Startup founder shows ‘here’s how insurtech can be the agent’s friend.’
How do your customers feel when they call for service – and they’re put on hold? By you or their carrier. Joseph D’Souza tells the story of what happened when an insurance provider put him on hold. And he waited… And waited… And waited… Before he said, ‘Enough is enough!’
Then, he did something about it. Joseph created a ‘chat assistant’ – a bot that delivers customer service for independent insurance agencies. (And, it’s probably talking to someone’s insurance customer right now).
Join this fascinating conversation between Michael Jans and the founder of ProNavigator. An agent-friendly insurtech that promises a predictably great customer experience. Every time.
Joseph shares his insights on:
- The dramatic shift in the balance of power… so the customer ‘has it all.’ Joseph shares his insights on what agents need to do to stay relevant in this Modern Age of Insurance.
- The surprising way that bots help deepen relationships, not the other way around.
- How the emergence of new technologies—including artificial intelligence—is completely changing the game for the Modern Insurance Agency.
Please don’t miss this conversation with one of the insurance industry’s leading innovators.
What are other agents & brokers doing to thrive? What are the biggest trends affecting the retail insurance agent & broker? What are the most important strategies and tactics you need to grow faster? Find out here in the Connected Insurance Podcast, where Michael Jans discusses the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent and broker with the industry’s leading figures.
One More Thing! What do you think? How will you and your peers use this to grow your agency or brokerage? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, subscribe to get updates delivered to you and *please share this if you found it informative
Michael Jans: Joseph D’Souza, thanks so much for joining us. How are you?
Joseph D’Souza: I’m really great. Thanks a lot, Michael.
Michael: All right. You hold kind of an interesting role in the industry in that you are clearly deep in it, fully invested in this industry, attempting to make it better and yet a relative newcomer to the industry. Part of what I want to get out of this conversation with you is something of your perspective. You still have that fresh perspective. You can probably still see the ocean without being in the water, right? Those of us, and I could include myself, been at it for 25 years, sometimes we got to step up and look. That’s what I’m looking for from you. It’s like, let’s gain a little bit of that perspective.
Before I start asking you the hard questions, I’ll ask you the easy one, the softball. A little bit about yourself, in part because I think that your background is fascinating.
Joseph: Yes, for sure. Interesting background, I’m from Goa in India, which is a very small Portuguese colony on the west coast of India. The culture is very similar to Portugal, dialects, food. I ended up running and building an event company there, working with a lot of the big hospitality brands in Mumbai and Puna. I emigrated to Canada in 2012. My kids were getting older and I thought that this would be the best place. My wife is from Canada so moved back to here.
One of my best friends has been in the insurance industry for his whole career. We started talking about some of the challenges that are in the industry coming from his perspective as well as me from my background operations and technology. I remember kind of a trigger event where I had received my policy renewal and I called my carrier. This was my former insurance carrier at the time, and had a question that I was looking for an answer to. I remember being kept on hold for an hour and 35 minutes.
Michael: Oh, come on.
Joseph: I took a screenshot and I still have it on my phone today.
Michael: Feel free to forward that to me. I definitely would like to blog about that.
Joseph: Yes, I’ll have to fuzz out the number so as not to call anyone out, but so an hour and 35 minutes. I have a screenshot I carry with me every day. I just asked myself, “Why does such an important, impactful sector still rely on decades-old technology when it comes to the customer experience?”
Michael: Hang on. Pause for a second. When you say decades-old technology, which technology are you talking about?
Joseph: The ability to, when a customer needs an answer to a question, be able to get that information in a way where I don’t have to call in and wait for hours.
Michael: The decades-old technology you’re talking about is, pick up the phone and call.
Joseph: Yes, I had to pick up the phone and call, number one. Number two, when I do call, I have to authenticate. It takes a while to know who I am, pull up your systems because they’re working in so many different systems. If I’m coming in from a different channel, if I’m emailing or chat, sometimes the view of the customer is different. You’re working with so many different systems. Just an easy way for me to get information of what I need without me having to go through that RDS process. I remember thinking like, there’s got to be a better way.
Michael: Were you comparing that to other experiences you’ve had in other industries?
