Distance is one of the most abiding pain points for life insurers. It is a source of cost, inefficiency, and inconvenience in many life insurance processes, from reaching customers for testing, delivering training to employees and beyond.

This is why the Accenture Technology Vision for Insurance 2018 identifies the growing capabilities of extended reality, or XR, as one of the most influential tech trends in the industry. XR, which refers to both virtual reality and augmented reality tools, is changing the way people connect with information, experiences, and each other. XR is the first technology to ‘relocate’ people in time and space.

And it’s bringing about the end of distance.

Insurance executives widely recognize the potential of XR, with 85 percent of those surveyed in the 2018 Tech Vision reporting that it is important to leverage XR solutions to close the gap of physical distance between employees or customers. Eighty-four percent say it’s important for their organization to be a pioneer in XR solutions—the same proportion that believe XR will create a new foundation for interaction, communication, and information.

Some life insurers have already conducted promising experiments with XR. For example, in 2016, PNB MetLife India launched a VR customer service lab called conVRse. ConVRse brings life insurance customers into a simulated “room” to speak with a virtual assistant. The goal is to provide an immersive, personalized experience to customers through the VR headset, available in 15 PNB MetLife branches across 10 cities. The company claims over 98 percent of the 8,000-plus customers serviced through conVRse described their experience as positive.

Applying XR to train or reskill insurance workers is also increasingly popular. Students and trainers can meet in virtual reality, sharing a learning experience that feels more like classroom training, even if they’re scattered across the globe.

XR can allow insurers to run realistic training simulations that give new life insurance employees hands-on experience of rare work situations. It can also deliver first-hand training in challenging or potentially dangerous situations without real-world risk.

But XR doesn’t only eliminate physical distance. It can also cut the conceptual distance between workers and the information they need to perform tasks efficiently.

Without XR, any information a worker needs that is not stored in their head needs to be pulled from another source, distracting the person from the task at hand. XR can present needed information within a worker’s field of view at the exact moment it’s needed.

Some insurers are already using AR devices like the Microsoft HoloLens eyewear to boost hands-free information retrieval for claims adjustors and field inspectors. Future applications of XR could bring similar operational efficiencies to the clerical and administrative work of life insurance. The solution may be augmented glasses, an office in VR, or even financial data available via Alexa for Business.

The architects of XR are still working to overcome important limitations. Battery life, device comfort, and the expense of content creation are all hurdles still to be addressed. But the potential of this technology for life insurance is already clear, and its impact will only grow from here.

This is why now is the time for life insurers to develop and refine their XR plans. That starts with these key questions:

  1. How can XR technologies make your workforce more effective? When employees need to interrupt their activities to seek information, they are not being productive. The ability to eliminate or mitigate this might be the biggest benefit of XR.
  2. How would you best engage with your customers through experiences? Businesses that transition from delivering services to delivering experiences often find new customers in younger demographics. These are critical for growth. Develop a strategy to connect with younger customers through XR experiences.
  3. Would XR make your training more effective? During and after digital transformations, life insurers find it necessary to deploy new types of employee training. Use this opportunity to explore how XR could make your training more effective.
  4. Are there ways for customers to have experiences with your brand? How can you eliminate the distance that separates your customers from the information they need at the moment they need it? How can you offer them more personalized advice and products through XR experiences?

Come back next week for a look at another tech trend shaping the future of life insurance: data veracity.

In the meantime, the full Tech Vision for Insurance 2018 report is  available here.

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