Buying health insurance can be daunting: pick the wrong policy and costly medical bills might not be covered. German insurer INTER wanted to make it easier for customers to choose the right plan.
INTER launched an AI chatbot built on IBM® Watson® and IBM Cloud™ that answers customers’ questions about dental insurance and helps them buy a policy at the most convenient time for them.
33% risein sales of dental insurance
70%of online sales completed through self-service
30 minutessaved for internal sales teams as the chatbot answers common questions
Business challenge story
Spotlight on customer experience
INTER Versicherungsgruppe (INTER) sells a broad range of health insurance policies, designed to meet the needs of its diverse customer base.
Previously, the company required customers to call its helpline so that an advisor could guide them to the right plan and help them complete the purchase. If the lines were busy, customers had to wait until an operator became available to take their call. INTER was eager to find a quicker, more convenient way for customers to purchase its insurance policies.
Marion Boll, who works in the Business Development team at INTER, elaborates: “Many of our customers lead busy lifestyles, and it can be difficult for them to fit in calls to the contact center – particularly as helplines are not open 24 hours per day.
“We wanted to give customers the option of purchasing coverage online 24/7. But buying health insurance is a big decision, and naturally customers may want to ask some questions before they take out a policy. We needed to find a reliable way to answer queries so that customers could experience the same friendly, high-quality service online as when they call our sales teams.”
For inspiration and support, INTER turned to IBM.
Marion Boll explains: “IBM is one of our long-standing partners. When the IBM consultants offered to show us the latest AI solutions from IBM Watson, we were eager to try them out.”
INTER took part in a workshop at the IBM Garage – a physical hub where developers, product managers and designers come together to rapidly innovate and deliver new technologies using IBM Cloud solutions. Designed to stimulate creativity and innovation, the workshops are centered around the IBM Garage Method, a holistic methodology covering technology, people, processes and organization.
After several productive workshops and collaborative sessions with IBM, INTER decided to develop a cognitive chatbot that could answer customers’ queries and assist them through the online purchasing process. INTER selected dental insurance as its first use case for the virtual assistant and engaged IBM for support in the deployment.
Katherina Janisch, Team Lead in INTER’s Service Center, recalls: “The collaboration with IBM was excellent. The IBM team worked closely alongside us for months and approached the initiative as our partner rather than our vendor. We had a very open dialog about how to obtain the best results from the chatbot, and the IBM team worked hard to ensure that the solution achieved our goals.”
Now, when customers visit the dental insurance page on the INTER website, they are greeted by a digital assistant called EVA, with whom they can interact by typing questions. First, IBM Watson Natural Language Understanding interprets the customer’s query – extracting entities, relationships between works, keywords and more – and corrects any spelling mistakes. Next, the corrected text passes through two workspaces within IBM Watson Assistant, which is built on a leading conversational computing platform and enables businesses to develop chatbots that offer truly engaging experiences. One workspace is for insurance-related questions, while the other processes small talk. EVA then delivers an appropriate response to the customer, such as advice on the right plan, details of each policy and price information.
The virtual assistant enables customers to ask detailed questions about INTER’s various dental insurance policies, ensuring they choose the right plan for their needs. The assistant then guides customers through INTER’s new online purchasing process, enabling them to buy policies with just a few clicks.
Andre Dinzler, Press Officer at INTER, comments: “The chatbot built on IBM Watson is so sophisticated that it can understand if customers jump between several dialogs or refer to information provided earlier in the conversation. In addition, the solution takes into account each user’s details that were provided before the conversation commenced, such as whether they hold existing policies with us. The virtual assistant also displays some information in pictures or tables, making it easier for customers to grasp certain details compared to when they call the helpline.”
Marion Boll adds: “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.”
Bright smiles all round
The virtual assistant has been a huge hit with customers, completing over 6,800 conversations to date. Critically, the solution has delivered impressive sales boosts for INTER.
Andre Dinzler elaborates: “Our customers have given highly positive feedback about our chatbot from IBM Watson and IBM Cloud, saying that it provides intelligent answers to their questions and helps them identify the right policy. Customers also particularly appreciate that the chatbot is available during evenings and weekends, when other channels may be unavailable.
“By launching the AI chatbot and online channel, we have boosted sales of dental insurance by 33 percent. Around 70 percent of online transactions are completed through self-service, as the chatbot can answer most customer questions. As well as lifting sales, the AI chatbot from IBM Cloud and IBM Watson reinforces our position as an innovator in the insurance market.”
Katherina Janisch continues: “Our internal sales teams have warmly welcomed the chatbot, because they recognize that it acts as a vital supporting resource for them. The virtual assistant can answer customers’ most common queries – which can take a call-center agent a total of 30 minutes – so operators can focus on assisting with complex inquiries. The success is evident, because we have significantly boosted sales without experiencing a higher volume of calls to the service center.”
Holger Tietz, Executive Board Member at INTER, concludes: “The initial feedback to our virtual assistant EVA and the option of online purchasing was entirely positive. We are convinced that we have chosen the right path, and we will most likely launch more digital solutions in the future. In any case, we want to continue our collaboration with IBM and search for innovative ways to further improve our service quality.”
INTER Versicherungsgruppe (INTER) is an independent insurer offering a broad range of policies for private and commercial customers. Founded in 1926, the company employs more than 1,500 people and is headquartered in the German city of Mannheim.