Southern Cross recruits digital human for customer service

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Health insurer Southern Cross Health Society is set to become the next NZ company to an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered human-looking digital, in what it claims will be a world-first for a health insurer.

Southern Cross Health says the digital human, from New Zealand company FaceMe, will offer Kiwis a new way to learn about health insurance and how it can add value.

FaceMe CEO Danny Tomsett said the digital human would be able to engage in “credible, real-time conversations with Kiwis based on tailored content and a memorable persona that can build emotional connections.”

Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick said the organisation was not aware of any other health insurer in the world investing in a digital human.

He said the, as-yet unnamed digital assistant would support Southern Cross Health’s goal of empowering Kiwis to take more control of their health by creating an engaging and 24/7 digital experience.

“A digital human can answer questions often asked about health insurance, such as how the New Zealand health system works, what health insurance can cover you for and education around pre-existing conditions, Astwick said.

“People can feel embarrassed asking basic questions, but the digital human is always patient and doesn’t judge.”

Astwick predicted the technology would eventually be deployed in other areas of the business “such as providing advice on products, based on what we know about our customers.”

He said the human touch was extremely important in many aspects of healthcare and claimed the digital human would support, rather than replace, this element.

“Kiwis have come to expect a high level of care and empathy from Southern Cross. The digital human will be an extension of these values across our digital channels.”

New Zealand’s digital humans spreading

FaceMe’s digital human has also been deployed at Auckland Airport to answer biosecurity questions, and by Vodafone NZ.

A similar digital human is also offered by Soul Machines, spun off from the University of Auckland in November 2017 with backing of US$7.5 million from Hong Kong-based venture capital firm Horizons Ventures.

Since then it has reported sales of its digital human for customer facing rolls to European car maker Daimler (which has become an investor), to Autodesk, to NZ energy company Vector, the ANZ Bank, and to UK Bank Natwest.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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