Joseph: Well, Uber promises a car is going to arrive in three minutes and it does, right? Consumers like myself, why can’t we get this kind of predictably great experience when it comes to our insurance? I remember my friend who ended up being my co-founder at the time warned me, “Hey, if you fall into insurance, you’re never going to leave.” I think that’s very true. You get into the insurance industry–
Michael: Jeepers, is that what happened to me 25 years ago?
Joseph: But I love it like, it’s some of the best people. I’ve met friends, colleagues, just really good people and intentions are good. It’s just professionals that are–
Michael: I think you’re getting to the heart of the issue. When I was looking at getting into the industry and thinking about accepting a position in the industry, I did reach out to some colleagues in the industry. One of the things they said was, “You’re going to love it because it’s a relationship business.”
Like you just said, they’re really great people and the intentions are good, okay, but now, I want to circle that back to your original story and that whole metaphor. One way, maybe an old-school way that people think, oh, relationships means it’s people talking to people. It’s not people talking to machines or machines talking to people. Let me throw that one at you. How do we deal with that potential conflict between the strength of this channel particularly being a relationship business, and the utilization of technologies which are not person to person?
Joseph: With the rise of artificial intelligence in learning and automation, that question keeps coming up to the forefront. Will machines replace that? Will machines take away our jobs? Will machines replace that relationship I have with that person? From our point of view, and many, many insurtechs that are in the space, it’s all about freeing us up as individuals so that we can spend more quality time, we can be there when it really matters, we’re not having to answer repetitive questions like what are your hours, or where do I go to find this, which are just frankly unnecessary conversations to have, so that you as an agent can actually have time to spend in relationships and in things where it really matters. I don’t need to speak with a human person just to find that information when I can get it self-serve.
Michael: Yes, it isn’t necessarily stuff that makes relationships deeper. I knew that that was a softball question to you because I had to bat that question, like, a million times when I was CEO of Agency Revolution. One of the issues we dealt with some of the old-schoolers was, we’re a real relationship agency. That means in the old-school way of thinking, it’s about phone calls and whatever, showing up at the chamber and the Kiwanis and that, and the face-to-face meetings, and so on and so forth.
Not everybody was ready to accept the fact that there are ways to deliver real value, a real sense of delight, a great meeting and without doing it just on a technology known as the phone or face-to-face. There are other technologies that can deliver that stuff, and that does strengthen relationships and can deepen relationships. In your case, the Agency Revolution technology really was designed fundamentally to strengthen and deepen existing relationships. Yours, some of that and some of it is used for lead generation or at least the facilitation of lead generation.
Joseph: Yes, absolutely.
Michael: Clearly, you don’t want to weaken relationship, you want to strengthen relationship, but not every phone call strengthens. In fact, there’s a survey that I call on from time to time from Mblox. It said that 84% of insurance consumers don’t want to hear from their insurance provider on an inbound phone call. The phone’s not the magic that sometimes people think it is, and it’s clearly a very expensive methodology to communicate certain kinds of communication. I’m going to get off my soapbox and let you get back on yours.
Joseph: I want my agent to help me manage risk and protect my assets. I don’t want to necessarily find out where do I need to go to pay this bill when I want to pay it on a Saturday at 5:00 PM. I want to be able to just go and get it done or ask Alexa or just do it in an automated way. It’s interesting because our virtual assistants, and we’ll jump into that technology, some of our clients have customized the assistants to be an actual digital member of their team.
If you go to their team page, you’ve got all your insurance agents. Then you have your virtual assistant, and she’s here to help answer common and consistent questions. Then if she can’t answer anything, she’s going to transfer it over to us and we’re going to help you out. This is just one way of us providing better service to you 24/7, on your schedule, on your demand, when you want it, when it’s convenient.
Michael: Do they give her or him a name?
Joseph: Yes, absolutely, but saying that it’s a virtual assistant, we’re not trying to disguise it as being [crosstalk].
Michael: No, I think that’s part of it. It makes it fun, especially if they’re being totally transparent about it.
Joseph: Absolutely. We’re all for that. It’s really human plus AI or human plus machine learning, working together to provide a better on-demand experience in this world we’re living in, trying to create that frictionless buying experience, because customers have all the power today. We’re moving towards infinite supply and options, and the buyers, meaning all of us, have all the power, all the decision-making in the world. We have to provide not only the policies and products, but how we’re selling, how we’re marketing, how do we provide the best customer experience possible that operates in a way that consumers are demanding today.
