AI technology boosts service for health insurance customers

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Did you know that three out of four New Zealanders don’t have private health insurance? Our mission here at nib is to help our fellow Kiwis gain insurance coverage by using digital technologies like AI to disrupt the New Zealand health insurance market.

nib is the second-largest health insurance company in New Zealand—with more than one million covered customers—and we got there by nurturing a culture built around innovation and a strong focus on customer service. How do we define the hallmarks of great customer service? Our time-tested answer: informed, well-trained agents getting customers the right information in a timely manner. Put another way: our customer service consultants are central to our success.

Our fast growth is, of course, a blessing, but it presents challenges in maintaining our superior responsiveness and low costs. But innovative companies like nib have a way of turning business challenges into market differentiation opportunities.  So we looked for an alternative approach to servicing customers, one that didn’t alter our reliance on our top-notch agents. What guided us was the goal of giving our customers faster, simpler and more convenient options for getting information.

AI chatbots and live agents, working side by side

Our answer was to develop Frankie, New Zealand’s first virtual health insurance consultant. It uses AI technology from the IBM Watson portfolio of cloud-based services called IBM Watson Assistant. Frankie lets current and prospective customers ask questions such as “What does my health insurance cover?” or “How do I make a claim?” in their own words, even using Kiwi slang. AI helps us keep our live agents at the core of the action, freeing them up from routine queries to address more complex issues. What our customers get through this combination are speed and convenience when they want it and human consultation when they need it.

To train Frankie, our implementation team worked closely with subject matter experts (SMEs) inside our customer service group, who provided the team with the types of routine questions and answers that they typically encounter. Once Frankie was launched as a pilot, the implementation team was able to further refine its accuracy by adding questions and answers that were not included in the initial body of knowledge, or corpus. In the event Frankie doesn’t understand a question, it automatically hands off the session to a live agent and generates a report, signaling administrators to make adjustments to the corpus. That’s how Frankie gets smarter.

Speedy resolution leads to satisfied customers

By working with IBM to implement Frankie, we’re now better-positioned to maintain our growth and market leadership. The most important benefit is that Frankie has increased member satisfaction by providing more convenient, 24×7 access to health insurance information. The complementary benefit of using AI-based chatbots to address simpler questions is that it frees up our customer service agents to focus on more complex customer issues and resolve them more quickly. For these reasons, we see AI technology as one of the cornerstones of how we interact with customers in the future.


Watch the interview with Ben Rose to understand how nib is driving health insurance growth with AI chatbot Frankie:

General Manager of Direct and Partnerships, nib New Zealand

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