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Leveraging AI is key to customer-centric success

AI is transforming processes, making them not just more efficient and cost-effective for the business but more customer-centric in terms of the service. Putting customers in the driver’s seat with AI-powered apps that allow them to upload photos on their smartphones and get answers in seconds drives up customer satisfaction rates and retention.

“The number one thing when talking about improving the customer experience is removing any periods of uncertainty,” declares James Spears.

Spears’ belief in this principle is what led him to realize providing a “digital hug” during online engagements will deliver the confirmations customers seek. It is also what makes him embrace AI as a major competitive advantage for insurers who want to retain their customers by delivering the best possible service.

The secret of award-winning service

During his tenure at a top five carrier, it was recognized for delivering exceptional customer service. That was largely due to understanding at which points customers encountered periods of uncertainty and proactively addressing them. 

Spears learned by listening in to customer calls directly that most had one thing in common: “Customers were calling because they didn’t know what would happen next.” 

In many cases, this was not the first time they were contacting the insurance company about their issue. They had been in contact with someone who ended the call without being sure the customer understood what to expect. 

A call should not end until the customer is informed what will happen next. The removal of uncertainty allays customer concerns – even if the news isn’t good. 

This is what people have come to expect from their retail experiences. If their order is being delayed, they expect a notification about the new delivery date. It’s not the most welcome news, but it is better than not knowing when they can expect their package to arrive.

“It’s all about setting expectations. The more thorough you are at this, the fewer calls you get,” Spears explained. 

The comfort of confirmation

Spears also recognized that customers are often calling to follow up on digital transactions because they want confirmations. To that end the team implemented what they called a “digital hug” – an automated digital response to a customer’s claim report or message. That kind of service is what brought the insurance experience in line with digital expectations shaped by the customer journeys defined by Amazon.

As shoppers, when we place an online order, we get a confirmation of the order, followed by a notice that the order is processed. We then get another notice that it is shipped, followed by a notice that it is to arrive that day, and finally a notice that the package is there. 

That’s a lot of notifications. As they are all automated to arrive via text or email, though, they don’t involve any manual processes. Plus they avert the need for customers to call in to ask about the status of their order. 

At his insurance company, customers involved in a claim would often follow up an email with a call to be sure it came through. The “digital hug” eliminated the need for that; they got the assurance they sought right away. 

It’s not that customers want to call the insurance company; they feel compelled to check that things are progressing. That’s why Spears advocates proactive communication because “customers are most satisfied when they are updated.”

Conversely, customers who feel lost in the process report much lower rates of satisfaction, which poses a danger of loss of retention for the insurer. Given the high acquisition cost of new customers. that is particularly important in the insurance industry.

What’s AI got to do with it?

What can be done on a one-to-one basis in response to calls can take off at scale with the help of Tractable’s AI. 

It makes it possible to give them the answers to what they need to know within seconds rather than hours or even days, which is why Spears hails it as “the ultimate solution of removing uncertainty for customers.” 

When people have to put in a claim for damage, they want to know: is it damage repairable, or does it amount to a total loss? If it is to be fixed, how long is going to take, and how much is it going to cost?

Normally, they would have to wait for the appraiser from the insurance company to make the initial determination and then authorize an amount to cover the costs of the repair itself plus that of a rental car in the case of a collision or a rental in the case of severe damage to a home. Waiting on that information in order to make plans increases the anxiety for customers.  

That’s why the goal of the business at the time should be to, “accelerate those customers through the journey, so they know what’s coming next and feel like they are in control,” Spears said. 

The acceleration of the claims journey can be quite substantial: reducing what could take as long as five days to just 15 minutes. That means not just hours but days of uncertainty removed from the equations, which increases customer satisfaction score and retention rates.

Spears noted: ”We know when we see those types of transactions, those are the ones that don’t leave.”  

Beyond claims

The upside of using Tractable’s visual AI – easily accessed on a mobile app – is not limited to insurance claims. It can alleviate a lot of the uncertainty inherent in other car processes like buying a car with a trade-in. 

In the past, people had to just rely on estimates that were written after meeting with an appraiser. But now they can use Tractable to upload the 360 degree view of their car to get an accurate valuation figure from the dealer.

In effect, Tractable’s visual AI bridges the digital and physical to give customers the answers they crave on the spot. With information at their fingertips, customers feel better about the process and the business that engages with them, so it’s a win all around. 

Photo credits: Megan Schiereck and Runo Emmanuelle

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