Podcast | How to reduce abandonment rates when transforming a complex process to self-service over WhatsApp?

Jean
Shin

Director, Strategy & Content | Podcast Host of Mobile Interactions Now

22min Podcast
José Horta, Co-founder & Chief Innovation Officer at SimpleTECH

In this episode, we continue our conversation with José Horta, Co-founder & Chief Innovation Officer at SimpleTECH. Delving into the journey design and conversation flows, José sheds some light on the tradeoffs companies have to make when transforming a complex process with user centricity as the primary value.

Podcast transcript

Jean:

Jose, welcome back to the show. In our previous episode, we touched on some cases where automation triggered a completely different experience for the users, using insurance claims processing as an example. And looked at some promising developments outside that category that might bring about a broader adoption. But we looked at it primarily from the customer's point of view, and I will love us to get deeper into the business side of it, the typical and not so typical problems you end up solving for them.

So when you start strategizing with your clients how to tackle related issues, anything that really surprised you surprised with on the way to automation?

 

José:

We talk about AI and all these magic technologies that we can... all the things that we... the promises of technology. And then you go to the companies themselves and how they handle their processes, and the amount of things they do manually, or the lack of systems or systems integrations and things like this.

For example, you look at UiPath, that is the unicorn of process automation and RPA and so on. And one of the value they provide is to integrate to legacy systems, to clique instead of the user. So it's recognizing that companies are kind of behind mostly, in terms of internal processes and solutions, in terms of technology, in terms of what the technology can provide. And then you end up doing technology and you have to kind of adapt to the lack of systems, or the lack of integration within the systems.

So I think that's a major point that we see when we face some companies, that most of them are not prepared for automation. So they don't have maybe the systems or they're not integrated, or they have to build it for you. Kind of, "Ah, build a web service so you can access to this information and these kind of things." Or even we have to kind of, "Ah, you don't have no place where to put that information. Okay, we put it in a Google spreadsheet and the chat we'll do take it from there," these kinds of things.

So sometimes you don't expect companies to be in that situation, but if you look at it from another point of view, there is a huge opportunity. I think anybody can think on their daily jobs, how many things they do manually or repeatedly, or that some bot could be doing this for me?

 

Jean:

Don't ask that question, please.

 

José:

Sure. So I think that there's plenty of opportunity there, and in this case, in this specific use case of insurance claim and so on, there is a manual entry of every information that the people from the call center would receive, and the manual entry, of claim number, where it happened, whatever, plenty of information like this. The person that is going there, the technician would fill a form. Or in this case, they didn't have a form, but a web interface where the user with the tablet would input the information.

But anyway, it's people inputting information. So it's the client transferring information to some operator, this operator putting this information manually in a system, or in a place where then other people would take it and put it on a system. So the process has plenty of spots for adding value with some integration, some simple integrations at first. And at first, what we do is start simple.

 

Jean:

I think you are hitting on a really huge issue. We talked about user friction, and I remember listening to BMW people who are heading their digitalization initiative. And when we say BMW, their digital initiatives, people think about fancy cars, and beautiful dashboard. But guess what? When car companies try to connect their customer experiences, they find they don’t deal with the car buyers directly. You have channels, car dealers, and they don't have any of this. And so their digital initiative usually involves going to the dealerships to channel people, partners, and try to get them on board, somehow connecting necessary components to enable the journey. As a company, the larger it gets, sometimes it gets hairier.

When you're talking about an insurance case, I was like, "Oh my God. I've been there." Especially the property insurance companies, it's really old-fashioned, especially in the US cars and other things have gotten better. But say, your tree comes down at your house, or there's a storm…the whole property insurance mechanism works very slow, still now, they have to send you the right inspector out who is trained, looking at these damages, and then you have to wait for them. Sometimes, it takes days…you have to schedule an appointment and be at home to meet them. It's just nightmare. So I want to hear more about how you tackle the manual process that’s involved in insurance handling.

 

José:

One of the thing is when you have to focus on the user experience, to make the user experience nice and flow, there is kind of a trade off with this pre-established process. So you have to go through some kind of trade-off. Usually when you speak to the company, or for example, in this case, the insurance analyst would say, "I need this information and this information, and this information from the user." I would ask this, this, this, and the order, how they would ask the things, also, it's important.

