6 min read
Today’s consumers have various options to choose from when it comes to interacting with a business. In the insurance industry, one of the most popular and traditional communication channels is call centres.
In this blog, we take a deeper look at this particular communication channel. How did call centres originate? What are their limitations? Does technology offer better alternatives to it? The following points will give you the answers to these questions and more.
The experience with call centres
In the early days, insurance companies managed their conversations with customers through face-to-face interactions. However, it had several limitations. Face-to-face interactions required physical presence and had limited availability during office hours, hindering the insurers from offering effective and flexible customer service.
To address these problems, insurers evolved through the setting up of call centres. Direct Line (founded by Peter Wood), in 1985, took a huge step by becoming the first company to sell insurance entirely over the telephone. It was such a revolution that by the mid-90s every insurer had adopted this solution.
Switchboard operator using the precursor technology of call centre
In those days, not many had phones or access to them. Today, nearly everyone has one (or even more than one) phone. While it has enhanced accessibility for customers, it has also resulted in more calls to call centres.
So, while call centres provide an overall good and personal experience, they can saturate quickly due to their limited capacities. This causes customers to wait and complain.
No one likes to wait and making complaints is inevitable which ultimately causes damage to the brand’s reputation. In the case of a call centre, the only solution for this problem is to have one operator per customer, which is not viable business-wise.
To tackle the problem of limited capacity, many insurance companies have opened call centres overseas (e.g. in the Philippines and India). Not only does it help them in increasing their number of operators but it also helps them contain costs.
This is also a big reason why insurance companies have started offering multiple channels: it helps them give multiple contact options to their consumers while diverting the traffic and the inbound requests to cheaper channels.
A prominent example of this is web live chat. It arrived in the market in 2002 through the company LiveChat. Web live chat allowed human agents to manage multiple personal conversations at the same time through a messaging interface. It made call centres more capable of absorbing larger volumes of enquiries. However, an agent can simultaneously only manage a maximum of four conversations.
So, the problem of long queues and waiting times still remained. Web live chat has the same constraints as call centres; it only raises the threshold higher.
How Conversational Process Automation (CPA) redefines customer interaction
Call centres were great when few people had phones. However, as we have seen, the development of telecommunication with its huge increase of phone users caused this medium to become outdated. Just as call centres were a revolutionary solution at their time, Conversational Process Automation (CPA in short) is a solution for insurers.
It solves the problems traditional call centres have and streamlines the customer service of an insurance company. CPA offers the following advantages over the conventional call centres:
Enabling multiple personal conversations at the same time (virtually unlimited)
The biggest advantage CPA offers is it enables the management of multiple personal conversations at once through intelligent chatbots. In a call centre, one operator can only serve one customer at a time. That’s because a person can only give detailed and extensive answers one by one.
Moreover, finding such answers takes significant time, requiring the operator to navigate through various systems.
This pace cannot be compromised upon because the quality of service at this point determines customer satisfaction while requiring a lot of personalisation.
So, overall, it becomes quite a slow process resulting in long waiting times.
Chatbots counter this issue by attending to multiple customers at the same time with answers to their queries while seemingly paying complete attention to them. Some might wonder how good and relevant are the answers a chatbot gives to the customers?
CPA handles multiple personal conversations at the same time
Chatbots can integrate with an insurance company’s systems to be relevant for their customers and ensure meaningful interactions. When connected with the core insurance systems through a CPA platform, chatbots can trigger other processes and facilitate further automation.
For example, a chatbot can open a claim into a claims system automatically or even perform the payout for simple and small value claims. Such automation allows the company to offer personalised customer service to multiple customers simultaneously.
Expanding availability (365/24/7)
Chatbots are automated robots. Hence, they don’t need a coffee break or 8-hour sleep.
This is a huge advantage for insurance companies with overseas customers and those wanting to serve demographics that are mainly available outside the classic work hours.
Many people are not able to call insurance companies because they are working during call centre opening times while some are working overnight and sleeping during the day.
Chatbots are available 24/7 throughout the year, which allows insurance companies to have a proper communication channel open for customers that aren’t available during traditional work hours.
For example, if a customer needs to open a claim, the company can use chatbots to allow the first notification of loss (FNOL) at any time. It also means no hold times independently from the number of requests.
Chatbots offer automated conversations so they are capable of having unlimited conversations at once. It makes the number of incoming requests irrelevant, making chatbots the most strategic and viable solution with business scalability at a fraction of the cost.
In 2018, Spixii designed a multi-award winning expert chatbot system called Zara for Zurich UK. It helped them manage their motor and home claims. This system was released during the famous storm “Anticyclone Hartmut” also known as “Beast from the East”.
Zara allowed Zurich UK to successfully manage the surge of customer requests.
Building up a centre of excellence
Chatbots automate customer-facing processes. Such processes are unique for each company.
At Spixii, chatbot conversations are based on the logic from insurance processes with a focus on business performance and customer satisfaction, instead of relying upon open conversation and Natural Language Processing (NLP).
This way, the chatbots are tailored to the insurance company, the services and products offered to customers. They provide meaningful interactions with a personalised touch, satisfying the demands of the highly regulated insurance industry, which request transparency and audibility when interacting with customers. The configuration of chatbots should reflect approval processes from compliance and confirmation of design as per business process requirements.
Day by day, more information is becoming available online which helps the customers learn more about insurance, what and how to buy, as well as other processes such as making a claim. This also means that lengthy conversations over the phone are not justified for insurance companies having well-documented websites.
When customers have more knowledge, they can self-serve. Having to call to change the address on a policy is not self-service. It’s a prime example where integrated chatbots will do the job well for all parties at a minimum cost.
But, even though call centres have their issues, does it mean that all call centres are destined to disappear? Certainly not.
What will disappear is the high costs of dealing with queries in an analogue way that could otherwise be automated online. For now, it is wise for businesses to start paving the road for automated solutions: chatbots that can work hand-in-hand with operators, helping them manage inbound queries.
For the long term, call centres and web live chats probably evolve to Conversational Process Automation. Start investigating your readiness for it with the Spixii performance assessment for customer-facing processes because, as Rosa Luxemburg said,
‘Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.’
Move and take the first step today.