Travel insurer launches AI chatbot in preparation of post-COVID-19 travel recovery

Wednesday , 3 November 2021 by Alaina McGregor

Southern Cross Travel Insurance (Southern Cross) has launched a conversational AI chatbot in preparation for a post-COVID-19 rebound in tourism and subsequent increase in travel bookings.

Southern Cross’ new digital ‘employee’, a kea named Scout, will support the travel insurer’s Claims and Contact Centre teams by automating high volume, but straightforward, enquiries such as how to get a quote, find out the status of a claim, how to upload supporting documents, and where to access policy information.

Designed by Ambit, Scout will provide better functionality and customer experience for Southern Cross customers needing less assistance with those kinds of questions. Available 24/7, Scout also has an option for customers to chat live with the Claims and Contact Centre teams during business hours.

As the travel insurer operates in both New Zealand and Australia, Scout has been designed to have slightly different personality characteristics for each market to help optimise the user experience, based on the unique cultures of each country.

Wayne Carter-Stuart, Head of Operations for Southern Cross, said, “Investing in conversational AI is another way that we’re digitising our business to offer more ways for customers to access timely information.”

Having the ability to provide 24/7 support via Scout is particularly important for customers travelling overseas, who are often in different time zones.

“In anticipation of the borders reopening and international travel resuming, we’re expecting an increased in customer enquiries, and Scout will support us in scaling back up our customer response,” added Carter-Stuart.

“Scout will also help free up Southern Cross’ front-line teams to respond to more complex enquiries, and reduce the need for customers to call or email with straightforward questions. In time, we anticipate that Scout will handle up to 20 per cent of customer enquiries, and this will increase as its machine learning evolves,” he said.

Ambit’s ‘no code’ platform means Southern Cross can easily configure and develop this new digital channel. The platform also provides in-depth reporting to show the breath of questions that customers are asking, enabling the business to create new conversations which answer a wider range of topics.

Carter-Stuart says Southern Cross canvassed teams across the business to choose a name for its new digital team member.

“Scout was chosen after an internal competition and we like the double meaning. As a noun, it means someone who is sent ahead to obtain information, and as a verb, it means to observe or explore in search of something.

“For a chatbot that helps our customers source the information they need, without the need to email or call, we thought the name was quite apt. For the avatar, we chose a kea, because while we operate on both sides of the Tasman, it’s a nod to our New Zealand roots. The kea is known for being playful and clever which are personality traits that translate well here and in Australia.

“We want to reassure our customers that their digital experience and interaction with Scout will always be an extension of the high-quality service people have come to expect when dealing directly with any of our team here at Southern Cross,” he said.

Melisa Shore, New Zealand Sales Lead at Ambit, said, “We are excited that conversational AI is part of the recovery strategy for the tourism industry and that Scout can convey the brand personality of such a well-known and respected name in travel like Southern Cross.”