So the first version, let's say, of the flow, it usually asks a lot of information for the user. It starts asking personal information, plenty of personal information. And the user wants to do something, and you're asking me to do other thing, like to go in a different way. So we had to go through, let's say a redesigning, rethinking, trying to put the user experience also as a primary value of the solution in order for them to adapt their process.

So there's some sort of process adoption or some sacrifice they need to do at some point. Let's say I won't gather all these details. What I have to do then is to use some software. For example, because they want to gather a lot of information in order to avoid fraud, for example. But now, you can connect all the information you gather automatically with fraud detection systems.

So you don't have to send the special technician that knows a lot about this, but you just gather the information automatically. You go with all this information, go through a system that will alert you in case of there is some probability of fraud, and then a technician would enter, analyze this, and if there is any doubt, call the people. Sending on a specific technician to try to detect fraud, maybe it's not the best strategy.

So I think that's one of the things that this trade off between current processes and new solutions that are more focused on the user experience. And the other thing is that the experience while chatting is not the same experience as calling by phone, for example. These kinds of things, the way of communicating through different channels may make the experience different and you may not be able to ask all those questions you want to ask. You may be able only to ask a couple of questions, otherwise the people may abandon the process in the middle, these kinds of things.

So you kind of have to adapt some way, your processes, for example. Another example in insurance, for example, being able to offer the insurance to get a quote through WhatsApp. Usually in the website, you go select solution on the website, you go select the model of the car and the version of the car, and you have hundreds of versions of the car. And you cannot make the user through chat to manage to write the version of the car.

So you have to modify the experience, to adapt it to the user and to the channel where the user is talking to you. You have to be omni-channel, you have to offer the solutions, whatever the channel the customer is selecting. You have to be able to offer a quote, but the way of offering a quote maybe very different. And these have plenty of challenges because you have to offer the same experience or a similar experience through different channels that are completely different. You cannot ask the same questions and then so you have to adapt your processes, and you have to adapt.

Adapting processes in a company or making trade-off with the insurance analyst is not always easy because we are trying to transform a process with people that may be very complex, which is a main challenge. But what's nice, that at the end of the process, when they see the value that it provides, the technology, not only for the users but for themselves. They don't have to load the information manually, or maybe parts of the process, it's easier, or you can get some information that before you couldn't get simultaneous, at the same point in the same time.

But when they see the value the technology may provide, they join your team kind of, and that's a pleasure that, let's say, makes all the pain worth it, all the pain of going through, trying to convince them to accept this technology, and maybe offer a different pricing, because as you say, they user won't select the exact version of the car. So you have to select the pricing that is... I don't know, the average pricing of the car minus of the versions, minus X percent, because you are trying to promote this channel, and these kind of things. So they have to change pricing or change the way they do things. But when they see the results, they're pretty happy with the results. So at the end of the day, I think it's worth it.

And also, I think it's a very important to think... When we talk about these kind of solutions, we usually think about the end customer and you mentioned kind of this on the digital transformation of car manufacturers and so on. But usually, we don't think on the experience of the people that's working behind curtains, kind of. We usually try not only user experience, but enterprise experience.

So while you are building the user experience, what's the experience of the people that is working with that on the other side, with the processes? And also, these possibilities, the platforms that we're building are also very useful for the other side, for the enterprise experience. So for the insurance analysts, so they can query the insurance, which are the insurance. They can also be an improved interface for them.

 

Jean:

I think that's really an under told story about the whole automation and how we are using technology, because we hear mostly about minimizing the number of employees and things in that nature. But it's working in the same way, things they hate doing, technology can give them the opportunity to do without. And on the other side, the staff that has to deliver that experience, for them too, we try to minimize the whole repetitive things they don't necessarily enjoy doing.

Getting a little bit into the technical side, and what happens in the backend a little bit, you talked about how you cannot treat everybody as a fraudster, and try to go through the tedious process of getting the bad actor out, when 85% of your customers are just well-meaning, innocent people who just want to get things done fast. And you have to address this, but you cannot risk too much. So there is the whole fraud prevention component that is kicking in in the backend. It sounds beautiful, but in practice, sometimes they can require a lot of integration, it may fail. What do you see actually happening in terms of a lot of data and systems working together to get this adoption faster?

