Cognitive computing to enhance insurance

Customer expectations have always presented insurers with unique challenges. Henlo Ueckermann, IT Operations Manager at SilverBridge, believes the new technologies will enable insurers to better respond to these expectations. One of these developments in technology, cognitive computing, will specifically help them anticipate customers’ expectations better.

Cognitive computing combines technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine-learning, and natural language processing These advanced hardware and software components are used to simulate human thought processes in a computerised model that imitates some of the functions in the human brain.

“While much of the focus on AI has been on the internal efficiency improvements it can bring to an organisation, one can also use it to transform customer-facing applications and processes by better anticipating what a customer expects. Cognitive computing can, for example, be used in a call centre to recognise the feelings of clients in real-time and help the agent to respond appropriately.  The benefit is a reduction in stress for both parties, leading to happier customers and staff.”

In this situation, cognitive computing is more skilled than a human to make complex, real-time decisions. It is unemotional but can interpret the emotions. This [interpretation] allows the human to focus on the right things without having to become emotionally overwhelmed. The system can do this repeatedly without the risk of burnout. In fact, its self-learning abilities can just make it better.

Cognitive computing can also be used to reduce the administrative burden on staff by automating tasks in anticipating of a customer’s request. It can, for example, evaluate existing data for the customer to simplify their request for more information. In the simplest case, the customer who provided us with a new postal address the day before should not be asked for it again. This frees staff to deliver better value to the client by extending these smart solutions to all areas and differentiate the insurer.

A new way of thinking

 “Many sceptics argue that cognitive computing would result in job losses as it is easy to implement new technology that makes certain job functions redundant. However, what we have seen is a repurposing of skills inside businesses. Today, people are trained to fulfil different roles than what the expectation was just a few years ago.”

In fact, although cognitive computing can resolve many complex and mundane tasks, we still need humans to apply standard business principles.

Smart integration

Even though the dreaded insurance contact centre has evolved in leaps and bound, there is still room for improvement. By integrating a cognitive computing overlay to the process, the insurer can greatly enhance how agents engage with customers.

“This does not have to be an either or scenario. It is too simplistic to view cognitive computing as a rip-and-replace approach. Instead, insurers should consider how these platforms can augment the customer service process and empower the agent with tools (and insights).”

Not only can cognitive computing improve customer query management time, but by being able to ‘plug in’ to AI expertise, the agent does not have to memorise codes and dialogue, instead focusing on adding the human touch to all interactions.

And because everything will be driven by a centralised dashboard or interface, agents can work with clients from any location if they can connect.

“Cognitive computing is about more than just using technology to deliver improved business performance. For an insurer, it could radically transform how customer engagement is taking place, reduce churn to competitors, and allow for increased growth in difficult market conditions.”