2020 will be remembered for many terms which elicit images of post-apocalyptic doom and gloom – COVID, pandemic, lockdown, facemasks and quarantine, with the only seemingly positives being ‘Zoom’ and ‘Microsoft Teams’.
‘Digitization’, ‘automation’, ‘remote-work’ have been around for the better part of the 21st century but these terms gained more prominence and relevance in 2020 in the world’s economy and Ghana is no exception.
The Ghanaian financial industry and insurance, a key cog in the industry, has shown the way when it comes to digitization, automation or remote-work. With insurance’s reliance on person-to-person sales brought to its knees with the arrival of the pandemic, industry players, looking to stay afloat, began thinking.
Hollard Ghana, one of the most digitally savvy brands in the business community, as usual, took the lead and it was not surprising when the company introduced ‘Araba’, the Chatbot assistant. The product seeks to make insurance more accessible to Ghanaians via popular messaging channels such as WhatsApp.
Ghanaians love using WhatsApp, and with Araba, Hollard has made it easier for them to do what they love while creating and securing a better future for themselves – Insurance right in their palms, no paperwork!
Launched virtually, at the height of the 2020 SARS-CoV-2, also known as COVID-19, pandemic, Hollard Insurance’s ‘Hollard ChatInsure’ is the first of its kind in the insurance industry in the country.
The first virtual insurer in the country offering end-to-end insurance services is named Araba as a nod to a character which has been a part of the Hollard journey and its roots in Ghana as Metropolitan Insurance. Araba possesses a vibrant personality that embodies the values espoused by Hollard; she is sharp, helpful, and professional, but embodies the vibrant and unconventional virtues of Hollard. She has set the standard for innovation in the industry.
The timing of Araba’s launch – in June – is the greatest proof of the foresight and temerity of Hollard, as the future had been rightly forecasted and appropriate measures taken to prepare accordingly for it. Araba is currently hosted on WhatsApp, with plans of expansion onto other platforms. Users simply save her number, 0242 426 412 and message her on WhatsApp to access her services.
The launch of Hollard Ghana’s chatbot was greeted with much enthusiasm and quite rightly so. With Hollard ChatInsure, renters and homeowners can initiate subscriptions, premium payments and other services on Hollard’s Home and Home Contents insurance product. They can initiate, process, pay and receive policy documents on WhatsApp covering burglary, fire and allied perils to their possessions and physical building structure.
Surely, it comes as no coincidence that Hollard’s pioneering product ‘Hollard ChatInsure’ and its chatbot, Araba Hollard, won the ‘Product of the Year’ award in the service category, and its Group CEO, Patience Akyianu, was adjudged ‘Marketing Woman of the Year’ at the recently-held Ghana Insurance Awards and the CIMG Annual Marketing Awards, respectively.
A Chatbot is a computer programme that mimics the pattern of conversation between human beings, typically done over the internet. It is an emerging field of technology that draws heavily from the work done in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Whilst it is not a recent innovation, the adoption of Chatbots has coincided with the widespread adoption of technology, especially in the financial sector, to expand reach and simultaneously save on time and other resources.
This has been aided in no small way by the relatively lowered cost of data and smartphone prices with some 16.7 million unique mobile subscribers, 15.1 million smartphone devices and 10.7 million mobile internet users in Ghana as of the third quarter of 2019, according to a Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) report.
Chatbots, which have been described as ‘the new voice in consumer communication’, are revolutionising the art of customer service by seamlessly assisting customers – new or old – oftentimes without the need for a customer service agent on the other end. Chatbots leverage on the repetitive nature of enquiries and processes to provide customers with a more robust and satisfactory experience with the most polite, round-the-clock consultations but personal assistance services.
Business relations have become more interactive resulting in an increasing need to keep up communication with customers. The range of interactions varies but they typically hover around addressing customers’ complaints as well as providing information to customers. The motivation for chatbots like Araba and their mode of promotion is to meet the needs of an increasingly virtual world.
This had largely remained the duty of customer care units which were often heavy on personnel and corresponding remunerations. With the advent of interactive chatbots, firms have begun ‘out-sourcing’ some of these functions to Chatbots.
This not only helps in saving costs, but it also helps in enriching the customer support experience on the platform. Chatbots can provide professional and incisive services that remove some of the obstacles customers encounter when interacting with a firm through the use of their products or with customer service persons.
The capabilities that chatbots bring to business operations go beyond just engaging in conversations. They gather tons of information from their interaction with clients, helping firms understand the preferences and needs of their market. Businesses can then develop bespoke products and services for their clients using the data gleaned by the chatbots.
This also helps with targeted marketing and advertising as firms can now target a group of clients with products tailored to their specific needs and preferences. Clients also experience better customer care experience with the use of bots as they get real-time responses on their queries. The frustrating and annoying wait customers experience when using customer care agents can also be cut out with chatbot’s real-time responses to inquiries.
Araba does not exist in a vacuum. The chatbot forms a long line of industry-leading innovations by Hollard. It is demonstrating the insurer’s resolve to tackle the subject of financial inclusion in the country by ensuring that insurance services are available to Ghanaians in whatever sphere of endeavor on as many customer channels as possible.
Hollard has pledged to continue to drive public education and discourse on insurance and related matters as well as push for industry and sector-wide digitization drives and legislation. Whilst these are lofty aspirations, Hollard Ghana’s track record offers reason for much optimism that they will deliver on their promises.