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How Nationwide, Transamerica Bring AI to Customer Service

By Emily Holbrook August 11, 2017

An estimated 30% to 50% of human call center tasks can be streamlined with artificial intelligence (AI) technology, and nearly 80% of businesses are planning to adopt AI as a customer service solution by 2020. That’s according to the “2017 Customer Service Trends” report from Jacobson, an insurance recruitment agency.

Though AI’s initial impact primarily relates to improving inefficiencies and automating existing customer-facing, underwriting and claims processes, its impact will be more profound. According to a 2016 report on AI in insurance from PwC, the technology will identify, assess, and underwrite emerging risks and identify new revenue sources.

While some consider insurance the least innovative of all industries, the use of AI in insurance claims, sales and customer service might just squash that label.

Some carriers have been using AI in the claims process for years, but AI in sales and customer service has remained on the backburner. Nationwide and Transamerica are looking to buck that trend, however.

Nationwide is making strong strides on this front.

Within the company’s Guaranteed Retirement Income from Nationwide (GRIN) program, the carrier is implementing AI chat functionality to handle customer requests.

“Our analytics and customer research — during the first phase of the pilot — have shown us that we have a simple, understandable product and process but that some customers need ‘decision support’ throughout the process,” said Jean Finnegan, associate vice president of innovation and competitive intelligence at Nationwide. “We have phone support available but some of our target market, like Gen Xer’s, prefers chat over phone. AI chat will be launched during phase two of the project in September.”

Finnegan says that Nationwide believes advances in AI have created better tools that enable companies in all industries to interact with customers in new and engaging ways. Retailers, for example, are already utilizing AI for customer service and Finnegan sees “insurer customer service as a logical extension – especially as the tools improve.”

Meanwhile, Transamerica has recently implemented voice biometrics technology, called Transamerica Voice Pass. Customers calling the carrier’s customer care service centers will be able to more easily and securely authenticate and access their accounts while also identifying the reason for their call, simply by speaking. Voice Pass verifies the customer’s voice against his or her unique voiceprint on file and, if matched, access is granted. Voice biometrics analyzes more than 100 physical and behavioral voice characteristics to identify and verify an individual by their unique voiceprint.

The Transamerica Pyramid

While effective in reducing acts of fraud, voice biometrics is also 80% faster to authenticate compared to PINs, passwords and security questions. The insurer is the first company in the U.S. to launch an interactive voice response experience that combines voice biometrics technology and natural language. Once a customer is enrolled in the optional service, Transamerica says there will no longer be a need for additional passwords, PINs, security questions or subsequent calls.

Transamerica has also built CLV (customer lifetime value) and segmentation models utilizing machine learning to gain customer insights and identify potential sales opportunities, while using multiple sources of internal and external data that are ingested into a big data platform to provide customer scoring and segmentation. Other potential AI applications the company is exploring include fraud protection (insurance claims, agent fraud, disbursement fraud), enhanced underwriting and additional customer engagement.

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