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BW Businessworld

ICICI Prudential Deploys Visual-Based IVR Systems

From reduced average claim settlement turnaround time to just 1.6 days and a claim settlement ratio of 97.8 per cent, ICICI Prudential says its success lies in being customer-centric.

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What should be the right life cover? How can one calculate it? These are some of the perplexing questions that tend to cloud the decision making of the customers opting for insurance policies. Human Life Value (HLV) is an easy-to-use numeric method of calculating the amount of Life Cover that you may need says Amit Palta, Chief Distribution Officer, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company. He says the basic thumb rule that to find out HLV is as follows: individuals up to the age of 40 years need a life cover equivalent of 20-30 times their annual income. For individuals in the age bracket of 40-50 years, a life cover of 10-15 times the annual income is recommended and for individuals above 50 years, the life cover should ideally be 5 times the annual income, he says.  

How has Covid-19 pandemic impacted the business of life insurance companies as well as those of the customers? “The pandemic has increased consumer awareness towards protection products,” says Palta. “It is now being viewed as a fundamental thing in life just like food, clothing and shelter. Securing the future of loved ones in times of uncertainty is of paramount importance to customers today,” he adds.  

How are digital platforms empowering customers and how has technology and digitalization been the game changer in delivering superior customer service?” For FY 2020, we had three digital priorities - providing superior customer experience, empowering our distributors, and enhancing employee productivity,” says Palta. IN order to provide a superior customer service, ICICI Prudential has built device-agnostic digital platforms with a “singular focus on providing a delightful and seamless on-boarding experience”, says Palta.  

In fact, ICICI Prudential was the first life insurer in India to officially offer WhatsApp as a service channel to its customers, claims Palta. “Since the beginning of the lockdown until August-end, the total uploads, and downloads of documents on our WhatsApp platform reached approximately 3 lakh. In addition, total chats on the platform reached 4 lakh until August 2020,” he informs.  

The other key initiatives in the customer service domain include instant document verification using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and digital customer verification via OTP, thereby eliminating the need for a physical signature. Besides, the company has opened the maximum number of electronic insurance account (eIAs) in the life insurance industry, since this option was made available to customers. “From April 2020 till August 2020, we have opened approx. 2,45,000 eIA accounts,” he says.  

Here is a detailed chat with Palta.  

Driven by innovation and adoption of agile technologies, ICICI Prudential says its success lies in being customer-centric. Hence, the company is going all out to serve the customers and arm them with a host of differentiated products and experiences, AMIT PALTA, Chief Distribution Officer, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company tells Ashish Sinha of BW Businessworld.


How is ICICI Prudential Life’s innovation journey different when it comes to traditional products? 

Customer-centricity is at the core of our operations. Driven by innovation and adoption of agile technologies, we leverage data and employ chatbots, virtual assistants, VAR and digital payment solutions to provide a superior service experience. Similarly, in the product innovation space, we were one of the first companies to come up with a unique proposition of offering term life cover to customers with existing health conditions, called ‘ICICI Pru Precious Life. Five of our offerings have been approved by IRDAI under their “Regulatory Sandbox Approach” initiative, which includes Health savings, Dynamic term cover, Outpatient health, Loyalty programme, and Disease management programme. 

Recently, we launched a long-term savings plan called ICICI Pru Lakshya with the option to choose either a lump sum payout or a regular income strategy. Regular additions in the form of bonuses safeguard the capital and make it an attractive proposition for customers. 

What has been the changes you have witnessed in terms of consumer outlook/behavior when it comes to protection products over the two decades? 

The steady GDP growth for the last two decades has strengthened the affluent class, for whom protection products have made the transition from a push to pull category. This change is the result of two important factors. Since nuclear families have become the norm, the adequate protection insurance payout works as an income replacement in the absence of the breadwinner. Secondly, customer-centric options across protection products. Of late, the pandemic has increased consumer awareness towards protection products. It is now being viewed as a fundamental thing in life just like food, clothing and shelter. Securing the future of loved ones in times of uncertainty is of paramount importance to customers today. 

Does the brand impact customers’ purchase decisions? 