Michael: All right. You made a comment. That comment is too big to pass over, because I think we could argue that it’s perhaps a game-changer, that it’s a phase change, that everything is different from some point in probably the last 10 years or so. You said customers have all the power now. I think if we went back in time, we would probably discover that in this industry, customers were not that powerful.
They were largely confused, that what happened inside the industry was mystifying, difficult to understand, sometimes frustrating, and often not loved. The experts, like doctors, and it could easily be argued doctors where they have a lot of power in the relationship now, but I think a lot of insurance agents would say, “Gosh, you’re right. Consumers have a lot more choices, and we really need to validate us as a choice in their mind and their heart.” What do you think? Is it the digital communications and the internet that makes you say that? What validates your observation that customers have the power now?
Joseph: It’s a combination of things. We’ll start with just generally the shift in the world that’s happening between companies who own the supply, who used to have all the value in the world. Now those that own the demand have the value. The cabs, as an example, they used to own the supply and they were valuable, but now Uber and Lyft own the demand. Airbnb and the Marriotts and the Walmarts and the Amazons, and if you go down the list of the shifts happening between those who used to own the supply to now where the demand is.
You look at the insurance industry and you’ve got the Directs coming out with their on-demand pricing and buying. You’ve got the Lemonades of this world, and you have those shifts of consumers saying, “Hey, well, I could go there and just get it from my phone in 30 seconds. Why do I need you?” I think that’s part of where we are today with some of the things that are repetitive and consistent, can they be done in a faster, better way, but freeing up agents to deal with things that are more complex, and the risk and the advice and the choice.
That’s what agencies are spending their time on, not the repetitive, “Hey, what’s this going to cost me? Here’s an estimate of your–” They have to go through and say, “Okay, let’s start with your name. Now let’s get your zip code.” Do they need to do that? Can a system help you get that information at your fingertips when you want it, and then say, “Great, let’s get an agent on the phone to talk through the risk and the options and choices that you have now.”
Some of our clients, as an example, one of our clients works in the film industry, in the photography industry. Their work time and their schedule when they’re open is very different from when their buyer is looking for insurance because these guys are working on weekends and part-time, and they’ve got other jobs, and they want to get a rate and figure out, “Is this an option?” Can a virtual assistant be there 24/7 to help give them prices, understand, ask questions, and then when they need help, then, “Great, here’s an agent. We’ll get you on the phone and give you the different options.”
Michael: Okay. In a moment, I want to dive into what a virtual assistant can do, what it can’t do, what its limits are, and what its capabilities are. First up, I want to look at that or get your insights on consumer sentiment about artificial intelligence. I’m going to start with an anecdote from my own life, from probably in the last quarter or two. I was in the middle of a project, and boom, I realized that I needed to call, I think it was my bank. I just needed the answer to a very, very simple question, and I was just hoping I could punch in my digits and get it.
Instead, I couldn’t do it that way so they transferred me to an associate. I remember very quickly thinking, “Oh, no. Darn, now I need to talk to a person.” My thought was, “I know it’s going to take three or four times as long, and we need to go through this, a little bit of a silly social dance where he or she pretends that they’re going to build rapport with me, and then I’ve got to answer some questions out loud, and yadda, yadda, yadda.”
When I was done, I felt a little bit guilty because I was thinking, “Wait a minute, I like people. Why didn’t I want to talk to that person?” It’s because at that point in time, for that category, that relatively simple classification of information, I wanted speed. Maybe I was paying more and more attention to what chatbots were doing, what their capabilities were, and in this case, I thought I’d rather have a conversation with a machine than a person. That’s my anecdote on that. Now, what I’m curious about is how do other people feel about it? What is the artificial intelligence industry discovering about what human sentiment is about those relationships?
Joseph: Just to your point, speed, speed and convenience are king. Companies that can save you time are going to win.
Michael: Now, that being said, are you open to a conversation about that? Because in some ways, there are other values too. I think the independent agency channel, in general, we’re not that good at speed, even when we speed up, but we excel at certain other values like delivering peace of mind, delivering confidence. What I’m throwing into the mix is that there are other values. Speed is one of them. Fair enough? Okay. [chuckles]
Frankly, I don’t think this channel is built for speed. I think it’s built for wisdom or expertise and knowledge. Other channels are more built for speed. I think if we don’t pay attention to it and try to travel at the pace of the world, then we’re going to frustrate those people who really do want to find value in the independent agency channel. Boom. That’s my second sermon of the day. I’ll get off that soapbox. [chuckles]
How does the consumer base respond to chatbots and artificial intelligence communications, and has that changed over time?
