More than 1.4 million customers in Switzerland put their trust in products and services from Zurich – private individuals but also small, medium and large enterprises and institutions. In the course of customer relationships often lasting decades, there are various interactions with each and every one of them. At every touchpoint, there is potential to offer faster, simpler and more carefully targeted services thanks to automation – for an even better customer experience. Zurich Switzerland has created the basis for this with the platform "SPACE".
The following functionalities are already possible today or will soon become possible, and many more are conceivable:
Automated document reading and making customers’ lives easier
Assigning texts and passing them on directly to the responsible person
Understanding language and avoiding tiresome copying
Recognizing customer requirements and providing targeted advice
Analyzing loss patterns and thus improving prevention
Automating processes and thus gaining time to spend with the customer
A supplement but not a replacement
What is the thought behind the SPACE platform?
Artificial intelligence is a highly complex set of rules for logical connections. Its strength lies in the fact that it can check enormous quantities of data via logical connections, meaning, for example, that it recognizes patterns in claims data that an individual person could only find after years of work. But the platform can only calculate and execute what programmers have previously written into it, so it does not develop any form of inherent momentum but always remains under the control of the IT specialists.
INTERVIEW: Philipp Borgschulte, Head of Workflow Automation & AI and "Father" of SPACE
Mr. Borgschulte, automation has been underway in industry for decades. Now it has begun at Zurich Switzerland in the form of SPACE. Why only now?
As a service industry, the world of insurance is actually far less automated than manufacturing. This is partly due to the fact that complex services are more difficult to automate than, for example, the production of chocolate bars. In addition, the insurance sector was for a long time rather conservative, and that didn’t exactly foster innovation. Precisely for that reason, SPACE has enormous potential.
Can and will SPACE replace the human workforce?
People have been having this discussion since the early days of industrialization, and the insurance industry is now starting to catch up with what has long been a matter of course in other areas. Artificial intelligence can in fact take over some repetitive tasks, such as the tiresome entry of text-based information. But let’s be honest, those are boring tasks that no one really enjoys doing. We see SPACE not as a case for savings but for growth: Employees gain time and we free up potential for an even more engaged and personal service.
Do our customers have to be afraid that a computer will decide on their loss payment?
No, that fear is unfounded. The automated processes assist in decision-making but do not take over the decision from the person. Furthermore, all the rules are defined by human experts and prescribed to the machine. I am convinced that artificial intelligence will never become our master but will always remain our servant because we have characteristics that a computer will never have: creativity, humor and above all the sensitivity to detect minor nuances and respond appropriately and flexibly to them.