Insurtech startups Insurify and Next Insurance have launched chatbots – automated artificial intelligence platforms that can ask the questions required to quote and issue an insurance policy – on Facebook Messenger.
Facebook Messenger is increasingly a mobile communication platform of choice, according to both companies. Insurify, an online agency, has been using chatbots since its launch last January to sell insurance via SMS, or text messaging. The Facebook bot works much the same way, just in a different channel, says Snejina Zacharia, the company’s founder.
“The Facebook interface is basically a different phase of a tech we have already built,” Zacharia says. “People are spending more time messaging with their friend on the platform than actually texting. We know they are there, so we are enabling it as a platform.”
Like the SMS chatbots, the Facebook version asks certain questions while querying third-party data sources and applying answers to Insurify’s algorithm, RateRank, in order to find the right fit for a given customer. Zacharia says that unlike other customizable products, insurance’s use of data and analytics to accurately price out coverage makes it ideal for chatbots.
“If you think about the traditional agent channel, buying insurance is a conversational experience that is very much a one-on-one conversation,” she says. “There’s a set of questions you have to go through and respond to. It’s an easy experience to automate.”
Meanwhile, Next Insurance is a managing general agent offering coverage for personal trainers and photographers. The company’s personal training product, underwritten by Markel, is the one being offered on Facebook.
“Sixty-five percent of our customers are buying us on mobile, and most of them are coming from Facebook” referrals, says Guy Goldstein, CEO and cofounder of Next Insurance. The company worked with a consultancy, SmallTalk, on the language and content the bot puts out, but the underlying technology is the same as its more traditional online form at its website.
Goldstein says that his company is trying to make the small-business insurance buying process more granular and targeted toward the particular kind of proprietor.
“Photography is different from personal training, which is different from restaurants, and so on,” Goldstein says. “There’s lots of details in the small print. We want to make sure when we sell a personal trainer product, it’s the right pricing.”
In addition to its chatbot launch, Insurify announced a new round of funding, including contributions from MassMutual Ventures and Nationwide Ventures. Next’s last funding round was in March 2016.