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The appeal of artificial intelligence across many industries is impossible to deny. But it may come as a surprise to hear that the insurance industry — typically perceived by outsiders to be one of the more decidedly unsexy industries today — outspends 12 other major industries when it comes to investing in AI.
According to the Global Trends Study 2017, insurance invests an average of $124 million per company in this alluring technology. That’s $54 million more than the average across all industries surveyed. Global insurance giant QBE, for one, invested earlier this year in a machine learning company called HyperScience — and that’s not even the first AI investment it’s made.
Within the insurance sector, the benefits and drawbacks of AI are an ongoing conversation, one that (apparently) merits an entire summit: Later this month Insurance Nexus will host the Insurance AI & Analytics USA Summit to discuss the rising role of machine learning technology in scaling for customer demands.
Chatbots play a vital role in that effort to scale for customers’ needs. For example, in May Allstate launched a chatbot called Allstate Business Insurance Expert (ABIE). And last week insurer Singapore Life joined the party with the launch of its machine learning assistant, SingLife Chatbot, which operates on Facebook Messenger and guides customers through a simplified process to get life insurance coverage.
These are just a few of the most recent examples of insurance companies that are flocking to artificial intelligence faster than we can track. Now, that’s not to say insurers hold any kind of monopoly on chatbots and other types of AI. What is surprising here, though, is the insurance industry’s eagerness for the sleek allure of AI despite being long perceived as an inflexible field.
But insurance actually stands to benefit more from AI precisely because of its unsexiness. And if recent announcements from Allstate, Singapore Life, and other insurance companies are anything to go by, then chatbots, in particular, have much to offer the traditionally stiff industry throughout the rest of 2018 and into coming years.
A heavier presence of chatbots in the insurance industry stands to benefit companies and consumers in several key ways — if we can just be patient as the technology progresses.
Chatbots can reduce customer confusion
According to a recent survey, 72 percent of consumers agree that insurance companies use confusing jargon. Trying to navigate the nuanced differences between term-life versus whole-life insurance, for example, can be overwhelming if you’re unfamiliar with the field. A chatbot can help reduce potential confusion — or even eliminate it, if we’re feeling ambitious — by putting complex terms into more straightforward language and walking new customers through simple steps.
Chatbots are available 24/7
Unfortunately, no one can control when something happens that will require an insurance claim. Car accidents, home damage, and life-threatening events can and do occur at all hours of the day and night, and customers often find themselves constrained to calling within business hours if they need assistance filing a claim. But a chatbot can be available at any time. Plus, it remains unaffected by high call volume, so customers don’t have to sit on hold for an hour or longer.
Chatbots streamline tedious processes
A chatbot has the capability to cut down on redundant paperwork and unnecessary steps in an insurance claims process that many customers currently dread. Although some disgruntled insurance customers might claim that such a future is too much to hope for, chatbots are already making this dream a reality. Insurance company Lemonade asserts that, as early as 2016, its chatbot Jim settled a claim within 3 seconds. Not every insurance bot will settle every claim that quickly, but undoubtedly insurance wait times and overall process duration will be significantly reduced through the use of AI.
Although chatbots (and AI in general) offer tantalizing opportunities for the insurance field to progress, machine learning technology still faces an uphill climb before companies can fully unleash it. Skeptics rightly argue that chatbots lack human empathy, or that they can be too easily exploited. Developers will have to overcome these problems before anyone goes all-in on AI.
Yet in an industry like insurance that already faces so many challenges in appealing to its customers, chatbots already solve at least some of their bigger problems.
Kelsey Down is a writer who contributes to SAP and PopSugar.
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