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AIA begins rollout of online self-service for customers

The regional online portal should generate customer loyalty and therefore generate sales leads.

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AIA is introducing a website for policyholders, branded MyPage, that is intended to drag a traditional, clunky platform into the 21st century and make it a means of enhancing revenues.

Already, the majority of the insurer’s sales are now conducted electronically, thanks to the insurer having equipped its agents with iPads that have replaced paper-based processing. But that success has not yet been mirrored in the way the company interacts directly with customers online.

Because the existing website is not user-friendly, agents deal with inbound calls or requests for mundane tasks such as changing credit-card details, logging a new home address, or checking payment terms. Not only must these requests be handled manually, but the insurer understood that customers were only contacting AIA if they had to. There was an undertone of feeling ignored by AIA in turn.

Steffen Schade, director of group digital platforms, says the website revamp began in 2014. The first markets are going live this summer. The rollout will incorporate 14 of the 18 markets in which the insurer operates, with the majority of them activating the new site by the end of the year.

He says MyPage will turn registration, log-ins and routine administration tasks into a short and simple process, including filing a claim. A friendly user experience should generate traffic to the portal and give AIA an opportunity to engage more regularly with customers, including generating curiosity about product offerings. “We want this to be like Amazon’s sales through service model,” Schade told DigFin.

Keep ’em coming back
To keep customers returning to the portal, AIA will leverage its healthcare and wellness program that provides awards points for good exercise and nutrition, so that people can win movie tickets or, in some places, airline miles. Secondly, the company is using algorithms to suggest advice or steer people towards helpful sites based on customer context, such as a new baby in the family. Thirdly it will provide updates to customers who bought investment-linked products, such as performance and payout details.

The project, and its managers, will be measured by the number of markets that go live this year, the number of customers who can access MyPage, and the number of sales leads the new site generates. If it does well, a further stage could be to roll out an integrated offering for the roughly 30% of business done through non-agent intermediaries, such as banks, corporate benefit schemes and financial planners.

Still rules-based algos
The challenge with MyPage wasn’t the technology per se, which Schade says is not new. Rather it was around the complexities of getting the insurer’s operations, sales, technology and marketing teams to work together, both at the group and various country levels, and to execute with relative haste.

AIA expects that by removing the routine admin requests from the hands of agents, the best ones will be free to focus on service and sales – thus helping them generate higher commissions, and enabling AIA to attract or retain the best agents. (AIA executives declined to break down agent numbers.)

Although the new website works on algos designed to personalize offerings to customers, it is not ‘artificial intelligence’. Fine tuning responses to customer behavior will still be a manual affair. “A.I. would be great, but it’s not there yet,” Schade said. The system provides a way to self-adjust, but not to the extent that it can invent new rules.

“For A.I. and chatbots, we need to see evidence that these really work to the satisfaction of the customer,” Schade added.

Nor is MyPage going to take a central role for selling complex products, which require explanations and which are resistant to simplistic cost comparisons. MyPage will be able to put life- and non-life products on the same screen, but some products won’t be suitable for direct online sales.

While AIA hopes the platform generates leads and sales for products that are already commoditized, such as car insurance or simple health plans, it will remain the purview of human agents or distributors to handle products that are complex, bundled, and opaquely structured – and therefore the most lucrative.

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AIA begins rollout of online self-service for customers