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Southern Cross Health Society announces new assistant - AI

Southern Cross Health Society announces new assistant - AI

The yet to be named AI-powered digital human is believed to be a world-first for a health insurer

A digital human from FaceMe

A digital human from FaceMe

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

Nick Astwick, Southern Cross Health Society

Southern Cross Health Society is launching an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered digital assistant later this year, in what is believed to be a world-first for a health insurer.

Built using AI company FaceMe’s Intelligent Digital Human Platform, the yet-to-be-named AI persona will offer Kiwis a new way to learn about health insurance and how it can add value.

Digital humans are interactive avatars trained to communicate with people in a way that is empathetic and personalised. 

FaceMe’s digital humans use machine learning, meaning they can continuously learn from conversations over time to better understand a person’s needs.

“We are not aware of any other health insurer in the world investing in a digital human,” says Nick Astwick, chief executive, Southern Cross Health Society.

He says the digital human will support the society’s goal of empowering Kiwis to take more control of their health by creating an engaging and 24x7 digital experience. 

“As the country’s largest health insurer, we have a responsibility to lead the market in providing Kiwis with innovative tools they can use to understand and make improvements to their health and wellbeing,” he says.

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

“In time, the technology can be deployed into other areas, such as providing advice on products, based on what we know about our customers.” 

Our digital human will be our virtual ‘crew’ member, working alongside the team to complement our day-to-day, human interactions with Kiwis

Nick Astwick, Southern Cross Health Society CEO

Astwick says the human touch is incredibly important in many aspects of healthcare and the digital human will support, rather than replace, this element.

“Our digital human will be our virtual ‘crew’ member, working alongside the team to complement our day-to-day, human interactions with Kiwis,” he says. 

“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.” 

“We see the digital human as a natural extension of our chatbot development work and some early experimentation we have underway with Amazon’s Alexa,” adds Chris Trigg, chief digital officer at Southern Cross Health Society. 

“The digital human presents an exciting opportunity for us to use innovative technology to provide a personal and tailored experience for members and potential customers.

 “This first phase will help us learn about how Kiwis interact with the digital human, before looking to use this digital experience more broadly across the health society’s member interactions.” 

The health society’s digital human will be available on desktops, tablets and mobile phones.

“FaceMe’s digital humans create brand-aligned customer support,” says Danny Tomsett, chief executive at FaceMe. 

Southern Cross Health Society CDO Chris Trigg at the CIO50 event in Auckland
Southern Cross Health Society CDO Chris Trigg at the CIO50 event in Auckland

This first phase will help us learn about how Kiwis interact with the digital human, before looking to use this digital experience more broadly across the health society’s member interactions

Chris Trigg, Southern Cross Health Society

He says the digital human combines cutting-edge computer vision, AI and machine learning with human-like qualities.

“No one wants to talk to a lifeless robot that is incapable of showing empathy for you as an individual or understanding your needs beyond keywords,” he says.

“Using the power of the human face, Southern Cross’ digital human will have credible, real-time conversations with Kiwis based on tailored content and a memorable persona that can build emotional connections,” says Tomsett. 

He says FaceMe continues to work with some really big companies on bridging the digital divide between self-service and customer experience.

No one wants to talk to a lifeless robot that is incapable of showing empathy for you as an individual or understanding your needs beyond keywords

Danny Tomsett, FaceMe

Self-service tools such as chatbots and online forms may be cost efficient, but they erode customer loyalty through lack of differentiation, personalisation and emotional connection,” he points out. 

Gartner predicts that within 10 years, 85 per cent of interaction a customer has with an organisation will be digital, he adds.

“Only 15 per cent will be with a human—so the digital erosion of the customer experience is only going to get worse.

“Our digital humans, combined with the natural language processing of a chatbot, create an experience that is memorable, frictionless, and emotionally connected.

“We’re excited about digital humans in everyday life,” says Tomsett. 

He says FaceMe has teams looking at addressing really hard-to-solve problems in industries such as education, aged care, healthcare and banking.

“Digital humans are making a big difference in taking the burden away from these industries and creating much better outcomes for people."

A digital human under development
A digital human under development

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Tags CloudroboticsAIdigital divideAlexaCustomer ExperiencecxFaceMeDXCIO50Chris TriggSouthern Cross Health SocietyVictor YuenNick AstwickDanny Tomsett

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