- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

The Future of Insurance: Virtual Assistants

Editor’s Note: Andrea is the  Watson Transformation Leader, IBM Financial Services.

We get this question often: Will platforms like Watson impact the insurance community in a meaningful way in the foreseeable future? To answer that question, let’s take a look at how Watson can help insurers transform the customer experience.

Tech-savvy insurance customers are becoming increasingly frustrated with long wait times to speak to a CSR and the impersonal customer service they often receive from call centers. To stay competitive, insurers need to provide the same fast, easy customer experience they have come to expect elsewhere. Consumers expect insurers to know them in advance when they call, proactively engage with them, and provide them with personally relevant advice and guidance.

So how can insurers shape such a stellar customer experience? One where customers can chat with virtual assistants, just like they chat with a CSR – and get the support they need, faster than ever? They can develop and implement “virtual assistants,” like Watson Engagement Advisor.

What is Watson Engagement Advisor?

Watson made its public debut with the Jeopardy Championships in 2011. Nearly three years after its triumph on the quiz show, IBM has advanced Watson from a game-playing innovation into a commercial technology.

IBM Watson is ushering in a new era of cognitive computing, in which virtual advisors interact seamlessly with consumers and agents – understanding, engaging, learning by experience, making better judgments and getting smarter over time.

Watson cognitive computing is differentiated from existing technologies by its ability to understand everyday language, learning, and reasoning much like a human would. Through a feature called ‘Watson Engagement Advisor,’ Watson enables people to chat with it in natural language. The Watson Engagement Advisor thinks and responds like a human agent – but it has the ability to sift through large quantities of information much more quickly. It can be used by customer service agents or can sit directly in the hands of consumers delivered through the cloud and via mobile devices.

Watson Engagement Advisor interacts with consumers and CSRs in natural language, and provides responses to questions, along with the evidence to support your understanding and decision making. This Advisor assimilates new carrier information, regulations, and coverage types as they evolve, and presents that new information to you as the Advisor’s learning and understanding evolve.

Here’s how it works…

Watson Engagement Advisor will be used to provide a front-line of customer service by quickly solving customers’ problems in a real-time chat. Consumers and agents can ask Watson questions in plain English on a complex subject and get a reliable and quality answer to support a decision. Watson can interact in a variety of formats including question and answer, policy alignment and validation, and information discovery.

Insurers can leverage Watson Engagement Advisor in either of two ways:

  • Customers and prospects can directly interact with Watson Engagement Advisor in plain English in a chat.
  • CSRs can use it in the call center as a tool to quickly glance through the enormous amounts of big data relevant to the customer and come up with appropriate recommendations.

Think of the possibilities….

Watson actually has the potential to fundamentally change how customers and insurance companies interact and can help increase the customer’s trust and confidence in the insurer’s capabilities.

Once Watson is fed and trained with an insurance company’s product specific information from closely held databases such as training manuals, product disclosures, policies, claims, underwriting guidelines, underwriting notes, claim adjuster notes, claims history, emails, customer forums, and call center logs, Watson pulls up data that a CSR wouldn’t because it is looking for semantic links, not just doing text-matching based on keywords. In addition, Watson can find the information much faster than a CSR.

Watson engages with consumers and CSRs in a brand new way, and has the potential to transform the insurance industry by driving the next level of customer engagement with cognitive computing. And that’s good news for insurers and consumers alike.