We are once again talking tech with Tavio Roxo of Owls Software and today we will be looking at the soft touch: Human vs Tech
Tony: This is something that is quite interesting to me because I always try to explore the tech first, before I want to revert to a human. For me, it is great to explore. But not everybody is like that, and some people want the human touch. The question is about the balance? Where do we decide to use the human versus the tech?
Tavio: I don’t think the tech will ever completely replace the human touch in certain products of insurance. Specifically, I think that it’s important for us to understand where the tech starts becoming a hindrance in that lifecycle of the engagement with the customer. But one of the attributes that tech does bring, is that it allows an omnichannel approach.
The first thing is that the very same customer that you’re looking to have a human interaction with, might prefer interaction by phone, by email, via WhatsApp, or via any other online platform, where they’re engaging with you, almost in a chatbot type of arrangement. Tech is the enabler that allows any one of those interactions or communications to happen, and it allows it to be recorded. But, from a system design perspective, I think the philosophy would probably be that you wouldn’t want to put something on technology architecture if it’s not something that is completely replicable.
So, if that interaction demands an engagement with the customer, where it’s not a decision tree where they answer x and then move down to the next sequence and the next sequence, and so on, and it’s not something that happens all the time, I do not think you would build a system for it. I don’t think you would build a technology interface for it. You would rely on the human touch, because that is going to be a more effective means of communicating with the customer at that point.
Tony: So, we’ve seen a lot of companies using chatbots, even giving the chatbot a person’s name so that it feels like you are interacting with a human. In some cases, that does feel like it. In other cases, they lose it a little bit. How do you feel about the use of chatbots, and do you think we are getting to a place where they can become a sort of mainstream way, where people accept them fully?
Tavio: Chatbots can work, and I’ve had a few interactions with chatbots where I was genuinely convinced that the person on the other side was a human. Similarly, I was interacting with a chatbot, by the name of Jessica and, after two or three questions, it became very apparent that she wasn’t a human. So, it does very much depend on that specific Chatbot. But, unlike the more replicable stuff, once again, it comes down to replication. On normal enquiries you’re able to utilise a chatbot very effectively and efficiently, at a low cost to service your clients.
Tony: From your experience and interaction with the clients that you’ve done development work with, do you think that we are prepared enough to be able to have that balance in the insurance companies? Or do you feel that they are driving very hard to get less human and more tech?
Tavio: I think the drive is towards cost saving and efficiency. But there does come a point where you can only squeeze so much efficiency out of a technology platform and, at that point, it gets handed over to a human to complete the transaction, or to execute whatever that task or work packet is, and you can’t have a system do it. So, you do get to a point where there is human involvement needed. Once again, I think the attribute of that point is that, if you go and analyse why a human needed to be involved, it’s because that specific inquiry was not something that had occurred before, it was something that occurs very rarely, that requires some intelligence outside of a of a sequential decision tree.
Tony: Brokers and financial planners form a large part of our audience at the cover, where the human plays quite a big role. Now there is that argument that you need a broker, you need the human touch, but they still want to have heavy tech. That balance is a bit skewed. Do you think that they are getting that right?
Tavio: I think it comes down to the product in a particular niche. And, if you look at something like aviation insurance or marine insurance, there are specialist skills required by humans, to be able to engage the customer and ask the right questions and understand realistically what that risk is. But in a simpler product, like a motor vehicle or a readily ascertainable risk, I don’t think that you are going to need an intervention of a human to conclude that sale, or to service that client.
So, the disparity really is around the type and complexity of the product that’s been distributed into the market or the complexity of the risk. You know, one always tries to go to either extreme where it’s going to be a full tech world, or it’s going to be a fully human world. This is going to be monolithic; it’s going to be across the board, across all jurisdictions, and it’s just not that.
Everyone sort of forges ahead and makes their own space where they find the most efficiency, where they rely on the use of tech and humans. But I think, certainly, there’s a case to be made for the simpler insurance products, which are allowed to be incepted and onboarded without a broker interface in between.
Tony: Just in closing, about the soft touch-hard tech. Your personal preference when you’re doing insurance, or when you are looking at your insurance, business and personal, is that more human or more tech?
Tavio: Can you believe it Tony, you caught me unawares with this question, but I deal with a broker. I speak to a broker, and I engage them, but they have a backbone of a full tech stack. Because, when I do make inquiries, they’re able to give me the information quite quickly and the information is consistent. So, there’s that human interaction, and I like it. As much as I am in the business of tech, the complexity of what I require, requires a knowledgeable broker.
Tony: So, would that be your main reason, the knowledge of the broker?
Tavio: Yes. Let me give you an example. Imagine I wanted to get professional indemnity cover. It’s not as simple as just getting cover for R10m or R100m. There are a lot of questions and there are a lot of intricacies that ultimately drive that risk. The broker needs to be smart enough to ask me the correct questions, to inform the insurer correctly. I don’t think that that interaction could happen effectively in a tech world from the get-go.
Once I’ve done it once, yes, then you can replicate it, but that requirement won’t be the same requirement from me in 24 months’ time. So, there will always be that intermediary in the niche insurance product environment, where engagement with the client is essential, but always backed up by a full stack platform.