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With the likes of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and virtual reality becoming part of corporate strategy, the nature of the traditional user interface (UI) is changing.
The popularity of intelligent personal assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Home are sparking consumer interest in ‘talking’ to one’s gadgets to either get information or have them perform an action such as ordering food online or activating the air conditioner. This is creating a ripple-effect with many end-users expecting other companies to follow suit and deliver a natural language experience to queries and other business Components.

Hallo, computer

Enter the conversational UI (CUI).

Simply talking to our devices is not as far-fetched as many make it out to be. Imagine the convenience of requesting a plane ticket from your phone instead of having to click through multiple browser windows. The time savings alone make it a worthwhile investment. Now translate that to updating an insurance policy or making a new investment. It is all focused on making the user experience as effective as possible.

The aim of the CUI is to enable people to converse in the language they know, with the device understanding it and translating their intention into actions that the application understands. A CUI is therefore more than just text recognition but the coming together of several different technologies and services – voice technologies to recognise speech, understanding the natural language, understanding the intention of the spoken words, and some artificial intelligence to interpret your intentions.

There might be some resistance from consumers (and insurers) on adopting a more conversational approach in the user interface.

Traditionalists, especially in the insurance industry, might not feel optimistic about the accuracy of the process or how easily it will be adopted to meet regulatory requirements. However, with financial services globally under pressure to keep innovating to combat the emergence of fintech firms, they might have no choice but to embrace this change.

Especially younger users love the familiarity of the chat style interfaces while older generations tend to adopt this style as it helps them more easily navigate through a maze of different options.

Back-end analysis

At face value, CUI might be skewed to benefit the end-user instead of the organisation. But having an easier process for the creation of policies, updating of information, or other Components, could create efficiency benefits on the side of the insurer as well.

By integrating this new UI with real-time data analysis on the back-end, an insurer is able to create a more customised experience for the customer. More importantly, it is also able to evolve its processes in a more nuanced fashion and get an understanding of where demand lies for specific products or services.

Cynics who argue that the CUI is nothing more than glorified speech recognition software fail to see the role artificial intelligence can play in this. By combining voice technologies with natural-language understanding and key databases, an insurer can provide context to queries than what would not have been possible otherwise.

A large focus of the CUI is on the occasional person who does not know ‘UI language’. And the biggest user base of this group is the customer. This means the most value to be gained from this new interface will likely be by providing customer-centric capabilities. This does not exclude internal stakeholders as they can also be users of certain functions.

User preference

And while some limitations might still exist in terms of the spoken language used (English dominates much of the conversational UI systems currently available), it is only a matter of time before it catches up to user preferences.

This is especially important in markets such as Africa with many local dialects and other languages preferred over English. But the foundation is already being lain thanks to the growth of consumer devices illustrating the convenience of doing UI differently.

But a CUI is not a ‘fire-and-forget’ solution. Once rolled out, it needs to be continuously tested against the user base, evaluated, and evolved. You therefore need to build the ability in to monitor and evaluate its effectiveness on an ongoing basis.

Insurers need to ensure they keep monitoring developments in this regard. With fintech already putting them under pressure to maintain growth and get new customers, it will be the organisations who can best adapt to new market requirements that will continue to remain relevant.

JC Oberholzer is the chief system architect for Rubix Digital Solutions.
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