Voice

Phonebots: Potential not fully utilised yet

According to Gartner, 68 percent of insurance companies already use chatbots. But if we look more closely at the figures, we can see that many companies have not (yet) gone beyond a simple pilot project phase, write Nicolas Konnerth and Sven Vanoeteren from ERGO's Voice Team. The successful use of a voice assistant requires major commitment on the part of the company and considerable willingness to invest.

The trend for “voice assistants” means that many people are now using a totally new generation of digital assistants, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. However, we are still very much in the ‘early majority’ phase in Germany as far as the distribution and use of these digital assistants is concerned. According to a study by "Voicebot.AI", one in four adults in Germany owned at least one smart speaker in January 2021. There is also still a lack of acceptance on the part of customers to resolve insurance matters using a voice assistant. In a study conducted by ERGO, only eight percent of the voice assistant users surveyed said that they were "very likely" to lodge a claim through a voice assistant. And the percentage of people enquiring about different contract-related services is still in the single digits. Only two percent of respondents were "very likely" to conclude a contract in this way.

Digital voice assistants in customer service

The situation is different with conventional communication channels, such as web chats or customer service phone lines, which millions of customers use every year to contact companies. Digital voice assistants can also be used here, based on the same technology as Alexa and Google Assistant. Combining traditional communication channels with modern voice technology increases customer satisfaction by reducing waiting times and generating potential savings for insurance companies.

The growing importance of these solutions is also reflected in the market sales of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for call centres. This market grew to USD 914.5 million in 2018 and is expected to exceed USD 2.9 billion by 2024, which equates to a 22.6 percent annual growth rate between 2019 and 2024.

The potential of this technology is evident and many insurance companies have already made initial attempts to use voice assistants. According to Gartner, 68 percent of insurance companies already use chatbots. But if we look more closely at the figures, we can see that many companies have not (yet) gone beyond a a simple pilot project phase. The reasons for this are manifold: a digital assistant needs to be continuously trained so that customers do not get annoyed and ask to speak to a human employee. To achieve this, insurance companies need to develop new skills among their employees. At the same time, it requires a significant investment by companies to build up a voice assistant platform for a use case. And then there is also the issue of regulatory security: and the hot topic of data protection in the cloud.

Customer satisfaction through reduction of waiting times

To summarise: the successful use of a voice assistant requires major commitment on the part of the company and considerable willingness to invest. ERGO has been actively involved in this trend from the very start and was even one of the first insurance companies to enable customers to take out insurance through Amazon Alexa. We have already developed the first ten voice assistants for our Customer Service phone centre, which handle thousands of calls every day. We have learned a lot along the way. We have now set up an operational platform for the development, maintenance and provision of new voice assistance services. It is clear that phone bots are generally accepted by our customers for day-to-day matters – even when they are allowed to choose between a person and a bot. Phone bots can offer a faster, digital alternative to longer waiting times for a free member of staff: customers who prefer to talk to a real person can still do so and everyone else can immediately use a digital service with no waiting time. This results in benefits for everyone involved: enhanced benefits for customers by offering them a choice and potentially reducing waiting times. Greater employee satisfaction by eliminating monotonous work and enabling them to offer higher-quality advice to customers. And finally improved availability and cost savings in terms of the company’s phone service.

Text: Nicolas Konnerth, Head of Voice, and Sven Vanoeteren, Voice User Interface Lead Designer (ERGO Group)