Generali reveals game-changing add-on to virtual assistant – FST Future of Insurance

Generali’s chief digital transformation officer, Brad Rutta, has revealed a major upgrade to the global insurer's virtual assistant, announcing the forthcoming release of an automatic claims processing engine.

The addition of the ‘auto-adjudication feature’, expected to be launched within months, will deliver a “next-level” capability to Gia – the global insurance giant’s virtual customer assistant.

Auto-adjudication uses a rules-based engine to automatically approve or deny claims. It is said to significantly reduce both claims processing costs and errors associated with manual processes.

Presenting at the FST Future of Insurance event on Thursday, Rutta said the addition of the auto-adjudication feature will slash claims processing times by nearly 90 per cent – reducing a 44-day processing time to less than a week, including added fraud measurements and controls.

Auto-adjudicated claims processing requires no human intervention. Most critically, Rutta stressed, the feature is expected to result in significant cost savings for the insurer, as well as an expansion of service offerings for customers.

“It’s saved millions and millions of dollars,” he said. “We’re talking about 20 per cent reduction in FTEs (full-time equivalent salaries). We’re talking about moving from a controlled, 18-hour call centre to 24/7 coverage with the ability to add AI to it.”

A measurable return on investment is the basis of all Generali digital innovation projects, Rutta said, and each project is required to prove its financial merit before it gets off the ground.

“We are a bottom-line driven business in how we look and drive innovation within the company – there has to be a return,” he said.

Gia began life as a “simple IVR-based call centre” service, which, in its first incarnation, remained “very robotic”, Rutta said.

Partnering with AI developers, Gia was soon endowed with a natural speech engine, initially added as a UX feature to Generali’s agent and broker web portals before a more general roll out to its customer claims assistance service.

However, while Rutta expects similar AI initiatives will play an increasingly important role in customer engagement, he stressed that humans will remain indispensable in the claims process for the foreseeable future.

“There’s always going to be some element of someone needing a little bit more detail, or even just having that ability to want to talk to somebody,” he said.

With the evolution of video conferencing capabilities over the next two to three years, he expects greater hybridisation between AI and human claims representatives, which will offer a “more seamless transition” between these still discrete channels.

“Right now… when someone goes from our site, and they’re working with the AI chatbot, there’s a significant break. You can still tell there’s a transition between [them],” he said.

“That interface will get better, but it will end up lowering those [costs] – you just won’t need as many people in contact centres.”

The big data threat

As a veteran of peer-to-peer transport giant Uber, Rutta urged insurers to take the emerging threat from these big data players seriously.

“Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, they’re all standing up insurance companies within their own organisations,” he said. “They’re not licensed, they don’t own a deal with the auditing that happens there, but make no mistake, they have strong actuarial teams that are running huge captives. It’s a huge part of their business.”

NPS to success

Measuring customer success across a multinational group with numerous sub-entities presents significant challenges, Rutta said. One of Generali's consistent and most reliable benchmarks for success is found in Net Promoter Scores.

“All of our innovation and everything that we’re doing is driven by a measured result in terms of NPS and that varies across regions and countries,” he said.

Again emphasising the importance of establishing ROI for digital projects, Rutta said the NPS metric has incentivised not only customer-centric but also cost-sensitive digital innovation within the company.

“[NPS is] how we drive success in our organisation and how we drive returns. We can measure a successful operation by engagement with our customer exceeded, plus we’re able to lower our operating expenses.”

Generali is one of the world's largest global insurance groups, with a presence in 50 countries and employing more than 71,000 staff. Brad Rutta is based in Generali's North American subsidiary.