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Helvetia Seguros launches Watson-powered virtual assistant to support sales staff

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Helvetia Seguros Watson assistantEveryone knows that sinking feeling: to get to the information you want on a website, you’re presented with a long form with dozens of questions.

It’s a real turn-off for customers. In general, around 51 percent of customers will not fill out a long form once they see it. But this is still how many companies handle online sales.

To make our customers happy and get ahead of the competition, Helvetia Seguros has embarked on a wide-reaching digital transformation that touches almost every element of the business. As part of this, we are launching a broad array of digital services and making it easier for customers to interact with us online.

Of course, insurers like us need information about customers to estimate risk and calculate premiums, but we were eager to move away from long questionnaires. We wanted to find a way to make a better first impression and make the customer experience more welcoming.

Assistance to build assistants

We wanted to build a virtual assistant to help customers buy insurance online. We decided to pilot the project on our family protection insurance because it’s one of our least complex policies and is relatively straightforward to price.

We enlisted the help of IBM Business Partner Red Skios. We’ve been working with IBM for decades, and its consultants are always eager to help us try new things and support us if we have challenges or questions.

How it works

When a customer browses the relevant product page, a new window opens offering help from a virtual assistant. If the customer accepts, they simply tell the virtual assistant about the insurance cover they are looking for in ordinary, natural language and without a form in sight.

The virtual assistant uses artificial intelligence from IBM Watson Assistant and IBM Watson Natural Language Understanding to comprehend the responses, capture the relevant data and generate a personalized quote. Thanks to the virtual assistant’s IBM Watson Speech to Text and IBM Watson Text to Speech APIs, the customer can choose to interact either by speaking or typing the relevant information. The Watson APIs are delivered via IBM Cloud.

If a customer asks questions about the policy, the virtual assistant provides immediate answers. If the customer is happy with the offer, he or she can accept the quote, purchase the policy online and sign the contract electronically, all without intervention from a salesperson.

If a customer wishes to obtain a quote and then make a decision later, they can request an email copy of the quote to avoid repeating the process when they are ready to proceed with the purchase.

The virtual assistant gives clients a completely new way to purchase insurance online, all without asking them to fill out forms.

By enabling customers to purchase these relatively uniform policies online, we enable our agents and brokers to focus on selling sophisticated policies, which is a much better use of their time and skills.

Happy customers

After a soft launch, the virtual assistant has been a hit with customers. Within just a few weeks it has conversed with 355 customers and generated 138 personalized quotes.

We believe that this form-free approach to buying insurance will attract significant new business from customers, particularly during evenings and weekends when other channels are often unavailable.

Read the case study for more details.

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