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HOW CHATBOTS CAN HELP INSURANCE PROVIDERS IMPROVE THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY

By Steve Murray, solutions director at IPI

 

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the customer service industry at every point, from consumer spending habits, to the time of day they choose to contact customer service. For the insurance sector, customer behaviours have also changed as people juggle the financial impacts of the pandemic and seek protection with the likes of business, travel, health and life insurance. As a result, insurers are fielding an increase in calls about coverage, policies and claims. At the same time, many insurance companies have also had to make their entire operations remote in a matter of days.

With a sharp spike in customer contact across multiple channels and an unprecedented number of employees working remotely, insurers have started to realise the benefits of automated, cloud-based technologies that can enable every part of the industry to continue operating, from brokers to customer service agents. Indeed, insurers are looking to automate the likes of claims and refund requests to help cope with increased workloads and remove some of the burden from contact centre agents.

 

Steve Murray

The importance of staying digital

In a time when over 80% of adults have a smartphone (Deloitte), automated digital tools such as chatbots offer customers more communication channels to speak with their insurance provider, channels that are available 24/7. This is not only particularly helpful for workers who may not be able to get to a phone or online during normal operating hours, but with PWC finding that 41% of policyholders who had difficulties with their insurers are more likely to switch providers due to a lack of digital capabilities, keeping digital channels open is paramount.

Chatbots are one of the most effective automated tools. They can reduce call volume by deflecting up to 50% of calls away from agents. In the insurance sector, they are reshaping everything from policy recommendations to claims processing, enabling insurers to service customers at all hours of the day, even with a reduced workforce. From automating FAQs and updating information, through to getting a quote and securing payments, chatbots are certainly making an impact across the insurance industry.

In addition, chatbots free up customer service agents’ time by taking on some of the agent’s workload by completing the more mundane tasks, such as updating contact details or providing a refund. Not only does this reduce the overall call handling time – a key metric in the contact centre – but it also enables the agent to spend more time with the customer on more complex matters.

Chatbots also improve customer satisfaction. Forrester research found that 65% of people value first contact resolution above everything else, so chatbots that can provide customers with fast, accurate information that they can access 24/7 from the device of their choosing is essential. Having their journey simplified and more efficiently dealt with will not only ensure a happy customer, but also reinforces their loyalty, a key marker of success in the insurance sector.

 

Getting a chatbot up and running

There is very little a chatbot cannot handle and luckily, implementing a chatbot is also relatively straightforward and can be deployed in as little as three days. Below are some simple steps of chatbot deployment:

Journey: Determine what exactly you want your chatbot to help with during the customer journey. Will it be for a specific purpose, such as automating claims? Or will it be responsible for a full end-to-end journey? Once that’s decided, it’s also essential to figure out the set-up process and agree on resources and an approach, such as how you will measure success metrics and who will own the chatbot’s delivery. The great thing about chatbots is that no large team of specialists is required, but it does pay to have a subject matter expert who will oversee everything, including the content and the customer journey, especially if you want it up and running very quickly.

Dialogue: This is where content is gathered that will provide your chatbot with the answers it’ll need for the customer journey you’ve mapped out. Leverage pre-existing platforms and data sources here such as website FAQs to cut the workload down and to see what customers really want from their chatbot. This is also where you need to decide on the chatbot’s tone of voice – will it be conversational, informative, casual or formal? You can then begin developing the Q&A style that you want customers to experience, whether that’s a simple Q&A or more complex dialogue.

Build: Now it’s time to import your Q&As into the chatbot platform. This is straightforward, particularly if you have your content prepared and someone to oversee the project. You can then change the styling of the default chatbot interface (DCI) to suit your particular requirements – will it resemble a robot or have a human avatar? Will it have a name or a specific colour palette? The final step in this stage is to add the DCI script to your website and/or app.

Test & learn: This is a crucial step and mustn’t be overlooked. Testing out the bot to see where you might be missing content, need to refine some answers, or change its appearance is a must. Don’t be afraid to hit the launch button though, as making the tool available to customers is the best way to make sure it’s performing the way you want it to. The platform is intuitive, but it still needs some guidance, and the input it gets from customers will only help it to succeed and learn. As you gather more information, you can add more content to the platform and develop the chatbot’s capabilities.

Launch & enhance: It’s go-live time! Once launched, continuously monitoring the chatbot dashboards is essential to optimising the content and seeing where improvements can be made. You might realise you need to add more dialogue, make some questions simpler, or direct customers to a human agent earlier on in the journey. The simplicity of implementing a chatbot means that it’s also simple to improve to suit your customers’ needs.

