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Humanising AI and automation – it’s CX, but not as we know it…

by uma


By Jayne Lansdell, Associate Director of Process and Technology at BGLi

From distressed customers in need of emergency support, to lower-level policyholders requiring guidance – insurance companies must always be available to “take the call”. But with multiple response channels for customers to choose from, including AI-powered virtual assistants, the call doesn’t necessarily have to be answered by a physical agent via a telephone. For Jayne Lansdell, Associate Director of Process and Technology at BGL Insurance (BGLi), although AI is driving next-gen customer-centric digital CX solutions, insurers should never lose sight of the human touch that policyholders crave. 

The pandemic changed the way insurers interact with customers. In 2020,  80% of companies invest in omnichannel support to aid digital CX, with online chatbots and virtual assistants among the technology proliferating to address the lack of traditional customer-agent phone discussions. Since then, the level of automation has continued to climb – but customers still want to speak with a human for complex issues or high stakes claims

A blend of unique personal touches and automated services to create a personalised but data driven CX is critical to future claims handling. Industry innovation is ongoing, but insurers must acknowledge that AI and automation cannot provide the personability needed to satisfy policyholders without some human input. 

Phones, AI and automation – the journey of technological developments to improve CX continues 

The advent of the smart phone marked a turning point for customer service. It’s where CX and technology first began to intertwine. The smart phone meant that consumers began carrying around mini supercomputers in their pockets. This set the new standard, moving everything online at the customer’s fingertips. But still, for a long time, the contact centre remained the bastion of customer service – when customers needed help, they had to call.

Hot on the heels of the smart phone came the development of webchat. Insurance companies became able to assist on the digital customer journey and this evolved into chatbots to answer FAQs in real time. These chatbots first targeted simple transactional queries that were low in complexity but high in volume, freeing up agent time to deal with complex issues. 

Video chat, web chat, co-browsing and SMS responses represent further industry developments that have driven and will continue to drive technological developments in CX forward. These all lean into tailored CX strategies focussed on maintaining touch with the customer, a key perspective required as technology develops. 

Introducing the future of AI-driven CX – the digital voice 

But customer expectations are always on the rise, with many expecting faster responses from companies. The average response time for businesses is 12 hours, however, almost half of customers expect companies to respond in less than 4 hours, demonstrating a clear need for faster, more efficient customer service.

Enter the power of the digital voice, that leverages AI to deliver more personalised experiences for customers. And customers realise the value it can bring to the service process. Up to 64% of customers believe the use of AI will remove burden on them to provide information and improve the customer experience.

AI voice recognition technology can help continue to close the gap between digital self-service and personalised customer care. Voice recognition is already widely used in day-to-day living, with Alexa and Google assistant being prime examples that are even accessible on smart phones in the form of virtual assistants. Further development of advanced speech recognition allows customers to hold conversations with fully automated virtual assistants- which can expand to accessible, 24/7, smartphone services. 

Intelligence, intuition, and efficiency in human AI can only achieved with data-aided deep learning 

Natural Language Processing can be used to facilitate intelligent automated conversation with customers by asking the right questions to get the right information, allowing insurance providers to anticipate the direction of conversation and intent to lessen the burden on the customer. This captures the genuine need of the customer and is then able to map out the best possible continuation of the customer journey. 

These automated conversations can then be linked to other channels to send confirmation of the action requested, so customers can be assured that their request is being taken care of. But customer data is vital to this AI-driven customer journey. Collecting and using customer data drives innovation, such as using real life scenarios to teach AI how to interpret and understand customer intent. Through teams of CX experts, AI technology that harnesses learned experience to create meaningful customer interactions can be developed. 

Don’t neglect claims context’s – customers crave the personal touch 

However, regardless of the advanced level of digital services, there will always be customers that still want or need to talk to an agent through telephone. Automation can’t help or solve the human story, such as financial difficulties or vulnerabilities when it comes to making claims. 

Some customers still need the reassurance of an actual person and continue to turn to phone calls because they believe they will be listened to and understood and have their problem addressed, rather than having to explain themselves in an online form or webchat. Here, a new level of intelligent interaction must be built into the digital voice solution, where the customer intention is understood and support for the customer can be escalated if necessary.

Digital Voice programmes build in appropriate and sensitive handover points for colleagues, when the digital to physical journey comes full circle and agent intervention is required – particularly where the AI detects signs of distress or vulnerability. 


Ignore the myth – AI improves employees rather than replacing them 

And ultimately, AI and automation isn’t about replacing people in the contact centre. It’s about levelling up customer service by increasing customer autonomy and freeing up contact centre staff for more complex issues.

And not just that, AI and automation is also improving and creating new skills for contact centre teams by drawing on advisors’ wealth of experience in customer interactions to help inform the development of new algorithms. This can even include staff learning how to train and programme the AI to make sure customer interactions are managed in an organic way.

Human powered AI drives personalised interactions 

There is a delicate balance between effective first-time resolution and high-quality customer service, especially to still provide the level of personalisation and humanity needed to respond to high-level, distressing claims.

CX can be enhanced beyond human capabilities for more effective claims resolution, but the human touch is essential. Combining detailed programming with real life customer data and the specialist knowledge of CX experts, humanised AI is the future of digital CX – offering fast, effective claims resolution while ensuring the customer never feels forgotten. 


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