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How American Family Humanizes Online Communication

The insurer has deepened engagement and gained further insight on customers with software from Workface.

Today’s customers anticipate increasingly more personal and efficient insurance transactions through a variety of digital channels. To meet these demands, American Family Insurance facilitates immediate connectivity between customers and agents with software from Workface.

“We are looking toward an omnichannel approach in terms of digital space, connecting our agents as well as care centers,” says Dawn Mortimer, innovation director at American Family. “We want to ensure that all of these touch points are connected.”

The SaaS platform from Workface aims to humanize insurance transactions by providing businesses and customers with peer-to-peer audio, video and texting capabilities through social, mobile and website platforms. The system balances automation with human elements through interactive chats and displaying agents’ photographs alongside their names in windows that appear on insurers’ websites and social media accounts.

“We’re helping these agents to have real-time presence and real-time communications capabilities,” says Workface founder and CTO Lief Larson, who views the future of the Internet as a primarily human experience. “We think the way to do that is to be complementary to the old-fashioned way of meeting customers, which is face-to-face.”

[ In IT, The Business Should Always Be the Winner. ]

The Workface software was recently redesigned to deploy in HTML5 and provide users with faster, simpler transactions. Agents and customers can chat through all Web platforms and mobile browsers without worrying about compatibility issues. Customers can identify their communication preferences and resume previous conversations through old or new channels.

“As customers navigate social environments, they’re reaching out, they’re interacting,” says Larson of the rise in social media activity on the platform.

American Family began its collaboration with Workface in early 2013 to broaden its use of multichannel engagement, which accompanies connectivity and big data as its top three areas of focus. The video chat and online messaging capabilities complement the insurer’s other communications solutions and help form a well-rounded strategy.

Social media is a popular gateway for new customers and a tool for learning more about American Family’s existing client base, Mortimer explains. The insurer is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Pinterest, she says, and each outlet provides insight on customers’ challenges and preferences.

Because Facebook has become the predominant social outlet among agents, American Family first tested Workface on its agents’ accounts. The software alerts customers when agents are online so they can begin chat sessions and have questions answered at their convenience. Potential customers most often use Facebook if they are curious about a product or have a one-time question.

“We had a lot of positive feedback from pilot agents,” says Mortimer. This year, the insurer is building upon the success of its testing phase by adding Workface to its online care centers and agents’ personal web pages. Implementation has been straightforward, she explains, and requires some online agent training and support from the social media team.

With feedback garnered through social media, American Family can leverage the flexibility of Workface’s HTML5 version to adjust their products and better accommodate consumers. For example, clients have embraced text messaging to address immediate needs but are comfortable using email for more long-term interactions.

“I do foresee that we’ll be adding more and more functionality to let people do the activities they want,” says Mortimer. “We’re developing our product to be enabled in responsive design. We want that layout and look to be responsive to the customer’s environment.”

Kelly Sheridan is an associate editor for Insurance & Technology. Prior to joining InformationWeek Financial Services, she was a staff writer for InformationWeek and InformationWeek Education. Kelly has also written for trade publication Promo Marketing and a number of ... View Full Bio

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Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
7/22/2014 | 2:27:35 PM
re: How American Family Humanizes Online Communication
True, it's smart for them to test products to improve their digital strategy. Leif made an interesting point on digital strategy in our discussion, saying that Workface doesn't focus on mobile apps because they are perceived as extra work for the consumer - going to the trouble of downloading the app then using it to communicate with the insurer. Makes me wonder if more insurers will still pursue mobile app development, or whether they'll choose to make their websites better-suited for mobile instead.
KBurger
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KBurger,
User Rank: Author
7/21/2014 | 8:47:44 PM
re: How American Family Humanizes Online Communication
Interesting implementation. Since customer/agent interactions increasingly are taking place (or at least customers desire for them to take place) via digital channels -- as opposed to face to face sitting at the kitchen table -- it makes sense for American Family to try out a tool like this one.
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