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How is AI extending customer support during COVID-19 pandemic

4 minutes, 14 seconds read

With over 3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout the world and more than 200,000 deaths to date since the first report; coronavirus has spread wreaking havoc on any back-office operation, and more intensely on call centers throughout the globe.

For a couple of years now, organizations have only been theorizing the possibility of AI to enhance customer support. It was always a thing that could wait. However, now AI is proving to be a pressing matter over other priorities, and organizations are ready for widespread development than perhaps assumed.

Improved Customer Satisfaction

From banking to travel to finance; given reduced staffing and limited work-from-home options, the call center agents are overwhelmed by the influx of calls; for which the consumers are facing long latencies. These circumstances can, in turn, lead to a huge strain on the workforce and the industry as well. As businesses struggle to cover an increase in call volume, according to an old adage “necessity is the mother of invention.”, AI-enabled customer support has come to rescue. 

“People want what’s best for them, and they can switch on a dime because there’s always a new disruptor disrupting the last disruptor. So companies should just strive to keep changing and adapting to their customers’ needs.”

Ben Chestnut, Co-founder & CEO of MailChimp

AI has the capability of revolutionizing the relationship between a company and it’s clients. 64% of consumers and 80% of business buyers said that they want companies to interact with them in real-time. AI in customer support today can provide significant cost saving, triage calls on priority, volume elasticity, and meet customer expectation; that will eventually benefit the business in the long term.

Primary Concerns

Due to the pandemic outbreak and prolonged lockdown periods in several countries, businesses are forced to transition to work from home models. However, companies are not in favour of giving access to sensitive data to its employees outside the office premises. Along with privacy concerns, there are mobility concerns with the call center operations. Theoretically, technology can simplify mobility solutions. In a developing country like India, where only 2-3% of people use wired broadband and the majority of users rely on mobile data, uninterrupted internet connection is a real struggle.

“Now more than ever, customers need fast responses and AI and Automation can help”

Gadi Shamia, CEO of Replicant.

AI in Customer Support

Artificial intelligence in customer service is extremely useful to answer FAQs and resolve common customer support issues without the presence of a live agent. It can classify calls on the basis of options, business priorities and suggest solutions to the consumer according to their specific needs. Unlike the generation-old IVRs, the AI-enabled customer service, powered by NLP, shall understand the customer’s needs and allow him to converse as if he was speaking with a live agent. 

With the rising number of COVID-19 cases, customer queries at hospitals are increasing exponentially caused by high demand in consultation. To adapt to the situation, hospitals are turning to chatbots and virtual assistants. Here are some interesting use cases of AI in customer support bots.

Lili

Vozy’s Lili, is a conversational AI platform that provides customer assistance by alleviating pressure due to high call volume.

WHO Health Alert chatbot

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a dedicated messaging service, the WHO Health Alert chatbot to provide the latest news and information on COVID -19.

Read: How is technology helping to combat coronavirus pandemic?

Illinois

In partnership with Google AI, Quantiphi and Carahsoft created a 24/7 AI-enabled customer service bot, Illinois to provide immediate assistance to the filers with the FAQs.

Hitee

Hitee is the world’s first insurance specific chatbot solution. It allows integrating document processing workflows, ticket management systems, etc. to further simplify and automate customer support. Apart from 10x increasing customer interaction, Hitee also brought in new business leads and renewals for an eminent insurance company, Religare.

The crux

One fit for all is a myth now, even in customer support. AI-powered bots are proving to be revolutionary in customer support when it comes to customization of User Experience. Companies like Amazon, Starbucks and Netflix are implementing AI to track and analyse customer data and provide quick and easy resolutions to the customer problems. It also provides companies with deeper insights into the product based on demographic gender and various other factors.

AI-powered bots are capable of providing 24 X 7 customer support, more importantly after working hours and holidays. They prove to be not only cost-effective but also scalable throughout the enterprise. 

Customer support is the mainstay of any business. In these testing times, every call centre is under intense pressure due to the pandemic outbreak. Since customer expectations are higher than ever businesses are looking for advanced technological capabilities to bridge the gap. By adding AI-powered tools in customer support operations, businesses can not only improve customer experience but also have numerous business implications such as lower customer churn, higher revenues, less staff turnover and increased growth. If you need interfacing software for your specific business needs, please feel free to write to us at hello@mantralabsglobal.com.

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[Interview] Mr. Alex Jimenez | Digital Customer Experience in Covid-19 Times

7 minutes read

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon an unprecedented change in our daily lives and routines. Consumer behavior is changing constantly. Lockdowns and social distancing have led to huge losses for businesses across industries. The world is heading towards an economic slowdown. Under these circumstances, organizations are facing many challenges to keep their businesses going. Insurers too are facing similar issues. Some insurance lines such as motor, travel, home have suffered a business loss due to low demand.

To understand the impact of this crisis, especially in the USA, we interviewed Mr. Alex Jiminez, Strategy Officer at Extractable from California, and learned more about creating better digital customer experiences in these testing times. 

Extractable is a strategic consulting, design, and data analytics agency focused on the future of financial services. His other recent experience includes leading technology strategic planning for the office of the CIO, at Zions Bancorporation, and managing Digital Banking and Payments Strategy and Innovation at Rockland Trust. Alex has been named to several industry influencer lists in the areas of FinTech, RegTech, Blockchain, InsurTech, Innovation, and Digital Marketing. He has been featured in the Irish Tech News and the Independent Community Bankers of America’s (ICBA) Independent Banker.

