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Recent years have seen a surge in the popularity of chatbots. About 15 percent of American adults say they have used a chatbot to interact with a company in the last year.
That development shouldn’t come as a great surprise. Implemented well, chatbots, also known as virtual assistants, offer consumers a valuable source of information. Unlike call centers, chatbots are available around the clock.
The benefits extend to the companies that use them, too. Chatbots can shoulder some of the burden faced by busy sales teams.
Revolutionizing insurance sales
At INTER, a German insurance group, we launched an AI chatbot and e-commerce platform to gain competitive advantage. We came up with the idea during an IBM Garage workshop, which is designed to stimulate creativity and innovative ideas.
Called EVA, the virtual assistant answers customers’ questions about our dental insurance policies to help them choose the right plan. For example, the chatbot can advise on details and prices for each policy, and it puts customers at ease by engaging in small talk, too. Once customers have chosen their desired policy, the virtual assistant guides them through the online purchasing process.
For support during the deployment, we turned to IBM. The IBM team worked closely alongside us for six months and approached the project as a collaborator rather than a vendor. We had a very open dialogue about how to obtain the best results from the chatbot, and the IBM team worked eagerly to ensure that the solution achieved our goals.
Our virtual assistant is built on IBM Watson Natural Language Understanding and IBM Watson Assistant. The Watson APIs are delivered by IBM Cloud. Using IBM Cloud enables us to enjoy low running costs while avoiding the hefty upfront investment of building a new infrastructure. What’s more, IBM Cloud offers excellent performance, so customers receive ultra-fast responses to their inquiries.
Making customers smile
The virtual assistant has proved hugely popular. So far, customers have completed 6,800 conversations with the chatbot and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Customers particularly appreciate that the virtual assistant is available during evenings and weekends, when other channels may be unavailable.
Since launching the chatbot and new e-commerce channel, sales of dental insurance have risen by 33 percent. Around 70 percent of online transactions are completed without human intervention, which shows that the chatbot satisfactorily answers most customers’ questions.
Our sales teams are happy because the chatbot reduces pressure on them. The virtual assistant can handle most common inquiries, which can take up to 30 minutes for a salesperson to cover over the phone for each customer.
Within months of the deployment, it was already clear that the virtual assistant provides enormous value to our business and has a significant impact on our bottom line. In the future, INTER is looking to build on our success by working with IBM to find even more innovative ways to boost service quality.
Read the case study for more details.