 

For insurers, automated chatbots can provide a fast, responsive service that both lightens the load for contact centre agents and enriches the customer experience. They are simple to deliver and come with a low price-tag. They are available to customers 24/7 to provide on-demand information and support. In today’s uncertain world, having that little bit of stability is just what we need.

 

Finance

FIVE TRENDS THAT WILL IMPACT THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY IN 2021

Ian Johnson, Managing Director Europe at Marqeta

 

Coronavirus has shaken things up across all industries, and financial services is no different. This year, we are likely to see a much more risk averse industry, as fintechs and banks alike move into survival mode. Yet, this will also spur innovation. The shift away from cash will give a shot in the arm to digital payments, while lenders in particular will have to get creative to balance their risk against the need to dispense funds.

It’s likely to be an interesting, albeit bumpy, year. Here are five core trends that I see having a major impact in 2021.

 

Lenders will seek improved visibility to combat delinquency

An economic downturn unfortunately means higher delinquency rates for lenders. But businesses – in particular, SMEs – need liquidity to survive, now more than ever. To balance risk with need, more lenders will focus on enabling visibility and control after a loan is dispensed. Instead of issuing funds to a bank account, loans will be dispensed to virtual cards or wallets, allowing lenders to track exactly how and where money is spent. This way, lenders only release funds as they are needed – rather than in one lump sum.

Ian Johnson

They also have the power to approve or reject payments in real-time, based on whether the request is aligned with the terms of the loan agreement. For instance, if a company has secured a loan for IT equipment, but attempts to spend it on office refreshments, the lender can make an instant decision to permit or deny the transaction based on geolocation and other transactional data. So, borrowers should ready themselves to be much more transparent if they want to secure loans in the future.

 

Embedded payments to become more commonplace

Embedded payments has been around a long time – just look at pioneers like Uber, where payments are so integral to the customer experience that it doesn’t even feel like you’re paying anymore. In the next year, we will see this expand, with a wider variety of organisations making payments a core element of their customer experience strategies. This trend will be coupled with a shift towards transparency and privacy, where people willingly exchange their data for an improved, personalised experience.

This is something consumers do readily in many areas of online life already – shopping, social media, and so on. In 2021, we will see more banking and payment services operating off the back of this same exchange. In return for data, customers will be given smoother, more tailored payment experiences.

 

Use of cash to drop below 15%, falling from 23% of all payments in 2019

The UK and Europe’s departure from cash will continue to evolve into next year. Physical cards will begin to give way to a rise in digital payment methods – virtual cards, digital wallets, and the likes of Apple Pay and Google Pay. Banks will need to prepare for this shift; hopefully learning their lesson from the early months of the pandemic, where 88% were overwhelmed by demand for online and mobile banking. This means modernising behind the scenes, using technology to improve and streamline payment processing. Time and money also need to be invested into educating and supporting businesses and individuals that going cashless could leave vulnerable, such as small merchants and elderly people. Until this has been addressed, going cashless risks leaving the most vulnerable in our society behind.

 

Back-end bank modernisation set to continue

Traditional banks recognise that they need to be able to innovate faster, particularly on the front-end, to compete with the new waves of digital banks and fintech entering the market. While we will see continued modernisation on the back-end, as they try to unpick the complex web of legacy systems they sit upon, I would not expect this issue to be fixed in a year. Instead of taking on the risk of full migration, many banks will ‘hollow out’ certain services – leaving core services in place that are too risky to move, whilst shifting newer services onto more modern platforms to avoid coding them into legacy systems.

This will create the building blocks to build a standalone digital bank within a bank, allowing them to modernise the entire stack and then incentivising customers to make the switch. An example of this approach is Goldman Sachs’ digital bank Marcus, which has debuted to strong demand – it’ll be interesting to see if others follow suit.

 

Alternative lenders will open up the market to support post-COVID-19 recovery

The process of securing a loan has always been quite painful – involving lots of self-reporting, paper statements and credit reports. And it could take days to find out if you were successful and then even longer to access the funds. Thankfully, it is looking like those days might be coming to an end with the emergence of a new breed of alternative lender focused on transforming specific niches of lending. Take SME lending, which has traditionally been regarded as high risk/low rewards and neglected by traditional lenders.

New alternative lenders, such as Capital on Tap, are changing the stakes. Using data and modern payment platforms, they are able to make loan decisions in minutes, not months. We are seeing the same in Point of Sale lending with companies like Klarna – now, you can apply for a POS loan and get approved in seconds. These companies will set the standard in terms of expectations around lending, forcing bigger lenders to follow suit and helping to transform the loan experience.

