Buying insurance online can be hard work, requiring completion of long web forms. To create a more welcoming onboarding experience, Helvetia Seguros wanted a better way to give customers tailored quotes.
At Helvetia Seguros, customers can converse in natural language with an AI-driven virtual assistant, and the solution captures the relevant information and generates a personalized quote.
Makesa better first impression by avoiding asking customers to complete long forms
10 minutesto purchase insurance policies, down from 3 or 4 days previously
Enablesagents and brokers to focus on selling more complex, higher-value policies
Business challenge story
Standing out from the crowd
Seeking to gain competitive advantage, insurer Helvetia Seguros has embarked on a wide-reaching digital transformation touching almost every element of its business. As part of this initiative, Helvetia Seguros is launching a broad array of digital services – including online purchases, policy renewals and more – aiming to enable clients to interact with the company in an entirely digital manner by 2020.
Victor Lizarraga, Director of Strategy and Digital Transformation at Helvetia Seguros, explains: “The vast majority of insurers still rely heavily on offline channels and manual ways of working. We believe that digitization offers key opportunities for us to seize competitive advantage – for example, by fine-tuning our marketing, avoiding duplication of effort, and improving efficiency. Insurance agents and brokers are already adopting digital processes, and we need to demonstrate that we are moving with them so that they continue to partner with us. The sweet spot lies in using new digital channels to complement and support our friendly, highly skilled salespeople.
“When most people think of buying insurance online, they picture lengthy web forms with dozens of questions. Of course, insurers need that information to estimate risk and calculate the price of the premium, but understandably, customers find long questionnaires off-putting. We wanted to find a way to make a better first impression, and make the customer experience more welcoming.”
Harnessing AI for competitive differentiation
In a pilot project working with IBM Business Partner Red Skios, Helvetia Seguros built a virtual assistant that helps customers to buy insurance online without filling out forms.
So, how does it work? 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 natural language and not a form in sight. The 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 with the virtual assistant either by speaking or typing the relevant information.
If a customer asks questions about the policy, the 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 any customers wish 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.
Victor Lizarraga continues: “When we decided to develop a virtual assistant, we turned to IBM for help. We have been working with IBM for decades, and we are always happy with the service and technology we receive from IBM. Even though we are a small company compared to IBM, the consultants are always eager to help us try new things and help us if we have challenges or questions.
“The virtual assistant gives clients a completely new way to purchase insurance online, without asking them to fill out forms. We decided to run the pilot project for our family protection insurance, because it’s one of our least complex policies and is relatively straightforward to price. 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 skill.”
Helvetia Seguros developed the virtual assistant in containers, and launched the production system on IBM Cloud Virtual Servers, and the IBM Watson APIs are delivered via IBM Cloud. With no on-premise infrastructure to deploy, configure and maintain, Helvetia Seguros was able to come to market more quickly, and the cloud service provides ready-made scalability to manage workload increases as service popularity grows.
A warm welcome from customers
After a soft launch, the virtual assistant has met a warm reception and strong uptake among customers. Within just a few weeks the virtual assistant has conversed with 355 customers and generated 138 personalized quotes.
Helvetia Seguros is confident that the virtual assistant’s form-free approach to buying insurance will attract significant new business from customers, particularly during evenings and weekends when other channels may be unavailable. As well as providing a useful alternative channel for customers, the virtual assistant will help Helvetia Seguros to multiply its salesforce cost-effectively and make better use of its talent.
Furthermore, the virtual assistant can help customers who require insurance cover at short notice. If they proceed with the purchase online and sign the contract electronically, they can finalize and start the policy within 10 minutes, rather than waiting 3 or 4 days for the documents to arrive by post.
Victor Lizarraga comments: “The initial results of the AI-driven virtual assistant are promising, especially given that we are still working to refine the solution before the full launch.
“By automating quotes and sales for straightforward policies such as family protection insurance, we hope to free up salespeople and brokers to focus on selling more sophisticated policies. Our agents and brokers are true experts in their fields, so that is a far more effective use of their time and skill.
“Many of our brokers already sell through digital channels. In future, we plan to provide the virtual assistant to them too, helping them to provide quick, efficient service for policyholders. By offering value-add services such as these, we hope to motivate our broker network and incentivize them to continue partnering with us.”
In future, Helvetia Seguros plans to enhance the virtual assistant to help identify opportunities for cross-selling. For example, this could be adding a family member to an existing policy, or offering life or car insurance to people with family protection coverage.
Furthermore, Helvetia Seguros intends to deploy IBM Watson solutions in its contact center to help answer frequently asked questions. For example, customers often call to ask about the status of a claim, and to find out the location of the nearest Helvetia Seguros office. The AI could answer these simple questions rapidly and accurately, allowing agents to handle a greater number of the more complex enquiries.
Victor Lizarraga concludes: “The initial results of our work with IBM Watson and IBM Cloud are highly promising, and we look forward to achieving more in future. As we embark on the next step of our digital transformation journey, we are looking to work with IBM to harness Internet of Things and Blockchain technology to gain competitive advantage.”
Helvetia Seguros provides a broad range of insurance policies to people and businesses in Spain, selling online and through its network of insurance agents and brokers. Generating annual revenues of around EUR 400 million, the company employs 572 people nationwide. Helvetia Seguros belongs to the Helvetia group, which is based in Switzerland and also operates in Germany, Austria, France and Italy.
Take the next step
To learn more about IBM Cloud, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/cloud
Red Skios LTD is an IBM Business Partner specializing in augmented intelligence, cognitive computing, natural language processing and blockchain. The company operates offices in Madrid (Spain) and Valletta (Malta). To learn more about Red Skios LTD, please visit: skios.com