Andrew Hellard is a Product Marketing Manager, based in Columbus, OH. His focus is on the insurance industry worldwide. His responsibilities include go-to-market strategy for insurance, as well evolving Inspire to meet the changing needs of Quadient's insurance customers. He has around 10 years of experience in insurance, as well as 15 years of experience in software development and team leadership. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Miami University and a Masters of Business Administration from The Ohio State University.
More than one insurer now has an Amazon Alexa skill. While I doubt that many customers want to say “Alexa, file a claim”, I do think that insurers can take important lessons from what Amazon has done with their voice assistant. I recently set up an Echo Dot in my living room. My small children learned almost instantly that they could make it play Christmas music. This quick facility with the device piqued my interest. I discovered that one of the Amazon’s main uses for the device is voice ordering. I decided to test this process, and said “Alexa, order me some paper towels”. Alexa read back a list of options and I selected the first one. Within seconds, a 27-pack of paper towels was on the way.
From my perspective, this interaction could not have been simpler. I asked a product question, received a list of options, and accepted the one that fit my needs. From Amazon’s perspective, this interaction was challenging. Alexa had to identify me, confirm my account eligibility, query a massive product catalog, list options, charge my credit card, create an internal order, send that order to a warehouse, coordinate picking and packing the parcel, create a shipping label, set pickup with UPS and send me a confirmation order; and it had to do all this in less than a second, using Natural Language Processing technology. Amazon has mastered the art of making complex processes look simple.
Let’s contrast that experience with what happens when I ask my insurance company a question. Asking “How much will this procedure cost?” or “Will this accident make my premium go up?” will provoke an avalanche of insurance terms such as coverage, deductible, or provider network. Insurers know how difficult it can be to answer these questions, because those insurers are coordinating a network of insurers, agents, brokers and providers, all of which are subject to regulations of mind-numbing complexity. Customers do not see any of this. Customers don’t know about legacy system challenges or process automation failures. All customers know is that they asked a simple question and did not get a simple answer. Insurers make complex processes look complex.
The insurance industry is focusing time, energy and resources on customer experience, I believe that these projects will not produce good results unless insurers take the example of Amazon to heart. The insurer that finds a way to make complex insurance processes seem simple to customers will have a competitive advantage that others will be hard-pressed to duplicate. Ultimately insurers must communicate more effectively with their customers, across all channels.