 

Fintechs to continue leading front-end innovation

Fintechs hold the monopoly on defining what ‘good’ looks like in terms of features. From money management tools, to saving incentives, fintechs have the agility to create new, attractive products with a speed and creativity that traditional banks simply cannot match. However, true success stories of fintechs paving the way to long term profitability are rare. Established, traditional banks still hold all the capital and most of the main checking accounts, making it harder for fintechs to really get ahead. This is likely to continue into 2021, but we are seeing signs of convergence, with fintechs acting as the front-end for customers while banks provide capital in the background.

 

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Finance

2021 IS THE YEAR FOR DIGITAL WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT IN FINANCIAL SERVICES

By Tyler Suss, Product Marketing Director at Kofax

 

Even before the pandemic, the UK financial services sector viewed digital transformation as a high priority. Though adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) technologies was already underway, the pandemic truly upended operations.

When health mandates closed offices, the ability to manage operations became more challenging and complex. Many processes still aren’t fully integrated or automated, leaving remote workers with the challenge of having to bridge the gaps in fragmented and often labour-intensive processes. More than ever, they need a digital environment in which back-office processes are automated end-to-end to be productive.

Consumers, too, are learning new ways to manage financial transactions in a COVID-19 world. They’re becoming more comfortable with mobile banking and cashless payments, behaviours likely to stick once the pandemic ends. As KPMG notes, improving productivity and meeting new customer expectations for engagement are the sector’s top priorities for the coming year.

That means firms will need to move even more quickly to digitally transform their operations if they want to remain competitive. In 2021, intelligent automation and digital workflow transformation will become the main vehicles for driving employee productivity and customer experience.

 

Tyler Suss

The Next Priority: Digital Workforce Management

There are many reasons why an intelligent automation program combined with digital workforce management will accelerate digital transformation, but the four that follow build a strong case for adopting this approach in 2021.

 

  1. Workforce Orchestration

RPA caught on like wildfire because it made automating routine, mundane tasks simple and fast. Motivation-killing work like monotonous, cut-and-paste data entry is now a drudgery of the past. What’s next? For savvy financial firms, 2021 will be all about harnessing their RPA automation expertise—and leveraging it with complementary technologies like process orchestration and document intelligence to automate their mission-critical business and create high-value workflows.

With an open intelligent automation platform, financial firms will be able to orchestrate work across people, in-house technologies, and third-party RPA bots. They can assign the right worker, whether it’s a human or digital worker, to the right task at the right time, while maintaining total control over the complexity and cost associated with a given task or project. Additionally, they can take advantage of more advanced AI technologies as they emerge.

 

  1. Risk Management and Security

In financial services especially, it’s crucial that automated processes meet audit and compliance requirements. Security is also of paramount importance, with risk mitigation being a high priority. Yet many firms don’t properly consider the security risks associated with RPA, such as the access software robots have to sensitive data. As human and digital workforces merge, a single governance environment is vital.

Central control allows managers to synchronise software robot releases with broader IT system updates, minimising disruptions and failures among the digital workforce. Robust digital workforce management software lets companies secure and monitor how information is used by all resources. The integration of identity management with financial security solutions supports unified governance over the access human and digital workers have to sensitive systems and applications.

Financial firms also need a way to address potential misuse of digital worker credentials. A sophisticated solution supports the segregation of duties, in which functions are spread out across people and departments. Managers can ensure a particular individual doesn’t have access to too much sensitive information based on the combination of digital workers they oversee.

It’s also important to remember that a digital workforce management solution should enable the organisation to manage and enforce policy controls throughout the entire lifecycle of the digital worker, from creation all the way through decommissioning. Control over the entire lifespan of digital workers enhances security, compliance and auditability.

 

  1. Total visibility into operations across the firm

In order to drive continuous improvement, achieving—and maintaining—total visibility into all resources performing tasks within a process is essential. Financial services firms need to be able to answer such questions as:

What tasks are being worked on?

What’s in the pipeline?

How does process performance compare with KPIs?

An intelligent automation platform including process discovery and visualisation provides insight into business processes across the enterprise. Executives and managers get a holistic view overcoming the boundaries between departmental silos, making it easier to identify opportunities for digital workforce automation that can have a greater impact across the entire firm.

 

  1. Scalability

 The requirement to keep pace with changes in consumer behaviour and agile competitors has only intensified during the pandemic. Scalability will be more urgent in 2021, and yet the majority of organisations have struggled to expand their automation initiatives. The biggest barrier is process fragmentation, in which resources performing the work, including automation and digital resources, exist in silos.

Fragmented operations increase overhead costs and eat into the ROI on digital transformation investments. An open, integrated platform enables common governance and permits financial firms to scale rapidly.

As the pandemic wanes, firms need to reimagine customer journeys and rethink operations to improve customer and employee experiences. The successful ones will build upon their RPA capabilities and rely on intelligent automation digital workforce management to foster more agile and competitive ways of working and thinking so they can work like tomorrow—today.

 

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