Joseph: I always thought initially when we first started the company, how would consumers react, and we went with the approach that be very upfront that this is a virtual assistant or a chatbot. The interesting thing is we noticed when we went live, like the very first time we were monitoring, seeing how things were going, at the end of the conversation, people would say thank you. “Thanks for your help” or “I appreciate that.” I was so fascinated by this because if you think about it, when’s the last time we said thank you to an app on our phone for showing us the weather or thank you to Microsoft Word for-
Michael: Generally not. However, the other day, I did say thank you to my Google Home. I said, “Okay, set a timer for two minutes,” because I was doing some exercises, and when it’s done, I said, “Okay, Google, thank you.” She said something like, “That’s a delightful way to respond.”
Joseph: Yes, because language and communication are just so ingrained in you as human beings, that by humanizing technology in this conversational way, I think we have a real opportunity to re-imagine how we connect with our customers.
Michael: I got a question for you. Do you think those people who said thank you, did they think they were in conversation with a human or did they know they were in conversation with AI?
Joseph: That’s why I preface it by saying, being very clear, that it was a virtual assistant and a chatbot. All of our product, it’s– Well, again, within reason, but like you said, you say thank you to Google Home and Siri and Alexa, and these devices are just becoming more and more mainstream. We’re being conditioned to, if we need something, ask Google. Say, “Hey, Google,” or ask Alexa.
As we start to do this more and more, and you think about this voice worlds, which is where we’re playing in as well, how important is it to make sure that our brand shows up in that world in a way that we’re comfortable with, we’re interacting every day in our homes? What does that technology look like for insurance agencies to bring in that world? Just the convenience of voice integrated into our cars. You think about podcasts. Podcasts have exploded because I can passively listen or talk while I’m doing something else. I’m not doing that now. Alexa is already being integrated into our cars. Could our brand show up in that world? What does that look like?
Michael: All right. I do have one more question before I want to dive into the specifics of it, in how your solution is engaging agencies and engaging insurance consumers. I’m going to assume that the development, that the maturity of artificial intelligence, it probably has a trend line like Moore’s Law, that its capacity does not and is not going to proceed in a straight line. It’ll be a curvilinear trend line that’s going to, at some point, there’ll be an inflection point, and it’s going to look like it’s really going up. Am I making sense?
Again, around the Google Home, people sometimes they’ll notice or they get frustrated because it can’t do this or can’t do that. My sense is, give it six months and it’ll probably do that, and give it 12 or 18 months and you’ll probably be scared about what it can do.
Joseph: I read that Amazon has, I think, 1,500 developers working on Alexa.
Michael: Oh, no.
Joseph: So yes. I’m sure some of the things that weren’t there– We’ve seen it.
Michael: Plus Alexa is working on Alexa. [laughs]
Joseph: Exactly, yes.
Michael: Is that pretty much the case that as an industry– I don’t know how old artificial intelligence is, but it seems relatively young. It seems like now it’s relatively ubiquitous. I can’t help but think that like most things in the digital world, its growth and its capacity kind of does that doubling every 12 or 18 months.
Joseph: The algorithms and some of that technology has been around for a long time, but has only really been able to see good results in recent years because of the decreased cost in computer power and the increase in data to train these models. Now, new algorithms have come out, but really, the reason why we’ve seen such an uptake in the usage of AI and machine learning is the fact that computer power is just cheaper now to run it and they’ve got the data to train it. Because we’re 100% in the insurance vertical, that’s all we do, we don’t do any other industries, the value is in the way you train these models, and how you train them on specific information for that vertical. Whereas we’re not trying to build the Siri for everything. We’re trying to build a Siri for insurance, where the language of insurance, the complexity of insurance is specific for the industry.
Michael: Well, let’s dive into it. Tell me what ProNavigator, what it can do, and where you think it’s going?
Joseph: Just off the bat, the core technology, which is a subset of AI, is called natural language processing. What natural language processing does is when I say a phrase, just an example, “Hello,” we know the intention of that phrase is greeting. We essentially built this all in-house. We’re not relying on any third-party. We have our in-house natural language processing proprietary platform.
