Enhancing agency customer experience … on the customer’s terms
The use of chatbots—computer programs that are designed to simulate conversation with human users—has been a hot topic recently, especially in the insurance space. Whether a chatbot (Internet-speak for chat robot) is coded and embedded into a website, whether it sits on an agency Facebook page, or if it’s implemented by other means, these bots (even the shortened “chatbot” has a shortened version) are creating a layer to the customer experience that is completely autonomous.
Bots are on the rise
The use of bots has seen considerable growth over the past couple of years. Still, not every insurance agency is convinced the tool will help it generate business, nurture leads, or handle tasks at other stops along the customer experience journey.
As we know, customers have their own individual ways of communicating, their own favorite social media networks, and their own individual buying habits.
If you’re not convinced quite yet that bots can help you and your agency—and even if you are— here are a few statistics you should be aware of:
- 27% of consumers worldwide are very interested inartificial intelligence-based tools. (HubSpot, 2017)
- 27% of consumers predict they would buy a basic item through a chatbot. (Drift, 2018)
- 48% of consumers would rather connect with a company via live chat than any other mean of contact. (HubSpot, 2017)
- 95% of consumers believe “customer service” is going to be the major beneficiary of chatbots. (Mindbrowser, 2017)
- 21% of consumers see chatbots as the easiest way to contact a business. (Ubisend, 2017)
- 47% of consumers would buy items from a chatbot. (HubSpot, 2017)
- 37% of consumers would rather buy items via a company’s Facebook page than its website. (HubSpot, 2017)
- 34% of executives say the time they freed up using chatbots allows them to focus on deep thinking and creating. (PwC, 2017)
That’s a lot of information to consume all at once so, for now, let’s digest things one step at a time.
First and foremost, we’ve found that our customers are willing to buy through chatbots and, more often than not, they believe it contributes to a positive experience with their agency. If your customers are like others around the country, it’s safe to say that almost half of your entire base is more interested in connecting with you through a live chat than through any other form of contact.
If you have a bot in place, you can more easily connect with prospects and customers on their terms. By combining multiple digital avenues, such as a chatbot integrated into Facebook Messenger, you can appeal to buyers who would rather connect with you on social media than visit your agency website.
Chatbots and the customer experience
Digital marketing is best deployed when a combination of multiple platforms comes together for one purpose: to enhance the overall customer experience in your quest to influence the buyer’s journey. As we know, customers have their own individual ways of communicating, their own favorite social media networks, and their own individual buying habits.
Even as we seek to respond to customer preferences, we always need to approach all of our digital marketing efforts with a clear strategy and goal in mind.
One of our agency goals—one that fits well with our digital marketing strategy—is to give customers a positive experience through bots. It’s not necessarily an easy task. In fact, our friends at Forrester Research let us know that more than 60% of the time a chatbot is used in the insurance space, the customer bounces away from the bot due to a poor experience.
Depending on how you program your chatbot, or how intuitive your bot is, your customers’ experiences can go one of two ways. The first and best possible outcome is that your customer approaches your bot with a clear question in mind, and the bot finds the appropriate answer. This interaction could look something like this:
Bot: “Hi, welcome to our insurance agency. How can we help you today?”
User: “I need an auto insurance quote.”
Bot: “I see you’re looking for assistance with a quote for an auto insurance policy. I’ll just need some information from you first. Can we start with your first and last names, please?”
The bot, of course, could take it from there. We’ll talk more in the next section about how our bot helps with quotes, but before we do that, let’s talk about the second scenario that can happen with a bot. More often than not, a customer has a clear question when approaching a bot, but the bot doesn’t necessarily know how to answer the customer properly. This situation could look like this:
Bot: “Hi, welcome to our insurance agency. How can we help you today?”
User: “Leave a review.”
Bot: “I’m sorry, I can’t seem to figure out what you’re asking. Do you need help with anything else?”
User: “I’d like to leave a review.”
Bot: “I’m sorry, but I’m still having trouble figuring out your request. Would you like to have one of our professional agents give you a call?”
As you can see, both of these customers had questions they wanted to approach our agency with, but only one of the customers had a positive experience using the bot. It’s important that you consider all possible outcomes when having your customers communicate with you autonomously through a chatbot. Doing so lets you better serve them and deliver them the best possible customer experience.
To understand exactly how we are accomplishing this live at Paradiso Insurance, let’s discuss our strategy with the chatbot that we implemented early on in 2018.
For the past few months, we’ve been working with a new chatbot startup company that is specifically focused on the insurance space. It’s called Friendly Agent Bot.
A first step in our strategy was designing our offering in such a way that the chatbot would be easily accessible. Whether our customers wanted to visit us on our agency website or through our Facebook page, we wanted the bot to be accessible to all. The way we achieved that was to implement the bot through Facebook Messenger, and then embed it onto our agency website using a simple code provided to us by the team at Friendly Agent Bot.
The next step in our strategy was to provide an excellent experience with the bot, one way or another. To do this, we started by making the bot easy to use. You can see an example of a conversation with our bot in the screenshot above.
Here’s how it works: First, the bot asks the user how it can help him or her. Then it provides simple, multiple-choice options for the customer. The customer can either “tap” or “click” on one of the multiple-choice offerings or type the answer out and send it back as a message. Either way, our bot is intuitive enough to understand the customer’s response. That’s critically important, because we need our bot to be very easy to communicate with.
Next, the bot asks multiple follow-up questions and collects information from the customer or prospect in a brief conversation. We tried to consider the top reasons that someone would reach out to our agency. They are: to get a quote, to talk to one of our agents for professional advice, or something else entirely.
No matter what the customer is looking for, though, we provide a way to find an answer with an open-ended statement as one of the possible responses, which is what happens when they click or tap “something else.”
Finally, the bot comes full circle with the customer experience by giving our customers the service that they are looking for. After they communicate with a bot, our customers submit all of their information, as well as what times of the day they’d like our agency to reach out to them. The bot then delivers all of that information to our agents via email, and an agent calls them promptly.
At the end of the day, we are generating more phone conversations and fresh leads than before. Best of all, these leads are qualified and our agents generally have enough information in hand from the bot to start putting together a quote for the potential customer, before they ever pick up the phone.
Chatbots represent the next progression in delivering an outstanding customer experience, folks. If your customers are willing to engage in autonomous communication, and especially if they prefer to do so, independent insurance agencies need to embrace the offering. If your agency website and/or social media pages are getting hits, that traction could easily be converted into more business for you. With virtually no extra effort, you can receive qualified leads right into your agents’ inboxes. Oh, and if you’re worried about cost, I can say first-hand that this chatbot service is incredibly affordable.
So what are you waiting for? Head over to the Friendly Agent Bot website, click on the messenger icon at the bottom right corner of the page, and see how it works. Then get started onbuilding your own chatbot and delivering the kind of experience today’s—and more important—tomorrow’s customers expect.
For more information:
Friendly Agent Bot
Chris Paradiso, CPIA, is president of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services, headquartered in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. His agency won PIA National’s Excellence in Social Media Award in 2013. He also heads up Paradiso Presents, LLC, which provides social media consulting, seminars and workshops to help agencies thrive in the online marketing world. Contact Chris via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.