C-Suite Interview: Why insurers can no longer ignore AI in customer service

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AI for customer service within the insurance industry has been slow to develop when compared to other industries. But why is this the case? Is it the complexity of the products? Or the concern that implementing artificial intelligence is too complicated?

One thing is clear: the pressure to reduce costs and meet customers’ rising expectations has never been greater.

Why now?

We asked two industry insiders. In this joint interview, Benedikt Kalteier, former board member of Generali Germany, and Sjoerd IJedema, contact center AI expert at Parloa, share valuable insights and experiences about how AI can open up a new horizon for customer service in the insurance industry.

Question 1: How is success measured in contact centers in the insurance industry? Which KPIs can AI influence?

Ben: AI contributes to all key KPIs. In particular, I’m thinking of the key figures for customer satisfaction, such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS) or the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT).
parloa website blog body ben kalteier

To do this, we need to look at the big picture and ask ourselves the question: “What do customers actually want?” The answer is clear. They want their inquiries to be answered quickly and with high quality. Whether this is done by agents or an AI bot is irrelevant.

This means companies need to answer a few questions. Which situations should only require agents? Which should use a bot to support the agents? When can they rely entirely on bots?

The overriding goal here remains the same: to offer a fast, high-quality solution.

I am thinking, for example, of the many administrative tasks insurance companies have. The use of an AI bot can significantly increase customer satisfaction. If agents are relieved of administrative tasks, the average handling time (AHT) decreases, efficiency increases, and costs fall.

Sjoerd: The first contact resolution rate (FCR), i.e. the ability to resolve the customer’s issue on first contact, should not be underestimated. Bots can either resolve calls independently or forward them specifically to agents who have the necessary expertise to resolve the customer’s issue effectively. If this works smoothly, customer satisfaction increases. Because, as Ben has already mentioned, what ultimately counts for customers is the solution to their issue – i.e. the result, regardless of whether or not a human was involved.

Question 2: If AI is being introduced to a contact center, which areas of the company need to be considered?

Ben: When introducing AI in contact centers, there are two important topics: the technical integration and the human component.

Of course, there can be challenges from a technical perspective, especially when older IT systems are involved. However, in my opinion, this complexity is often overestimated and used as an excuse for why AI cannot be integrated.

The human aspect, on the other hand, is much more difficult. The role of agents is changing, and that brings fears and worries. That’s why it’s so important to proactively involve employees in the process from the outset, and prepare them for the changes.

How much effort this involves is often underestimated during implementation. But once agents have recognized the enormous added value that AI offers their work, new paths open up. Use cases that they were previously skeptical about become possible – not because they were actually too complex, but because they were blocked by uncertainty and fear.

Sjoerd: I can only confirm that. In my work, every day I see how indispensable customer service itself is – especially when it comes to process design.

Employees have crucial knowledge about what their customers need and which aspects of a conversation can be automated. When should a bot be involved? How should emotional callers be dealt with? Can a use case be automated from start to finish?

IT can handle the technical integration, but customer service employees have the real expertise to make those decisions.

What do you think of the insurers’ argument that they don’t want to lose personal contact with their customers?

Sjoerd: I think that companies often decide this “on instinct” without really questioning this assumption. What do customers really want? The most important thing for them is to resolve their concerns quickly! In the past, we assumed that the quickest way to do this was in a face-to-face conversation.

But the reality with AI is different.

Question 3: What criteria should insurance companies consider when selecting an AI solution for their contact center?

Ben: Insurers often opt for a provider they have been working with for a long time, usually on the assumption that implementation will run more smoothly. However, this assumption may prevent them from using the best solution.

Companies should consider the current performance and future development capability of the AI solution. It should be effective today, but also be able to keep pace with technological developments in coming years.

parloa website blog body ben kalteier

Question 4: Do you recommend a roadmap for using AI in customer service, from the initial decision to eventual launch?

Ben: Insurers should implement a relevant use case and then see what results they get. Be brave and take the first step. The important thing is that it should be a relevant use case that really makes a difference. Small use cases that hardly ever occur do not help you get a real picture of what effects AI can have in customer service.

Sjoerd: If insurers are unsure which use case might be suitable, I recommend having 10% of all calls answered by a voicebot with the opening question “What can I do for you?”. This gives the insurance company valuable insights into the reasons for the calls. Then, automation for the most important use cases can then build on this.

Question 5: Ben, what three tips would you give managers to maximize the impact of AI in customer service?

parloa website blog body ben kalteier
  1. Start easy!: Companies should start with a significant use case and learn from the results.
  2. Take employees with you: Take agents’ fears and concerns seriously, address them, and emphasize that AI is not their competitor, but a partner that will support them in their work.
  3. Be courageous: Change is often not easy, but managers must face it and be prepared to step out of their comfort zone to learn new things. This is how you eventually end up with the right AI solution for your company.

The potential for artificial intelligence in customer service in the insurance industry is impressive, and can no longer be ignored.

Ben and Sjoerd make clear that it’s not just about the technology, it’s about reaching the people and realizing the true value of AI.

If you also want to increase the efficiency of your customer service, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce costs, now is the time to act.

Contact us now to find out how our customized AI solutions for the insurance industry can help you achieve your goals.

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Press Release: PwC & Parloa Join Forces