“All of our agents are busy at this time. Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received.”

“We’re sorry, however we are experiencing higher than usual call volume, please try back later.”

“You have exceeded the waiting limit for this queue. Please hang up and try your call again.”

“Due to high call volume, your anticipated wait time is one hour and forty-three minutes.”

Dante failed to detail the 10th circle of hell; the inefficient, overburdened, and inadequate call centers that are unable to keep up with changes in call volume, service requests, or customer expectations. The one where you are assaulted by a number of self-directed prompts, only to be placed on an eternal hold, and should you achieve the elusive human representative, often you find they are unable to assist you thus you are rerouted, placed on hold again, or worse still, disconnected.

Not too long ago, I inadvertently stumbled into this personal purgatory, when trying to make a simple alteration to my existing insurance policy. The automated prompts did not care that I had been a dedicated customer for over a decade, nor how during that tenure I have never missed a payment, filed a claim or modified my policy. I landed “Bob from Sheboygan”, who either was on the tail end of an all-night double shift, or simply lacked any ability to sound interested, knowledgeable or even somewhat supportive.

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After his rapid and off-topic litany of ineffective queries, he rerouted my call back into the queue to wait again. It was then that I realized, that somewhere, perhaps hanging in Bob’s own home office, was the same sign Dante encountered at the gates “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Bob asked several scripted questions, however, he failed to ask the most important one. Was I aware of the chatbot option, as an alternative to my arduous journey into customer call centers? If he had, I would have eagerly opened the app and attempted to self-triage, under the tutelage of the AI enabled assistant. In fact, it was when I researched options to escape the endless abyss of the call center when I recalled reading an earlier article, where the author had reveled “I recently experienced my first truly seamless and enjoyable encounter with a chatbot. It was love at first chat.” Who knew my path to redemption (and back to sanity) would be at the hands of a virtual device, available 24/7 and 365 days, anytime, anywhere?

The convenient and ever-helpful little bot (I’ve affectionately dubbed Virgil) was pre-programmed to answer any questions I had, sent me prompt confirmation emails, and even walked me through the app set up. It seemed so natural and intuitive, its no wonder why chatbots ranked 3rd on the top channels for customer service in 2020 and why it’s expected that 85% of customer interaction will be handled without human agents by 2021.

In this era of digital transformation, many insurers remain hyper focused on the tools and technologies that are accelerating recovery from the pandemic while pivoting to thrive for the new normal. The new age of the customer determines that insurers are also obliged to offer speedy digital services for policy signups or declaring claims, and above all, provide exemplary customer service, in every area of business. Just as customer expectations and demand continues to grow, so to do the benefits of chatbots many of which were covered in a previous blog.

The reduced operational cost (in some instances more than 30%) of quick customer service, clear policies, increased customer satisfaction, one point of contact, and 24/7 service are clear benefits of having a chatbot. According to an Accenture Digital survey, 56% of businesses claim chatbots are already driving disruption in their industry and that number is only expected to grow. In fact, I think having a chatbot will become my qualifying factor for all future business requirements, if only to keep me from revisiting the inferno of an inefficient call center.