Meet the New Insurance Agents – Alexa and Siri

This holiday season, Amazon sold an estimated 4 million Echo devices. Google Home devices were sold out at retail outlets. Worldwide, there are over 1 Billion active iPhone devices. Each of these products has voice interface activity capabilities. This new technology and its evolving uses are changing how we interact with our devices, retailers and each other. Voice interface allows individuals to interact with their devices in a hands free environment, essentially engaging in a conversation with the device.

By the year 2020, Comscore predicts that 50% of all searches will be made through voice searches. As convenient as a search is today on any mobile device, imagine how cumbersome it will become to have to locate the phone or tablet, tap a few icons and type in the request. Compared to asking a question immediately, the process that we are use today seems outdated. Using a smartphone to shop or search will soon be as archaic as changing the channels on the television set by hand (or even watching programs on a TV set).

The voice interface capabilities are improving on a daily basis, with new uses and applications made available on a daily basis. We can access the news headlines, weather, call for an Uber, order a pizza or set an alarm. With the right set up on the device, purchases can be made for every day items, ebooks can be read as audiobooks, children can hear a personalized bedtime story or hear a knock knock joke.

Regardless of the platform used, these devices are becoming coming common place in the home. I received one as a Christmas gift, and spent the long weekends learning how to use the device. On Amazon’s Alexa, these are called skills. I had Alexa telling jokes, providing weather forecasts, playing music, setting alarms, and ordering household items. She even wished me a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I did not need to leave my house if I did not want to.

Once I had the device set up with the basic skills, I started to wonder what else it could do. I was able to access Bing for search queries. Instantly, my iPad, which is never out of my reach, became outdated. I realized that I could ask Alexa anything, and get the same results, without having to use my hands. As I was asking random questions, it occurred to me that Alexa could shape my queries and guide my choices. If she could do that with the brand of toothpaste I was buying, why couldn’t she tell me what type of insurance to buy. At the very least, she should be able to get me quotes. Who is to say that we cannot purchase insurance next?

On my iPhone, I asked Siri to get me auto insurance quotes. Her reply was: “I can help you find insurance agents if you turn on local services.” Once I did that, the results came back with websites for Allstate, Esurance, Nationwide, Progressive as well as seven different quote aggregators. While Siri was unable to provide me with an actual quote, it gave me the same results as a manual search. With the rate that technology is improving, I am sure that within the next few months we will be able to provide our information and collect quotes through the voice interface.

These devices, as shown in Google’s Super Bowl commercial, can run a household. With the electricity, heating, alarms and other household operations are run through the device. Just as telematics can lower auto premiums, a smarter home can could lower homeowner policy premiums.

The carriers who develop the skills and programs to work with these devices will be ahead of the field. As more consumers are using the internet to research and shop for insurance coverage, the use of voice interface cannot be far behind. Instead of submitting quote requests through various landing pages, consumers can interact with the device and have their information shared with multiple companies at once, or ask to have an agent call at a convenient time. In addition to providing quotes, carriers can interact with policy holders when it is time to reevaluate and update coverage. Claim submissions and follow-up can be done through the device. Brand engagement is another viable option for these devices.

Today, these devices are not intuitive enough to engage in a conversation. As these platforms evolve, the intelligence behind them is expected to allow for dialogue between the users. The opportunity for the device’s future interactions as an insurance agent is not beyond the realm of possibility. As a technology platform, the devices and skills can be programmed to ask questions based on the type of coverage requested and personal information. A human agent can review the conversations and policy options to make sure the policy holder is purchasing the best option.

Using the device for purchasing will allow consumers to shop when they want even if it is the middle of the night. In this consumer centric, on demand economy, insurance carriers should be as flexible as other retailers and merchants. Human agents have limitations on their availability. Siri and Alexa are available any time, day or night. They may be the insurance agents of the future.