Under examination with insurance companies: The voice assistants: Amazon Echo, Google Home etc. – a new opportunity for sales?
“Alexa! Turn on the light and order me a pizza!” Such orders to the voice-activated assistants from Amazon or Google Home are already common practice in many a household. And the German insurance industry is also considering how these digital assistants can be used
More and more companies want to use whatever works in private households to offer their products and services. That is why many insurers are thinking – and running test projects about – how such voice assistants can be usefully deployed. A number of them have already programmed some first skills for Alexa. The Zurich Insurance Group is currently testing a prototype which explains the characteristics and prices of liability or comprehensive insurance to their customers. The prototype also gives customers information outside insurance brokers’ business hours, provides hotlines about the insurer’s products, answers questions and carries out dialogues with them. At the end of this year, the prototype should be in its starting position and ready to go.
Dialog does not replace advice
“We want to enable easy access for our customers,” says Alexander Bernert, the person responsible for brand management at Zurich. “Consumers do not necessarily think of taking out disability insurance between 9 am. and 5 pm., but maybe even shortly before midnight.” Zurich does not want to carry out any transactions over the heads of their traditional business partners here, however. “Such dialog does not replace advice, we are looking to collaborate with our brokers,” says Mr. Bernert. Experiments are also being carried out with the Allianz. But the deployment of voice assistants there should concentrate on simple processes. There are currently two skills for Alexa: first the device can search for product information and representatives, then it can also enable the calculation of individual pension scores. Alf Neumann, Executive Board Member for digitization at Allianz Life, explains the reason for this. “Voice assistants are an experimental area for us. It’s other activities that have priority for us in the digitization process.”
The limits and opportunities for voice assistants
Of course there are also some critical voices about experiments with digital voice assistants within the insurance industry. Most of them come from the traditional local brokers and representatives. Will customers really want to communicate with a voice assistant as opposed to a genuine person? What does this look like from a consumer protection perspective? How should contracts be concluded through voice assistants? Jens Ringel, Managing Director of the Leipzig Insurance Forums, said that the problem with voice assistants like Alexa was that so far they were unable to include any contextual knowledge in their dialogues. “We’ll still need another two to three years to get a really well-structured process right.” The voice assistants also had limitations in terms of complexity. Because, as a rule, insurance policy contracts are structured in a very extensive and complicated way. That is a reason why the Zurich voice assistants are currently only deployed as a support service. Transactions and detailed advice should continue to be implemented through traditional sales channels. The Allianz insurers deploy voice assistants for simple processes and are proceeding an a similar way, but not for traditional advice and sales. “Simple products such as travel insurance are conceivable. But that’s miles away from carrying out a genuine consultation,” says Alf Neumann, the digitization expert at Allianz. But that can all change faster than you think. As the young people of today – and customers of tomorrow – are growing up with a different digital awareness. They don’t key in their text messages any more, they give them as a spoken order. People who give Alexa spoken orders to play a pop song today, will soon probably be finding it quite normal to give a voice assistant the following order, “Alexa, set up an insurance policy for me!”
Author: Editorial team Future. Customer.
Image: bht2000 – Adobe Stock