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How chatbots are changing the digital Indian

Chatbots have come a long way – from a hyped technology under the AI umbrella to a direct-to-consumer product, that has incessantly penetrated the tech-enabled services we use today. While the adoption of chatbots is still in its infancy, the proliferation and mushroomed effect it has had so far is remarkable. Most of us, are perhaps not even aware of how seamless this transition has been – since many now interact with several bots almost everyday!

Nearly 1 in 4 customers have interacted with a brand via chatbots in the past 12 months, according to a Salesforce study published in late 2018.”

Chatbots have permeated the Indian Landscape
In India, like most countries, both businesses and consumers rely on telephone and email as the most preferred channels to conduct business, yet they are also the slowest for quick resolution. The average time-to-resolution using email interactions was reported at 39 minutes while in India it was reported at 2 hours 17 minutes. In addition, global data shows only 49% of problems are solved on the first interaction.

Most people in India (59%) however, still prefer to talk to an actual person for customer service needs. While this is true, customer service experts believe this trend will reverse in the near term. A majority (61%) see the benefits for chatbots in customer service.

AI is already providing benefits to e-commerce businesses in India by improving decision making & recommendation systems using machine learning algorithms, while simplifying the product search journey for the customer. When done well, 43% feel chatbots can be almost as good as interacting with a human, revealed a study titled “Efficacy of AI” conducted by digital marketing solutions firm iCubesWire.

Bots among us
Conversant bots have augmented our ability to quickly access information, services, and support – even taking over some of our day-to-day tasks. The passage deeply signifies an unmistakable shift in our digital communication patterns. Here are some well-known instances of chatbots in use, around us –

GoHero
This AI-enabled personal travel agent assists customers in booking flights, hotels, taxis, buses etc. It integrates with messaging apps to use sophisticated algorithms to understand traveller’s preferences and is available across nine platforms such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram & Skype.

Aisha
A voice assistant (similar to Siri, Google Assistant) by Micromax performs daily tasks like initiating a google search, fetching movie reviews, making calls, reading news articles, view stalk market details and more. The Handset Speech Assistant with AI integrated into its backend is gently becoming an accepted, must-have tool for the average consumer.

Lawbot
A customer facing AI application that automates specific legal tasks that would otherwise require extensive legal research. It analyses and reviews legal documents, like contracts or agreements, and identify problems in them in seconds – saving customers valuable time and money.

FitCircle
This health and fitness chatbot offers its users personalised weight-loss workouts, yoga guides and nutrition guides. The AI empowered fitness companion, called ‘Zi’, helps users achieve fitness goals through custom-fit workouts and diets.

Oheyo
Formerly Prepathon, Oheyo helps students prepare for exams, by connecting them to experts anywhere. It messages students the subject of the day, answers queries and additionally sends across motivational messages. They also provide a video Q&A platform through which students can find a lot of their queries answered and archived for later use.

Skedool
Skedool’s ‘Alex’ is a B2B smart assistant, that excels at automating repetitive everyday tasks for business executives, sales and recruiting professionals. It handles B2B scheduling activities and calendar management. The AI assistant uses natural language processing and machine learning supervised by humans to enable customers to communicate with the service via e­mail just as they might with a human assistant.

While these are just a few highlighted examples, there are many more in use across the country, each with a unique use case and problem it is trying to solve. For example, Aapke Sarkar – a chatbot (developed by Haptik) launched by the Maharashtra Govt. for people to access information regarding public services in the state, in Hindi or Marathi; or the bot introduced by IRCTC called ‘AskDisha’ (Digital Interaction to Seek Help Anytime) that helps railway passengers access customer services support in multiple regional languages and even voice-enabled chat.

The Indian chatbot industry, although still in its nascent form, is a $3.1B market, according to analysts. The market, in the coming years will evolve to a point where interactive and intuitive AI will become the bare standard for customer service across a variety of sectors.

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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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