 

José:

I think you cannot be good at everything, so there is a huge work to be done in terms of integrating other solutions. For example, fraud detection, that's not our expertise, but this company we're working for, [inaudible 00:14:53], they already have a provider for fraud detection that apparently works pretty well. So great, I have to communicate with this sort of provider. They would send me an API. Our system allows you to connect.

They don't even need us. They can go add another integration, feeling the information of the API. What's the API returning? This web service is returning some information, and I use that information. Let's say fraud probability, this person, and if fraud probability is above this amount, then I send them to an agent for example, so they can coordinate for the visit of the technician, whatever.

So I think it's very important to first, to know that if you enter this process of automating and so on, you have to be able to easily integrate with other parties. That's another thing that changed also in the industry. I come from the industry of telco, telecommunications, that used to... everything you need, you had to call them. And there will be some price and you have to add my new phone number, and they have to call you.

Having this information be clear and giving you autonomy, so I don't need hundreds of technicians to be doing a work, but does not provide any added value. So I think this is one of the biggest change that kind of happened in the industry of telcos, of the communications, and giving this autonomy and providing only things that provide extra value really, and not having this vendor lock-in and these kind of things. Having lock-in, but for the service you provide, for the value you provide, not for, because if you need some integration, you have to call me, and these kinds of things.

So this is kind of a main change that we have seen and the integrations are key. So in our case, we're in that process of building this, making these integrations easier, both for us and for our customers, which is not easy because there are plenty of use cases, plenty of possibilities. So giving freedom and control, and at the same time, being sure that things run smoothly, it's not an easy task.

 

Jean:

It's not an easy task. So as a technologist in the field, when you start seeing the changes that is happening and you feel like you're seeing potential of scaling up a lot of these use cases…if you have a wish for what needs to happen in order for you to do that, what would that be?

 

José:

I don't know. I've been doing my PhD. I started working with interoperability in IOT, so I think interoperability is kind of the major wish, but it's something that is very, very hard to achieve in any industry. So you have the standard process that goes a long way. It's kind of slow, it's not for the industry where we're living in.

So you have companies creating ecosystems. Like for example, if you want to connect to my IOT, you go to Alexa world, or you go to Apple world, or you go to Google world. And this is what works at the end. At the end, what works is... Like big companies, for example, as WhatsApp, being able to create these ecosystems of integration, maybe that's something that may be lacking at some point. It's like, okay, you have this API, but helping companies working with... For example, with WhatsApp API, to being able to interact with themselves, with each other in a different way. Like federating these... If you are in my ecosystem, you can easily integrate if you do the APIs like this, or if you do that.

I don't know really, exactly which would be the right way to go. But what I saw in IOT is kind of this kind of thing, this federation of these big actors. And you had some other kind of movements where there were plenty of actors that didn't have the power to create an ecosystem, trying to get together to create an ecosystem. The more successful way to go at the end of the day is to go to ask these big actors, to wait for these big actors to create kind of these ecosystems that would ease the integration among different actors.

What I would expect in the future to accelerate integration with other parties is having this sort of ecosystem with some policies to follow, and connectors and adapters, something like this. Like creating a set of common language that everybody would talk this language and everyone would understand with each other.

 

Jean:

I can see your way of thinking, and I really appreciate you sharing this because I can see how that informs the choices you are making.

Now, before I let you go, I just have one more, and this is kind of nosy question. Would you mind just telling me what three things you do the most on your phone?

 

José:

The first thing, you may think I'm a workaholic or so, but I work a lot on my phone because I use Chatbot platform to chatbot in different social networks and things like this. So I keep a lot of time interacting with the clients' use cases, making them almost showing things. So one of the things I do most is working with the phone. Like for example, we use WhatsApp all the time for work inside the company, for example, or teams or things like this.

So that would be one of the most things I do. Then I don't have that much social networks myself for... I don't keep that much time in social networks, but the other thing I do pretty often is watching videos or listening to music like YouTube and Spotify. I use a little bit Twitter to catch up, to know what's going on, but I don't like my time to be locked in a social network.

 

Jean:

Thank you very much, Jose. With that I look forward to another time, having another discussion on this.

 

José:

That would be a pleasure.