Connect with Mr. Alex Jimenez – LinkedIn

The excerpt from the interview:

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the financial services industry

What is the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the financial services industry, and how is the industry responding to the ongoing crisis in the US?

In the wake of the current crisis, organizations are more focused on keeping the operation going, trying to set-up work stations for remote working, dealing with customers and working with them over digital platforms. But very few are focusing on the future which is preparing for the after-effects of this pandemic on the economy. 

In-person communication is still an important mode of interaction with customers in the US banking sector. But now the issue is how to provide good services to clients? Some of our customers are going to experience digital models for the first time. 

Organizations that have well-defined Digital Strategies and Customer-First approach will be able to provide good support to their customers. Organizations that are late into this space are more likely to face problems in the future.

[Related: The Impact of Covid-19 on the Global Economy and Insurance]

Changing customer preferences

How can companies reach out to their customers in this New Normal world?

We have already started to move towards a digital-centric world which is just going to accelerate. We will see businesses who have earlier ignored their digital capabilities will now build more on them. 

The first video call was invented in the 60s and was not so appreciated as everybody thought it was expensive and complicated. Today we have FaceTime, Zoom but adoption has not happened on a larger scale. But this will soon accelerate. Customers will be comfortable dialing into a video chat with their Insurance agent. 

I don’t believe there’ll be a New Normal. For example, in the US after 9/11 people thought that life will never get back to normal but except for rigorous security screening at the airports, there hasn’t been much change in the behavior. 

In Israel, amidst all the constant disturbance, people in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are living normal lives. There’ll certainly be some specific changes post the pandemic such as more adoption of digital technologies, more focus on customer needs but I believe there won’t be an entirely new world with a drastic change in consumer behavior.  

The need for personalization

What are some Attention hacking lessons for Insurers operating in ‘the New Normal’?

We are moving towards the personalization of products in general. Generally in Life Insurance, we insure people based on their date of birth or medical history. But what if we insure people based on their behavior? If we did that, would people change their more risky behavior to get a better rate? A non-smoker can be given a better rate as opposed to a smoker. If we get down to individuality, saying that this is your individual (your own) rate; it makes a difference. 

There is a lot of data available and AI is needed to mine that data and derive analytics. Just by building a relationship with customers, we are not doing a great job with personalization. It’s important to apply a human touch to the communication which makes customers feel like you know them. Thus, retaining their attention.

Digital customer experience in Insurance

For the insurance industry, what steps can help in delivering the right digital customer experience in terms of UX and visual design?

A lot of organizations practice Design Thinking but Financial Services don’t. They are of the opinion that they know what is needed as they themselves are customers and they have data from the surveys. But that’s a wrong approach. Design Thinking is about empathy. It is important to get into the shoes of your clients to design better solutions.

To enhance digital customer experience, Insurers need a thorough understanding of users — who are the ultimate clients, their needs, what they expect from this experience, etc. After comprehending how they engage with technology and financial services, start venturing into the solution and test the solutions with actual users.

Innovations in the financial services industry

What technology-based innovations are being explored within the financial services industry? And, do you see AI playing a role in the short term? 

AI has already affected Financial Services in a positive way and will make it better. In insurance, IoT has been very impactful and will continue to be. Some applications have already been applied in reality like sensors in cars to detect speed and ensure that you are under the speed limit. This helps in getting reduced premiums. 

However, some basic processes are still done in the old school way of shuffling papers. Straight though-out processes have not yet happened. Now RPA is being applied to this but it is more like a band-aid. What is more important is how we can build processes through true automation with AI.

[Related: 5 Insurance Front Office Operations AI Can Improve]

Adoption of AI in Insurance

Speaking about more adoption of technologies, do you think there’ll be more investment in AI now?

Absolutely! We have already seen that investment in technologies like AI, cloud computing, quantum computing has been ramping up. Businesses will invest much more in AI than before. It might be for better decision making, underwriting, understanding the behavior of clients, etc. Also, from a marketing standpoint, financial services have never focused much before but will now invest in AI for this area too.

[Related: How is AI extending customer support during COVID-19 pandemic]

In your recent article in Extractable – “Deploying third-party financial service technology to mitigate crisis” you talk about what tech vendors are doing wrong. Please expand on how to encourage resources to be innovative change agents?

There were two points that I made in the article-

First is about what companies are doing incorrectly when it comes to innovation. Risk management is consulted only after developing the product. The product release is stalled until the legal compliances are adhered to. Instead, companies should involve the risk management at the beginning of the process (while defining the problem and solution). Involving risk management at every step of the innovation process will make it much easier to push out innovation.

The second was about vendor management. Many small vendors such as tech vendors, InsurTechs want to sell solutions to financial service companies but are often surprised by the tedious vendor management process. There’s a lot of documentation. Once the first process of selling is done, vendors should package the documentation in a way that when the next prospect asks for it, the due diligence package is ready to offer. 

Read article – Deploying third-party financial service technology to mitigate crisis 

Wrapping up

Alex shared interesting insights on how Design Thinking and Visual Design can create better digital customer experience. The design vertical at Mantra Labs too believes in the same and has designed UX for various applications for its customers. Here’s an article to understand the role of Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX): Creating Amazing Digital Customer Experiences

[Also read: [Interview] Mr. Andrew Warburton | The New Normal in Insurance]

AI is going to be essential for Insurers to gain that competitive edge in the post-pandemic world. Check out Hitee — an Insurance specific chatbot for driving customer engagement. For your specific requirements, please feel free to write to us at hello@mantralabsglobal.com. 

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