We train this on hundreds of thousands of insurance-specific conversations because it matters, because off-the-shelf NLP, natural language processing, system performs poorly when parsing insurance information because they’re trained on general E-commerce, finance, healthcare, or just news articles or the web. It doesn’t understand the complexities of insurance.
Michael: You could buy an NLP package off-the-shelf and plug it in?
Joseph: Typically, you’re leveraging a third-party-
Michael: Okay, interesting.
Joseph: -you’re licensing that and trying to train the model.
Michael: All right, didn’t know. Okay, got it. You’re building yours in this environment only?
Joseph: Yes. We’ve spent extensive resources, development time, designed to train it specifically for, not just insurance in general, you’ve got PNC, you’ve life, you’ve got health, you’ve got benefits. Then within the insurance, you’ve got sales, service, underwriting claims. Each of these models can process structured and unstructured information. Structured information is, we’re pulling from a specific database and it’s categorized and tagged.
Unstructured is, “Hey, my name is Joseph. I live in Toronto. I’ve got a Honda Pilot. How much is that going to cost?” [chuckles] That phrase, I already know, okay, you’re trying to get an auto insurance quote. Without me implying and even saying that phrase, we know what you’re trying to do, we know your name, we know your location, we know the vehicle type. That’s so important in the way that we fine-tune these models specifically for– even abbreviations, “Hey, I need a– What is CGL? I’m looking for CGL insurance.” “Commercial general liability, here’s how it goes.”
That’s super important and the fact that we’re 100% focused on the insurance domain means an improved system with far less effort and expense, than if you had to go out and try and license data or build it yourself. Clients can leverage that knowledge base and understanding to power their virtual assistants much faster and cheaper.
Michael: Real quick question. I’ve been on your online chatbot, on one of your clients. I’m not aware if you have a voicebot.
Joseph: To answer that question, we’ve done Google Home and Alexa as integration, so we’re using those as speech-to-text translators. You save some because they’re great at cancelling out noise and accents and all of that. We convert the speech to text, and then that text hits our core back-end system and returns back an answer. Then that same smart home device will take the text and-
Michael: Fascinating use of technologies.
Joseph: We are building out the capabilities where you actually described that example earlier in the call was calling a number. If you’re speaking with a automated virtual assistant, essentially, a smarter IVR, where you can have a conversation.
Michael: I think at this point, we always know that we’re in conversation with a bot if it’s a bot, right? Not online, I get it online sometimes it just, who knows, but voice?
Joseph: I don’t know if you saw that Google Duplex video where they were– if you haven’t, I would recommend you watch it because it just blows your mind. They actually had a robot make a call for a reservation at a restaurant. They made it sound so human-like. There was a bit of perhaps a negative and positive. What are the ethics around this? Should you always say that it is a machine? I think you should. That’s our personal opinion. The voice sounded so real. It had, “Uh-huh,” and these pitches and pauses that you thought, “Which one was the human? Which one was the machine?” That technology is coming.
Michael: What’s that called? What’s that video?
Joseph: Google Duplex. I think you just google Google Duplex and you get a demo. This was last year. It’s pretty, pretty interesting, pretty fascinating to see how human-like it’s becoming. I always recommend it.
Michael: You’re going to have to face that one squarely in the future, but right now your MO is full transparency, right?
Joseph: For sure. Our system can’t– you go and start talking about the weather or the who won, what’s the Super Bowl score, it’s not going to know that. It’s trained for a specific task.
Michael: Ask about the weather, what does it say? “I can’t help you with that, but let me transfer you to an agent.”
Joseph: Exactly. I’m here to help you. You’re coming here to get help with a specific question or a task or quote. That’s what it’s designed to do. We’re not trying to build general conversational, entertainment-type systems. It’s specific insurance. To answer your question, the voice is super important because as we build these platforms, you want to have those channels learn from each other. Conversations in one channel can train and improve the models on the other channel. Otherwise, these systems start to move apart. You’ve got one system here and you’ve got another system there. It’s important that it’s an omni-unified channel.
Voice is coming soon, integration into your numbers, but we’re ready in Google Home, Alexa, website chat, Facebook Messenger, text message. Those are the core of how that works.
