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Shifting towards conversational interfaces

Manu Lavanya, Director & Chief Operations Officer, Max Life Insurance, speaks about the strategy implemented towards driving the next phase of ‘Deep Digitization’ in the organization. 


Mehul Dani: Can you take us through Max Life’s digital strategy? Please update us about usage patterns of digital platforms.

Manu Lavanya: Max Life’s long-term digital strategy is built on 3 distinct key stakeholders: customers, sellers and employees. From a customer perspective, the strategy aims to create intuitive and impactful digital experiences by addressing the demand of new customers as close to place and time of desire of being insured, providing superior customer and seller experiences through frictionless onboarding, adaptive on-demand and self-service driven customer and seller engagement and fulfilling the promise of insurance at the time when the customers need the company. From an enterprise perspective, we want to develop a workplace of tomorrow by creating an enterprise with a ‘Digital Mindset’ that inspires gen-Z and millennial workforce. This strategy will be fueled by building a digital culture, which supports innovation, digital skills in the organization and a technology foundation, which is flexible and scalable.

Over the last 5 years, we have invested significantly in creating innovative digital platforms. Today, almost 80% of our business transactions are done on digital platforms with almost 100% of our business onboarding, recruitment and skilling and prospecting happening digitally. As covid hit us in April, we were able to transform all of our selling processes on to digital platforms in a matter of weeks.

To what extent technology will be an enabler in the foreseeable future for your company?

For Max Life Insurance, ‘digitalization’ has been part of our business strategy, long before the need for social distancing became the new normal. A significant part of our future competitive differentiation strategy is based on technology and digital interventions all across the value chain, be it intelligent digital recruitment and agent onboarding or frictionless customer onboarding journeys or AI / ML enabled intelligent underwriting and risk management or responsive and empathetic customer care.

We believe that for this differentiation to become real, the digital dimensions of experience, intelligence and business process automation will become more and more pervasive in the enterprise processes and workflows.

We have already digitized all our key operations such as sales, policy issuance, claims, servicing – across the entire value chain, making the experience for customers as seamless as possible. There has also been a shift towards self-servicing in life insurance, which can be viewed as the future of the industry.


Technology has the capability to support self-usage and automate processes for customers to make the process easier, while providing hyper customized customer experience by enabling the industry to reach out to customers at the right time, with the right product which will be the core differentiator going forward.

How has digital contributed and what is the next big thing for growing the business?

At Max Life, the concept of ‘digitalization’ was not a new intervention altogether. Current events have accelerated the paradigm, as evidenced by the marked shift in spending towards enhancing digital capabilities.

Over the last 5 years, we have extensively focused on growing our e-commerce channel which contributed greatly towards our business growth over the last few months. The number of policies we receive through our online channel has increased 39% CAGR since conceptualization and has witnessed a 66% conversion rate. The robust performance of our channel has enabled us to maintain a strong rate of growth in the fiscal.

For the next fiscal, we want to enhance the digital way of working by continuing to enable digital sales across distribution channels through various training and development modules. Our growth focus will include:

  1. Customers: leverage technologies to deliver superior customer experience, instant gratification, and an omni-channel experience
  2. Sellers: help with intelligence to sell better and serve customers in onboarding and servicing through digital assets
  3. Employees: enable more self -service, continuous engagement on digital platforms, easy and intuitive performance management and


How strong is your presence on social media? What have been the online marketing & promotional efforts in 2019-20 and those planned for the current FY?

We have seen a significant shift towards the digital way of life. This has further translated into how consumers search, and then interact with life insurers and buy policies. We have noticed Google searches on term insurance double. This indicates the growing need for brands to build a strong digital presence to reach the target audience.

At Max life, we believe digital is here to stay. Therefore, we have significantly increased our focus on social media and digital marketing tools to drive engagement, as compared to before. Progressing with a balanced approach, 70% of our mix is made up of digital activities. Search, biddable display/video media has driven better performance and improved COA. In fact, we are working towards a ‘One View’ launch for any campaign which encourages customers to engage with our brand on social media.

Over the last year, we have introduced many integrated campaigns which have social media legs. Some of our recent initiatives include:

  • #21DayDifference campaign aimed towards encouraging our customers to keep physically and mentally fit during the initial phase of the lockdown.
  • India’s ‘Bharose ka Number’ campaign showcasing Max Life’s superior performance when it comes to claims paid ratio.
  • #ProtectionFrontFootPe – the seasoned consecutive partnership with Team Royal Challengers Bangalore to encourage the millennial audience to secure their financial future. All these campaigns had multiple digital activities.


How have you gained by deploying analytics to increase business? How technology is put to use for CRM? What are you doing to enhance customer service and experience?

We use several AI technologies including vision, speech and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to develop a host of predictive models and cognitive applications, which has helped us provide a hyper-personalized and seamless customer experience while improving our process efficiencies at the same time.

Since our focus is to deliver cutting-edge ‘business-first’ AI solutions, we have invested in creating a dedicated and specialized team called ‘AI Works’ which enables us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. We have enabled an omni-channel experience using an intelligent chatbot (MILI) which has been integrated with Google Assistant; we have WhatsApp servicing, an intuitive help center on our website and automation through the use of bots to answer queries and emails. There has been a 50% jump in usage of conversational interfaces for customers while servicing their queries post covid.

For customers, we are leveraging technologies to deliver superior customer experience, instant gratification and an omni-channel experience. The life insurance sector, which has been traditionally dependent on bank branch walk-ins, agents and customer meetings, is now continuously digitizing operations to deliver a seamless customer journey. Customer experience has been the key design element in all our digital assets. Today, we use social analytics to personalize offerings to the customers. We use smart algorithms and machine learning to segment our customers and use AI models on the right risk selection and pricing. We also undertake real-time integration with bank assurance partners’ CRMs, industry databases to offer customers the right product. In effect, this helps us reduce friction and cut journey times for new customer onboarding to less than 10 minutes with no / minimal documentation. In addition to that, we have also installed a TeleMER protocol for policy issuance that is ensuring remote medical underwriting for new customers buying policies during this time.

How is Max Life associated with partnering/ supporting insurtech partners, platform partners, fintechs and startups? Please name few such entities.

Manu Lavanya wants to create an enterprise with a ‘Digital Mindset’ that inspires gen-Z and millennial workforce

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