AI & Robotics

"Every month, we put two more robots into operation at ERGO"

ERGO colleagues Fabian Stolz and Klemens Steiner have contributed a technical essay to the yearbook "HR-Trends 2022" (Haufe-Verlag). Their topic: "Robotics in HR - Hype or Help?" But what do robots actually do for an insurance company in general and in HR work in particular? //next asked the authors.

Fabian Stolz with robot figure Naomi, who embodies the topic of robotics at ERGO

When we think of "robots", many of us first think of humanoid robots from science fiction films or perhaps industrial robots or useful helpers like lawnmowers or hoovers. But how can we imagine robots in an insurance company?

Fabian Stolz: Robots like R2D2 and his friends from Star Wars don't actually exist in our offices (yet?). However, the term "robot" is derived from the English "Robotic Process Automation" - and therefore also stands for "digital helpers" to a certain extent at ERGO. In concrete terms, these are process sequences programmed in special software that support our colleagues in routine tasks. For example, they create certificates for our customers or send copies of policies to online brokers so that the technical experts can take care of more demanding customer issues in the meantime.

What role does this topic play in human resources work? Could you give us examples of how virtual colleagues support here? What applications are there? How do the robots go about it - to put it simply?

Klemens Steiner: First of all, we now use various bots and are happy about every new application. One of our first and most demanding bots in the HR sales area is the inventory transfer. What is it about? The management of all contracts of an insurance customer are transferred to a broker. This process is time-critical and very complex with more than 100 manual steps. The robot takes over the work of an employee 1:1. It opens all the necessary programmes and populates them with data and information. 

Klemens Steiner

In the past, we have built up backlogs as quantities increased. With the Bot, we have been able to reduce the backlogs in a very short time, resulting in a high level of satisfaction for all parties involved. Maintaining service levels to customers - even during peak loads - is now possible. It also frees up staff from recurring routine bulk work. This gives colleagues more time for more complex issues and tasks. Other really great examples are our bots in the area of new sales partner recruitment or in obtaining self-disclosures from ERGO Pro intermediaries. As you can see: The importance of this topic in our sales-oriented HR work is growing!

Please bring us up to date: How many robots are active at ERGO so far?

Fabian Stolz: At ERGO in Germany alone, we now have more than 80 robots in operation. In the ERGO Group as a whole, i.e. around the globe, there are more than 200.

How many of them support HR work, Mr Steiner?

Klemens Steiner: We work with a total of twelve bots in the HR Sales department and already have more in the pipeline. We have a small core team in our area that consolidates and prioritises the bot topics. In addition, we now have a number of employees who have already worked successfully on the development of bots in our area in the past, depending on the individual bots. They are constantly testing new ideas, are highly motivated and in close exchange with the Robotics team around Fabian Stolz. The area of responsibility is future-oriented - and it is a pleasure to see how we are developing in the field of HR Sales and as ERGO. The active involvement of colleagues also motivates them to promote the topic to colleagues who are not yet involved in Robotics. I am sure we have set the right course for the future with this topic. 

How many processes did the robots complete in 2021?

Fabian Stolz: In Germany last year, there were almost 1.6 million processes in which the bots were involved. That's twice as many as in 2019 and 2020 combined! But the bots are also extremely busy internationally: at ERGO Hestia in Poland, for example, they process well over 100,000 transactions per month.

Fabian Stolz

What other exciting key figures or statistics should our readers know?

Fabian Stolz: The big advantage of the robots is that they can be developed very quickly and therefore cheaply. This allows us, with a small team of only ten people, to put two new bots into operation every month. On average, it takes only three months from kick-off to go-live.

You had already hinted at it, but please be more specific: What advantages do the virtual employees bring to their colleagues in the flesh?

Fabian Stolz: The robots mainly take over tedious drudgery. This frees up our colleagues for more direct customer contact and more demanding tasks. In addition, the bots alleviate peak loads - for example, in the case of year-end motoring or hail damage - and help to avoid backlogs, enquiries and complaints by completing their tasks reliably and quickly.

Outlook: Where is the journey going, what additional capabilities and features are you planning?

Fabian Stolz: We want to at least maintain our current pace in the development of new bots and at the same time ensure stable operation. We see great opportunities especially in linking with voice and AI, through which our bots learn to "speak" and "read".

Where do you see the topic of "Robotics at ERGO" in 2025?

Fabian Stolz: In 2025, ERGO will be a digital leader as an insurance company and robots will be a natural element of our working world among many other technologies.

Klemens Steiner: In terms of human resources in sales, I am firmly convinced that bots will increasingly help us to process mass transactions quickly, to a high quality and without errors in the future. In addition, such processes are scalable. This means that we can maintain our service levels even if the number of units continues to rise. As I said, we are currently working on combining robotics with AI. This combination can bring additional speed and flexibility to HR processes, as even simple decision-making situations can now be automated. In this respect, I look to the year 2025 with the certainty that with robotics and AI we have the opportunity to bring many of our processes to a completely new service level - with economically justifiable effort. And that is good for our customers, sales partners, colleagues and therefore good for ERGO as a whole!

Interview: Ingo Schenk    

HR-Trends 2022

Against the background of the pandemic, this new reference book from Haufe-Verlag discusses the current transformation of the world of work. Structural and organisational issues are discussed as well as technological topics, but also fundamental strategic and corporate cultural implications. In a total of 41 individual contributions, 78 authors from corporate practice, consulting and academia present current experiences and findings as well as concrete case studies from 35 companies, including Bayer, BMW, Coca-Cola, Deutsche Post DHL, Dr. Oetker, EnBW, ERGO, 50Hertz, Hettich, Infineon, Interhyp, McDonald's, Merck, Metro, Microsoft, Otto, R+V Versicherung, Telefónica and Volkswagen. In addition, there is a comprehensive service section with references to current new publications and topic-relevant internet links as well as 166 national and international management studies. The focus is on the following topics

  • COVID 19: Crisis and Transformation
  • Smart Work: Leadership and Organisation
  • Purpose: Culture and Performance
  • Digitalisation: Learning and Analytics