As one of the leading general insurance brands in the UK insuring over 1 million homes, senior IT leaders at Legal & General Insurance have already taken great strides to digitalise customer and partner journeys, positioning the business as an industry-leading technology champion.
Through easy-to-use and mobile friendly tools like SmartQuote and SmartClaims, combined with the creation of externally available Application Programme Interfaces (APIs), L&G have laid the groundwork to pursue a modern customer-centric digital experience, attracting new customers and partners alike.
When searching for insurance, customers often begin their journey online, researching, seeking advice, using aggregators and comparing services. However, across the industry, customers’ often lack awareness and understanding of policy terms and conditions which presents challenges in ensuring that their insurance meets their needs. Even after they have purchased a policy, customers can often experience challenges finding the information they require as quickly as possible across websites and busy call centres.
In order to meet those needs, L&G wanted to enhance the support customers received throughout their policy lifecycle by providing additional channels through which customers could interact with the company 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Information needed to be provided in a concise, salient and user-friendly way to encourage engagement.
In expanding the provision of information through digital channels, it would ensure that consumers could access the information that they wanted, when they wanted and leave the highly skilled customer service agents in the UK-based contact centres to handle the complex cases, liberated to add further value when required.
“SmartHelp is the next stage in our digital journey, enabling an AI driven self-service experience, better able to meet the needs of the digital customer.”
Ben Turner, Chief Technology Officer of Legal & General Insurance
An AI-powered Virtual Customer Assistant (VCA)
L&G engaged AI specialist EBI.AI in 2019 to conduct a short Proof of Concept which would prove:
- Virtual Customer Assistants (VCA) using Natural Language Processing technology were capable of understanding common customer questions.
- It was possible to integrate a VCA into L&G’s business systems.
Following a successful Proof of Concept, L&G worked with EBI.AI to devise a phased approach to implementation in order to ensure that the assistant’s capabilities matched the needs of both the customer and the business.
The assistant, named SmartHelp, was configured on EBI.AI’s Lobster communications platform (Lobster) using Natural Language Processing technology. Due to its technology agnostic design, Lobster allows L&G to switch to other NLP technologies, or deploy to other chat and voice channels, including telephony and Smart Home devices. This means the service is future-proofed for rapidly developing technology, or changing customer demands.
Trained on an initial 88 use cases related to household insurance customer journeys, the assistant pulls answers from the Lobster response store. This means the assistant is able to answer thousands of questions including those related to quotes, claims, renewals, cover inclusion, payments cancellations, and personal details.
Once live, EBI.AI Content and User Experience consultants carefully reviewed the conversations to improve and increase the assistant’s capability.
Oliver Cox, Chief Technology Officer at EBI.AI commented,“By limiting the initial scope to relatively simple FAQs, we were able to launch quickly, and immediately learn what is actually valuable to L&G customers. Now we can increase the assistant’s understanding and develop it further to take on more tasks that we have proven are of value to L&G and their customers. This ensures we can deliver a solution which is more suitable at a fraction of the costs of other AI companies.”
“SmartHelp has given customers a new way to communicate with us and from their feedback we can already see the benefit this offering is providing to them”Kyran Spalding, Business Architect at Legal & General Insurance
Challenges and an accelerated deployment
It was a design challenge to ensure the assistant gives consumers the right and compliant information via a chat channel. L&G content writers worked closely with EBI.AI UX consultants to ensure that the VCA’s responses and conversation flows were well crafted for the context.
A month after the assistant went live to users on the Household section of the L&G website, Coronavirus hit the UK, forcing a rapid switch to home working for many of the contact centre staff. As contact volume increased and frontline resources adapted to the new situation, SmartHelp implementation was accelerated to pet, landlords and intermediary journeys across L&G.com. Over 212 further use cases were added to the assistant’s understanding, and usage rapidly increased as customers found they could get fast responses to their questions.
L&G can now offer customers and B2B intermediaries a new channel, available 24/7, to quickly and effectively obtain information on their general insurance policies across household, pet, landlords and lifestyle products. In total, the assistant can provide over 300 different answers to thousands of the most commonly asked questions. The additional self-service option for customers eliminates non-value add call centre tasks, which proved especially helpful during the rapid onset of the Coronavirus pandemic.
AI self-service has been well received from customers. Over 7000 of whom have used SmartHelp in the two months since inception. On average, a customer has a 3-turn interaction with the assistant, demonstrating that they are quickly able to get to an answer for their query, or signposted to the next best place.
10.59% of web visitors use the assistant on pages where it is available. In one location, 39.41% of visitors used the assistant, surpassing all adoption expectations.
“SmartHelp assists customers by making useful information more readily available in ways that haven’t been possible before, and therefore reducing pressure on our service centres.”Claire Hird, Operations Director of Legal & General Insurance
Future stages for Legal & General
Due to the strides taken by L&G senior IT leadership team to simplify the IT architecture and deliver modern APIs into its products and services, L&G occupies an envious position in the industry. In future phases, SmartHelp will be able to deliver experiences that are personalised to the customer. For example, as SmartHelp is developed further questions like ‘is my ring covered by my policy?’ or ‘can I renew my policy?’ will be answerable without ever needing to speak to a human agent. Crucially, this frees up the agents to handle more important customer experiences that require a human touch.
The impact of Covid-19 has had a profound impact on the way that our EBI.AI clients view and value AI assistants. This forms lesson 1 of the 5 key business lessons that we learned from the pandemic that allowed us to grow 150%. To read more about this, click here.