The fast-paced integration of popular text and media messaging service, WhatsApp and financial services is underway. ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company (ICICIPRU) recently partnered with WhatsApp to launch customer services and is the first insurance player in the country with a ‘business verified’ account.
Companies like both general and life insurance arm of Future Generali, Tata AIA Life and Bharti AXA Life insurance amongst others are using WhatsApp to deliver customer services of one form or another.
“We understand that WhatsApp has only recently started approving business accounts. Our direct and formal tie-up with WhatsApp ensures that customer data is secure. We are the only life insurance company in India to have a business verified account,” says Puneet Nanda, Deputy Managing Director at ICICIPRU.
The WhatsApp service will be used only for customers that have registered with ICICIPRU and have given their consent to the service.
While the Future Generali group was one of the first insurers to launch a WhatsApp service in July, Bharti AXA Life Insurance launched a claims’ intimation service on WhatsApp in September this year.
In their pilot study, Future Generali delivered more than 5,200 policies through the WhatsApp platform.
Spokespersons for Future Generali could not be reached for comments.
Vikas Seth, managing director and Chief Executive Officer at Bharti AXA Life told Business Standard, “The medium has become fairly popular and we figured that we could allow customers to scan documents and intimate claims. Therefore, the platform makes it easier for customers to get their claims, through an easier communication channel than physically coming to the branch.”
ICICIPRU launched the WhatsApp service on November 19 and depending on the response from customers, the company plans to open and extend the feature for claims settlement, policy renewal, policy top-up, on-boarding and other transactions.
“Being a life insurance company, the majority of our claims are death claims. So this platform makes it easier for families to reach out to us,” Seth said.
As of now ICICIPRU’s service will be limited to basic customer service requests and will not be used to solicit sales, “We deliberately chose not to use WhatsApp through informal means for official customer communication without an official verified account. We want to use it for relevant and direct customer services and not as an intrusive tool,” says Nanda.
Around 95 per cent of ICICIPRU’s customers service requests are processed digitally, while 74 per cent of servicing requests are closed on a self-help basis by the customers themselves.
“This is the newest channel in addition to email, text messages, chatbot, or call centres,” he said adding that today the digital customer is agnostic in terms of location (Tier I vs Tier 2 and 3) and geography, as it depends on their subjective level of comfort when it comes to using digital platforms or mobile-based apps,” said Nanda.
Informal methods of communication in financial companies have existed for a long time.
Today, employees across financial institutions use WhatsApp not just to talk to each other, but to conduct formal tasks like transmitting pictures of the customer to other staff, verification of identification documents for KYC compliance, in addition to informal communications with the customer itself throughout the sales process.
“As a verified account it will be a secured channel for communication. The WhatsApp feature will be inter-linked to our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system with virtually no human intervention and an Artificial-Intelligence system at the backend will take care of all communications with the customer,” said Nanda
While the informal use of WhatsApp by employees or agents will continue to exist, it is not something that can be controlled by employers.
However, because it is not an official account, financial services companies, like insurers, would need to start looking at how they can use WhatsApp to formalize and regulate specific internal communications, specifically that which is related to official work.