Alexa Voice Challenge

Alexa, You Can Drive My Car

When one watches any of the campy sci-fi horror movies involving creepy creatures rising from the briny deep to run amok on land, one’s first thought probably isn’t about the frictions associated with finding and buying a car to replace the one that said sea creature just destroyed.

Unless you are USAA – and are using a car-mangling sea creature as a way to explain the power of Alexa in helping one of its members find, buy and pay the insurance premiums on a car that may need repairs or even a total replacement.

As Alexa’s voice product manager for USAA, Lonnie Roberts, told Karen Webster in a recent discussion: Whatever its intentions, the sea monster has left that customer with a long, lumpy, friction-filled experience ahead of them. That customer knows that they are about to spend a lot of time working with their insurance company to manage the claim, get the claims payout and then use it to buy a new car.

And while USAA can’t do anything about sea monster attacks, Roberts noted, they can make the journey back from the rampage significantly better with the help of Amazon’s Alexa.

Sea monsters, of course, are not much of a risk in a consumer’s everyday life. But, Roberts told Webster, every situation that the character in the video faces is a real, and often serious, part of the USAA customer’s life. As a matter of course, cars do get totaled, claims do need to be filed, payments need to be received and new payments made, and customers need to shop and price out new cars every day.

“Our goal was to build an Alexa skill set that allowed our consumers to do everything they need to do as part of the customer journey – from paying their insurance, or adding a driver, or starting a totaled vehicle claim,” said Roberts. “We even make it easy for the customer to start shopping for their car.”

Because customers – particularly those facing a major life event, like having been in an accident or needing to replace a car – often don’t have the bandwidth to spend running between the various touchpoints that are part of that process.

“It’s this hybrid of things that are done over the phone, things that are mostly desktop comping experiences and then a lot of coordinating payments,” he noted. “And in insurance, we are really dealing with two kinds of payments. [There’s] what we take in from our customer for things like premiums – but then we also have a lot of push payments, to customers and, much more often, directly to vendors like mechanics and body shops.”

Alexa, in USAA’s ideal use case, gives the customer an easy, all-in-one access hub where all of those interactions can be managed at will and as needed. The journeys will still be multi-channel – there will be interactions that will be better done on a device with a screen like the Echo Show, for example, or times when consumers might be referred to their mobile phone for authentication.

But, Roberts noted, the experience – because it has that central mediation point – can proceed more seamlessly, and Alexa can live up to her potential as an assistant and keep customers moving through the channels in a smooth and logical way.

The Evolving Use Cases

What USAA is building now – and presenting as its submission in the PYMNTS Voice Challenge with Alexa, Roberts noted – is a starting point: a new option that can “better build our customers into the care experience we pride ourselves on.”

But, as Roberts pointed out, the car is a natural development point for a wide array of services, just by the nature of what it is. As the PYMNTS/Visa Connected Car Commerce study showed in late 2017, consumers are ready to start using their cars as vehicles (pardon the pun) for connected commerce.

And USAA is ready to jump onboard those emerging use cases.

“There are lots of layers to this experience that we can build in,” said Roberts. “One cool use case we like to think about is seeing a different car while driving and being able to ask Alexa, through USAA, to tell you how much it would cost you to own that car.”

The road, Roberts told Webster, is open when it comes to really using the car as the next generation of connected device.

“And I think we are really excited to be building to that open future – and are also really excited to see the kinds of things the other teams come up with.”

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