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Why Digitally Empowered Agents Are The Future Of Insurance

Christina Cai is the co-founder and COO of Lydia AIan applied AI company on a mission to insure the next billion people.

For the last decade, we’ve heard that direct-to-consumer products will profoundly disrupt the insurance industry with AI-powered tools that promise to do away with the need for human agents to interact with customers. A number of direct-to-consumer online insurance startups, such as Lemonade, Hippo and Metromile, have gone to an initial public offering, while overall investment insurtech startups in 2020 reached $7 billion.

However, despite the initial fanfare, direct-to-consumer insurance has not lived up to expectations. In Europe, for example, most direct-to-insurance consumer products haven’t broken through the 10% mark of total insurance products in the marketplace.

While direct-to-consumer models hold some appeal for technology futurists and analysts, most customers will continue to benefit from interacting with human agents who can act as expert advisors empowered by increasing sophisticated AI-based technology.

The New Customer Journey: Humans, AI And Data

To understand the new relationship they have with today’s customers, agents need to move from a mindset of selling products to one of advising customers on how to achieve their financial goals. Most customers, both digitally savvy and otherwise, still want a trusted advisor to help them navigate the complexity of their insurance products. The insurance industry has typically been slow to understand the digital customer experience, but that is quickly changing as agents adopt digital tools such as interactive advisory services, live simulations and digital AI health assessments to provide personalized product recommendations that help customers understand their unique life situations and achieve their financial goals.

However, the fact that agents continue to be critical components of the customer journey does not mean they will rely on the traditional telephone as the primary communication channel. The rise of digital tools has added complexity to customer acquisition, which will challenge agents to understand how to best interact with customers through channels such as digital sales, price comparison sites, online-agent inquiries and text messaging applications. Digitally savvy customers move effortlessly between multiple digital and in-person channels, which means agents will need to adopt a variety of digital tools and workflows to provide interactions that meet customers where and when the customers demand it.

The next generation of agents will need to intelligently harness data produced by digital channels. The data will help agents better understand customer behavior and identify relevant customer touchpoints to create personalized experiences. Agents have the opportunity to organize customer behavior by segment and create omnichannel experiences that incorporate online and in-person interactions. The new customer journey will see agents interacting across channels to provide customers with relevant advice and information where and when they need it.

While digital transformation and direct-to-consumer solutions have been promising to disrupt the insurance industry for more than a decade, agents are harnessing the power of data and online interactions to become trusted advisors who provide powerful value to their customers.

As AI solutions generate more actionable data, the new insurance customer experience will become more personalized and span multiple online and in-person interactions where agents will continue to play a critical role in tomorrow’s insurance industry.

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