Michael: How are your most engaged clients using the bot?
Joseph: Our first product was focusing on questions and answers, typical service requests and sales. That’s what the consumer facing version to assist customers the minute they land on their website. They’re not greeted with a static web form. They’re greeted with an interactive conversational experience where they can ask questions, they can get quotes, they can find out where do I go for this, what do I do for this? That’s been our core product that’s been in the market for just under three years.
We’ve started to build out, or let’s phrase it this way. We started to get more and more requests from our agencies saying, “This is fantastic technology. Why can’t we have and leverage something like this for our internal teams? Why can’t we provide the technology for our team members to get quick information so that they can serve customers and clients better and faster?”
Michael: Give me an example of that.
Joseph: Billing questions of different carriers and insurers that they work with.
Michael: Let’s say a customer called and I didn’t have the answer. I could check with our bot really quickly, right?
Joseph: Exactly. A workplace assistant for… Which carrier is going to write three lines of home insurance on someone who’s got three lines of credit or what’s the billing policy, what is your NFS policies for-
Michael: Rather than, “Oh, great question. Let me get back to you about that,” and then trading phone calls, it’s, “Hang on just a moment. Let me ask my bot.”
Joseph: Yes. You’re just searching through multiple portals and you’re Control+F on PDFs and trying to look at folders and files to get the information you need, whereas could you have an assistant that’s there to assist your team members so that they’re able to provide a faster, quicker response from your knowledge base. We’re essentially conversationalizing your internal logic and knowledge bases to better drive, ultimately, a better customer experience but provide the tools for your teams to be on the same page, same answers, giving them the tools they need to succeed.
Michael: Another question, if you’ve got the data on this. Are you discovering– Is the bot actually able to resolve some customer questions completely on its own or gather information that then needs to be passed on to an agent?
Joseph: For some use cases, upwards of 50% of inquiries, it’s able to handle. That does depend on the verticals and the use cases but in certain areas, we’re able to do full integrated coding where we can actually pull the rates from the carrier, then you can go through the process and get a rate and then speak with an agent to bind it.
Michael: You’ve got some integrations like that, right?
Michael: With some agency management systems or raters?
Joseph: Exactly. Comparative raters. Yes, comparative raters. A lot of questions like, “Who do I contact for this?” or, “Where do I go to pay this bill?” or, “Who’s your provider with? Here’s a link to go do it.” We’re able to resolve a lot of customer inquiries that are common and consistent and I would say even maybe low value for your agents to your customers. That’s really the value again, freeing up your agents to do things of higher value.
Michael: Let’s look at the future. In the next three years, and I know making predictions about the future can be a fool’s game and where technology’s involved, it’s often multiplied as a fool’s game, but nonetheless, nobody’s going to hold you accountable to this. Where do you think these technologies and this technology is going in the next three or so years?
Joseph: Well, for us specifically, for ProNavigator, it’s building out more functionality in that voice world because I think that’s going to continue to be a channel that is widely used. A very famous AI researcher in the field said, “If you think about anything that you can think of as a human that you process in a second or two seconds and you start to put some of those processes together, so two seconds here, two seconds here, two seconds here, that’s a very good use case of what a machine could do.”
When you look at your daily life and you look at your work life and you start to think of there’s so many of those things that I think about in a second or two and I start to link them together, that becomes a process that maybe a machine could do and start to automate and start to free up more of my time. You’ve got things like robotic process automation, which they call RPA, or natural language processing on the consumer-facing side but that’s, I think, the world we live in where we can just have these workplace assistants to take care of a lot of these menial tasks. We’ve got automation on chat and voice. We have much more time on our hands for risk and advice and relationships.
For us, for ProNavigator, it’s really in that voice world and building up more functionality in the workplace or assisting your team members. As a whole, things are moving fairly quickly in the insurance industry. There’s a lot of things that are changing, there’s a lot of things that aren’t changing. A connected world where these systems are able to talk to each other and these systems are able to communicate and data can pass from one place to another seamlessly without me having to manually double entry and reenter here. To me, that’s three years from now. Carriers are opening up their APIs-
Michael: Well, do you think at some point– Let’s say I called my agent or chatted online and I only spoke with the bot. Do you think at some point that the essence of that conversation or my request might get uploaded into my file in the Agency Management system? Is that a future possibility?
