As with most industries within the financial services sector, insurance is facing the dual pressures of needing to keep costs down in a competitive environment while maintaining satisfaction levels—and this can be seen very vividly in the area of customer service.

Executive Summary

Opinion: How can insurers simultaneously raise customer satisfaction levels, lower costs and enhance productivity? Jonathan Crane, chief commercial officer of iPSoft, argues that the use of virtual customer service agents, powered by AI engines, makes more sense that offshoring. (Disclosure: Crane's company is the creator of a virtual agent known as Amelia.)

The call center is typically the front line of customer support, and is often characterized by long waits and cumbersome menus. This leads to unsatisfactory experiences, and ultimately lost business. In addition, interactions with customer service staff can sometimes prove to be frustrating—and it only takes one bad call for a customer to leave, or even worse, voice their grievances on online forums or social media.

One of the most common complaints is the length of time taken to speak to a customer service representative. However, there are often additional problems once the customer has got through. According to the Consumer Reports National Research Center, the top customer service irritants among consumers include:

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