an interview about how far the Group has already come in the international roll-out of bots.
Mr Stolz, might you explain to us exactly what bots do at ERGO?
They are little digital assistants that help our colleagues to make the automation of routine tasks a fast and straightforward process. This allows our employees to devote more attention to more complex tasks and customer enquiries.
How specifically do the bots take the pressure off employees? Could you give us a few examples?
They are used in a whole range of different areas. The health insurance replacement policy bot, for example, sends customers a replacement policy right away. This would normally have to be done manually. Another example: we are a goods insurance partner for an online retailer. Customers who buy technical equipment from the site can insure them against loss and damage. Customers have the right to revoke the contract within 14 days of concluding it.
The online retailer has very stringent requirements in place for this process. Customer revocation e-mails have to be processed within 24 hours. So we have a bot that receives these e-mails, processes the revocation and informs the customer accordingly. This is a huge help. The use of the bots varies a bit at our foreign companies. It depends to some degree on what their product portfolio looks like.
What aspects of the bot’s work does the customer notice?
Ideally, none. The bots are programmed in such a way that they ideally process a customer’s enquiry on the very same day. It doesn’t matter how busy the customer service team is: the robot simply works through the enquiries without any waiting times. We expect this to result in greater customer satisfaction, also allowing us to live up to customer expectations regarding the service we provide. The great thing is that the robots make virtually no mistakes and process the cases assigned to them in a reliable and standardised manner. We have always strived to make our customers happy by offering processes that are as fast and efficient as possible. The bots help us achieve this.
What does the situation look like at ERGO companies across the globe? How many bots are in operation there?
2021 was a big year internationally for the bot roll-out. We put more than 50 new bots to work, setting a new record. We have a total of over 250 bots in operation throughout the ERGO Group. Around 100 robots have gone live in Poland and Germany alone.
How are the bot launches progressing in the various companies worldwide?
The ERGO companies in the various different countries are very independent in how they operate. This is, of course, to do with the different markets and sales channels, as well as the regulation that is typical in that country. Insurance is, by its very nature, still a very national business. We can’t use a process that we develop in Germany exactly the same way in Spain or Belgium. This is due to specific software systems and IT infrastruc-tures – even though the processes in health insurance, for example, might be similar. This is why each of the companies has its own local robotics team that works closely with the individual departments on location. We have an international Group-wide robotics community that we use to consult, support, and learn from, each other.
So what are the specific challenges in the individual countries? Do they relate to regulation, languages or markets?
Within Europe, quite a bit of the regulation is now standardised, or is at least similar. Infrastructure always poses a particular challenge. This also involves the question as to whether the bots are deployed locally or in a cloud? At the moment, all of the companies deploy them in their own data centres. The cloud also throws up questions as to data privacy and cyber security.
The technical requirements for bots are encouragingly low. The software required is very advanced. And we have a great deal of experience in connecting specialist systems. But the most important aspect is to provide the specialists working in the various departments with information on the possibilities that bots open up. You can then work with them to uncover the potential that the bots have to offer. So we look at whether the robot is a suit-able solution for a specific topic. Finding the answers to these questions in the individual countries and working it out together is an exciting challenge.
How exactly do you do that?
Our strategy is that we don’t organise everything centrally from Germany, but rather help the national companies to determine the robotics potential and then launch their own local initiatives that can be implemented in the context of the overall conditions within which they operate.
Which companies are particularly advanced in their use of bots?
HDFC ERGO is very forward-thinking and innovative in this area. ERGO Hestia in Poland is a bit of a frontrunner, because it has the biggest robotics team with huge output. The team there is very successful. Otherwise, every company has its own success story. One of the first companies we worked with was ERGO Baltic. We visited them on site and organised events to raise awareness among the departments.
We also worked very closely with DKV Seguros in Spain and ERGO Hellas last year. All of them now have between four and ten robots in operation and have put solid infrastructure in place. All of them are sticking to the plan we set out, and some are even ahead of the game. I honestly expected there to be more stumbling blocks. This is because, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to conduct a lot of virtual meetings when in fact we would have liked to clarify matters on location. ERGO Belgium has also developed its first set of bots, but the infrastructure isn’t quite ready yet because the data centre is relocating. Several robots are set to be launched at once in April or May 2022.
How satisfied are you personally with the bot roll-out?
Very satisfied. One thing that makes me very happy to see is how committed and passionate all of our colleagues, no matter where they are in the world, are in their work. It’s great to be able to support something like this. We have now established a fantastic community and meet up at regular digital events so we can share our experience. This allows everyone to benefit from the knowledge that the others share and allows us to grow together as a global company.
Interview: Benjamin Esche
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