The brand helps build trust, which is crucial when it comes to a final purchase decision. As customers are starting to view life insurance products as an essential commodity, it is crucial for insurers to build long-term trust with its customers. ICICI Prudential Life believes in delivering on promises it makes to customers, thereby earning their trust. For us claim settlement is the moment of truth. By leveraging our strong technology backbone, in FY2020 we have reduced our average claim settlement turnaround time to just 1.6 days and had a claim settlement ratio of 97.8 per cent, which we believe is one of the best in the industry. A combination of these measures has helped us build a strong bond with customers and enhance the brand salience. 

Covid-19 has changed the meaning of normal. How did it change the paradigm of protection plans?

Covid-19 has increased awareness and brought a paradigm shift in customer attitudes towards life and health insurance. The increased share of protection in our product mix for the first quarter confirms this trend For Q1-FY2021, protection product generated an APE (Annualised Premium Equivalent) of Rs 214 crore in Q1. It constituted 26 per cent of total APE for the quarter, going up from 15% for the same period in Q1-FY2020. 

However, protection sum assured as a percentage of GDP for India is only 19 per cent compared to that of our East-Asian neighbors such as Thailand with 113 per cent, South Korea with 131 per cent and Malaysia with 142 per cent. We also analyzed income tax department data for individuals with an annual income >2.5lacs and found that from the addressable population only 10 per cent of them have protection coverage. We firmly believe that COVID-19 would work as a catalyst providing the much-needed push India needs to increase its protection penetration. 

ICICI Prudential Life Insurance has recently tied up with NSDL Payments Bank. How is it helping the growth of the business and easing customer services?

Bancassurance (the selling of life assurance and other insurance products and services by banking institutions) is one of the essential pillars of our distribution strategy, it contributed close to 40 per cent of our distribution mix during Q1-FY21. In the current financial year, besides NSDL Payments Bank, we have tied up with IDFC First Bank and Paytm to increase our reach in the country. 

These tie-ups help us to strengthen our distribution network across India, reach a larger section of the society, which in turn helps with financial inclusion. Besides, analytics and automated underwriting help us provide customized offers to the bank’s customers. 

Please elaborate on the hyper-personalization service?

Our hyper-personalization journey is built on the pillars of 3Vs – Voice, Vernacular, and Video to meet customer’s instant gratification needs. The AI-powered chatbot “LiGo” which is based on a natural programming language is our Voice initiative. In the very first month of its launch in August 2018, it received nearly 680,000 customer queries and replied to them with 98 percent accuracy. It is available on our WhatsApp platform, catering to 32,000 customers. Since the lockdown, total transactions on LiGo have crossed 2 million. We are one of the few life insurance companies that have enabled the chatbot on Google Assistant.  

‘Vernacular’ refers to our multi-lingual communication strategy. Currently, we print our policy bond in six regional languages and send renewal communications through SMS and email in seven regional languages. We have undertaken pilot projects in speech recognition and conversational humanoid AI tools. Leveraging the benefits of high-speed internet across the country, we have deployed visual-based IVR systems. This provides an app-like experience, where customers can solve their queries without human intervention. In FY2020, we had 0.5 million customer hits on Visual IVR. 

Video-based underwriting captures our efforts under the third V. Additionally, suitability analysis introduced in this financial year uses data analytics, taking customer’s age, income levels and life-stage data into account and providing personalized product offerings that is best suited to their needs. 

How have initiatives like Tele / Video medicals helped ease the underwriting process, especially during the lockdown where individuals do not prefer stepping out of their homes?

We were one of the first Indian life insurance companies to introduce Tele Medical 8 years ago. Today, it has become a buzzword in the industry. One of the crucial benefits that we have noticed is while talking to a professional doctor - customers make 20-30 percent higher disclosure that helps immensely with our underwriting process. As people could not come out of their houses due to stringent lockdown restrictions, this proved to be a game-changer for us. 

In addition, we were one of the first to start home medical visits in India. We noticed that customers were not willing to travel long distances to carry out medical tests needed for policy issuance. Therefore, we were able to provide home doctor visits for medical tests that did not require TMT or ECG. In the current financial year itself, we have done close to 22,000 home doctor visits.

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