As Next Insurance launches its first chat bot for Facebook Messenger, we go through some other examples of how to and not to use these machines
Israeli small business insurance startup Next Insurance announced today that they are launching a chatbot where personal trainers will be able to buy insurance, all through Facebook’s Messenger app. Similar to their website where users can answer a few short questions to get a quote, their Messenger bot will ask users for their details in a chat format that most are extremely comfortable with by this point.
In their release, the company stated that they are “the first company to provide full service via a social channel.”
“70% of our customers are buying insurance on their phones,” said Next Co-Founder and CEO Guy Goldstein. “Enabling customers to buy insurance through a chatbot on Facebook Messenger brings simplicity, transparency and easy access. We’re making sure that insurance is working for the small business owner and not the reverse.”
Co-founded by Goldstein, Nissim Tapiro, and Alon Huri, Next raised an impressive $13 million Seed funding round in 2016 from Ribbit Capital, TLV Partners and Zeev Ventures.
Offering a bot through the popular social channel represents the latest in a string of innovations in the insurance industry, part of the rise in ‘insurtech’ revolution. The past year and a half has seen new companies popping up to improve the insurance experience through technology, hoping to breath new life back into the struggling and much-maligned industry.
Israeli leaders in innovation Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) recently sponsored a competition in cooperation with French insurance giant AXA and Insurtech incubator Kamet to find new companies that are making waves in this space. Israeli startups GetmeIns and Seegnature walked away from that evening, each with the promise of $1 million to be invested in their companies from JVP.
For consumers, they are most likely to feel the brunt of the changes that are going on in this industry through an improved customer service experience, shifting from human agents to chatbots.
Speaking at the FinTech Ideas Festival in San Francisco back in January, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella told the crowd that he saw the insurance industry as a good fit for the use of chatbots, adding that his company was in the midst of running a couple of pilots.
Beyond Next, there are a few other projects and companies trying their hand at automating customer service, onboarding, and handling claims through chat bots. Here are five of the best:
Along with Next, Lemonade is the other 800-pound gorilla in the insurtech space, raising their $13 million seed round just a few months prior to Goldstein’s team but recently adding a $34 million investment to their war chest.
Since then they have pulled in another $47 million and announced that they will soon be working in 47 US states, branching out from their first market in New York.
They have developed their own app that facilitates everything from getting a quote, signing up to the service, and making claims.
Currently operating in Australia and the UK, Trov was one of the first companies to come out with a chat UX that seemed to really be on the right track. Last April they raised a $25.5 million Series C funding round and launched their mobile platform.
They focus on short-term property insurance on shot-lived items like computers and phones. Customers can communicate with the company through the app for claims, even patching through to a human agent if absolutely necessary.
They store all of your items in the cloud, monitoring things like receipts for new items in your email that make adding them to your list of insured items a breeze. You can then set up insurance policies for predetermined periods of time, getting coverage for as much as you need.
Trov’s founder Scott Walchek spoke with Geektime last year, paraphrasing user testimonies by saying, “In a world where I have complete control of entertainment, banking and other services, why can’t I just choose a few things that I care about and protect those for as long as I need to?”
Unlike Lemonade and Next, Trov is not an insurer itself, acting instead as a platform for larger insurers like AXA or Suncorp Group.
Taking the Audience Choice Award at JVP’s insurtech competition based on the votes of 150 employees at the Israeli Capital Markets Authority’s Insurance and Savings Department, LeO promises to offer a similar experience of allowing the user to interact with their insurer through their chatbot. This will include actions like renewing plans and making claims.
4. Watson’s Ana bot
While not a commercial effort at this point as far as can be gleaned from author Anton McConville’s post about the project, this one shows the variety of potential uses for bots not only in dealing with new customers but within organizations as well.
McConville wanted to create an easy way for an employee to see what their health benefits were. Utilizing Watson Conversation Service and the database of options that are available through their plan, he built a basic but effective solution, highlighting the power of connecting with one of the world’s leading drivers in natural language processing (NLP).
It is this wealth of data and essential computing power that will likely draw more service providers to Facebook Messenger, giving them access to the company’s years of learning from conversations on its chat service.
5. Royal Bank of Canada’s insurance bot
Without really meaning to beat up on RBC, this is a great example of how far off most attempts by the older players seem to be at bringing to life the current bot experience.
The bank is trying to offer advice to guide their customers, leaving open a search bar where visitors can enter their queries. The UX is a bit clunky, but so is the rest of the site. While they fail to give the feel of a conversation and are unlikely to be able to perform any meaningful actions, RBC deserves credit for automating their FAQs and site map, helping the user find what they were probably looking for based on basic keywords easier than they might otherwise have be able to. All the while, they made their contact info to speak with a human pretty easy to find.