Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Company has been on a digital drive since Tarun Chugh joined the company as its chief executive in April 2017. The company has launched several apps and chatbots for its customers, employees and insurance agents. Around the same time, Kayzad Hiramanek joined the company to lead its technology and digital initiatives.
In an interaction with TechCircle, Hiramanek talked about how the company reduced the number of people walking into its branches by almost 40% and the number of phone calls to customer care by 30% with its digital-first approach. Edited excerpts:
Could you talk a little about the latest technology initiatives?
As an organisation we have moved away from death benefits to living benefits, wellness, and life goals. With two-thirds of the population below 30 years of age, we have a highly aspirational population across our metros and smaller towns and cities.
More than half of the phones in our country are smartphones today and our customers have adopted digital (technologies), with data driving the primary means of communication or any form of relationship.
Several customers are interacting with our chatbot called 'Boing', launched more than a year ago, which intuitively asks you questions. Introduced in English, it is now available in five languages. It has three lakh active users and more than six crore messages have been exchanged since inception.
We also revamped our customer portal and app. This enables customers to do transactions without any assistance, just like net banking across our entire portfolio of products including updating all the customer profile details. You can see all the investments, transactions and download the statement. You don't need to go to a physical outlet at all. You can converse with the bot and get the transactions done.
Does that mean the chatbot can initiate an action to solve a customer's problem?
The chatbot is integrated with our core business process system and, thus, can initiate an action on its own. Most consumers ask for policy statement or payment update or even make a payment. Then the bot can direct them to the payment gateway. The receipt is generated and sent to the customer instantly. If a customer wants to update his email, PAN, bank, Aadhaar or nominee details, this can be done in real time on the platform.
But all this is dependent on the customer being educated?
It comes in five languages, so customers can type and get answers in their own languages. But yes, the customers should have some inclination towards using digital medium.
In case a few customers are not comfortable with that, we have introduced video calling pilot at some branches. We can have only a limited number of branches and staff. This kiosk lets you speak over a video call with a customer service agent sitting at a centralised location solving your issues. These are usually routine transactions, which basically take a minute. This frees up the branch executives to take up more important customer issues. This will make branches a relationship centre rather than a customer service point.
We have identified clusters of 15 km around one branch. If a household has more than one policy with us, we can identify the geo-location and meet such customers proactively and help them do transactions at their homes. Thus, we decongest the branches. The branches are also now acting as an education platform about our digital initiatives.
Has that resulted in a drop in physical walk-in?
My branch walk-in was 12 lakh last year. This has fallen by 40% this year. Similarly, phone calls to the call centre have fallen by 30%, clearly indicating that customers are using digital measures to transact with us. This to happen in such a short span is amazing.
Approximately 20% of my customers are fully digital customers and have not visited or do not visit my physical branches at all.
What is the kind of investment that has gone into these initiatives?
We have made significant investments, which unfortunately I cannot disclose. We have made it all work in real time. The challenge was to make it simple enough to make customers adopt it. The design was mostly done by us while the execution was done by our IT partners.
We have a fairly integrated approach. All our teams had a say in how the apps should look, what features it should have and so on. Automation is being done with co-operation and input across the orgainisation.
When did all these initiatives start and how long did all this take? What was the idea behind the digital push?
Most initiatives started since Tarun Chugh joined us as chief executive in April 2017. The entire product servicing and this new digital orientation started at that point. Then I came on board and then we expanded the technology team.
The idea was to attract younger, tech-savvy and digital-native customers. Considering that we operate across the country, it takes a lot of effort to reach a physical branch. Also, the fact that the customer wants instant solutions at his fingertips was among our driving philosophies.
How do you calculate the return on investment from these initiatives?
It is difficult to calculate the RoI on these investments but it will continue to be huge. However, we cannot give any forward-looking statements.
Beyond customer service, what are the other initiatives from your end?
We have a large number of insurance agents and we are primarily an agent-driven company. They can now access all the information on the app. They can manage their portfolio end-to-end. For instance, who are my customers, when is the policy payment due, what is my commission, what are my rewards and so on.
Our general managers, who recruit these agents, can track their entire portfolio of agents' performance on our employee app. The app gives a snapshot of the business we are generating in real-time or the managers own rewards. This has also gone completely digital. We also have a chatbot for answering our employees' queries on various issues.