Joseph: Why not? The only thing that’s stopping us today is the API.
Michael: Somehow, I’d have to be identified, right?
Joseph: Sure, but you can assess it. With Alexa and Google Home, we already know a lot of things, from when you setup your house-
Michael: I don’t even want to know what they know.
Joseph: Well, they don’t give access to everyone but we can already know your location, your name. When you’re talking to Alexa, we’ll say, “Can we pull your information from your device to know who you are?” The person could say yes or no. If they say yes then we can pull a few pieces of information: name, location, phone number. Then we may want to request one or two more pieces of information to authenticate who you are.
You have an account that you set up when you set up your Alexa Google Home and if you authorize it, then we’re able to pull some of that information. If you think about this, like you take a thing like, “What is the status of my claim?” It sounds like such a simple request but it goes all the way through, not just your agents, your carrier, but then even the body repair shop. It’s their job to make sure that it’s updated accurately and on time so that can go through the entire system. When you think about all these places where there’s a human touch or a manual entry, why couldn’t that be automated?
Why couldn’t the body shop have an Alexa device in their workshop and they just say, “Vehicle number dah dah dah dah dah, status is in repair.” That goes right through the system all the way out and a text message goes out to the customer telling them exactly what the status is of their vehicle in real-time. Why not? That to me is what the future looks like in three to five years, is the ability for these systems to talk to each other and the ability for us to be able to update information in real-time because I do not want to spend another hour and 35 minutes on hold.
Michael: I suspect you don’t. One last question before I ask you how people can find out more about you and ProNavigator. Given what you’ve said, you said yourself something about the speed of change. Given that, with all the change that’s happening in the industry and the world right now, if you were going to issue an exhortation, a message to the independent agency force, what would you exhort them to do?
Joseph: I think it’s nothing that they haven’t heard before.
Michael: [chuckles] They may have heard it 101 times on this podcast, but we’re still going to keep saying it.
Joseph: In that world where customers have all the choice, in that world where I get this on-demand experience from every other industry, if a competitor offers that same service, the same advice, how are you going to remain relevant? The way we see ourselves is, “You’re the heroes. You’re out competing in this world as agency owners. We’re just here to give you the tools that you need to compete in this new world, right?”
Michael: Very good.
Joseph: We’re like Obi-Wan Kenobi and you’re Luke Skywalker. You’re the heroes, right? You’re going out and trying to figure out how to run your business and be able to do that in the most efficient way. We’re just here to give you the tools you need to go out and succeed. Change is– It’s not coming, it’s here. The landscape has changed, the competitive landscape, the customer demand and expectations have changed and are here. The millennials have grown up and they’re the ones that are buying and they’re used to this world now. It’s not us. There’s a lot of insurtechs. There’s a lot of technology out there that you could build or buy or use or partner with to provide that experience.
Listening to podcasts like these and attending events, that’s a great way to learn and know what’s out there. Learn from other agents that are doing [Crosstalk]
Michael: That are doing it.
Michael: All right. Joseph, if anybody listening wants to find out more about the company ProNavigator or somehow wants to make contact with you or the company, how do you want them to do that?
Joseph: Our website’s the best place, https://pronavigator.ai. That’s one word, pro, P-R-O-N-A-V-I-G-A-T-O-R.
Michael: I have a question for you. If they got on https://pronavigator.ai, are they going to encounter a bot?
Joseph: This is a great question that I love to hear. It’s the perfect place.
Michael: Maybe the only bot you’ve got is trained to answer insurance questions.
Joseph: That’s exactly my point, because it’s taken us years of development to build a version for insurance. People always ask us, “Well, why isn’t there a bot to help sell your product?” I’m like, “We could, but we’d rather spend the time building out insurance-specific ones instead of selling a software.” We’ve had a live chat up there for a while and the new site has just gone up so we’re yet to put the new live chat up there as well, but https://pronavigator.ai is the best place to contact us. Our team would reach out or you can find me on LinkedIn and reach out to me as well.
Michael: Got it. All right, Joseph, this has been illuminating and fun. I really, really appreciate you spending time.
Joseph: Thanks. You have been a great host and I enjoyed the conversation and I look forward to keeping in touch and maybe coming on in the future.
Michael: Love to. All right. Thanks so much.
Joseph: All right. Take care. Bye.