“Avatars arouse our customers' interest and curiosity”

Virtual twins in insurance sales

Digitalisation & Technology, 08.03.2023

Andre Amerkamp and Sandy Bakus are insurance brokers and run an ERGO subdirectorate in Düsseldorf. On their homepage, they have recently been welcoming customers and interested parties virtually – as avatars. //next asked what the two sales professionals expect from the use of their virtual twins – and how they work.

ERGO sales partners Andre Amerkamp and Sandy Bakus

Mr. Amerkamp, Ms. Bakus, what added value do you expect from avatars, for example compared to video inserts? Surely recording them once would have been less effort? How do your customers benefit from this innovation?

Andre Amerkamp: The avatars on our homepage are a completely new, digital format. They arouse the interest and curiosity of our customers. We are currently in pilot operation and testing how our customers react to this innovative, personal approach.

Sandy Bakus: Avatars, unlike video inserts, are very quick and easy to produce – with appropriate access even from anywhere. Our avatar only needs to be created once. And once that is done, a new avatar video with different texts can be produced at any time using artificial intelligence (AI) – there is no need to record again as an avatar...

How convincing does your target group find your virtual twins? ERGO CDO Mark Klein recently wrote in his blog here on //next that his avatar could well fool people who hadn't been in contact with him for a while - not to mention later expansion stages...

Andre Amerkamp: We have received only positive feedback so far. The technology is new, so attention is high. I share Mark Klein's impression. It may well be that a customer thinks the avatar is real. That's why it's important to communicate at the beginning of the video that a digital avatar is speaking here - and that this is not a real video. The “viewer” must be made aware of this...

Could you briefly outline how your avatars came about - and how they work technically?

Sandy Bakus: The creation of the avatars was surprisingly simple: I recorded a short video of myself via webcam and spoke a predefined text. The AI then used this video and audio material to generate a realistic avatar, which I think captures my gestures and facial expressions quite well. Since then, I've been able to enter any text I need via keyboard – and have my avatar speak exactly that text. Even my avatar's lip movements are automatically synchronized with the text.

Andre Amerkamp: On our homepage, the avatars currently speak German – but theoretically we could also have them greet our customers and interested parties in more than 60 other languages. Incidentally, the software that makes all this possible comes from ERGO's cooperation partner Synthesia: a start-up that specializes in the trend-setting field of “Generative AI”...

How long do you plan to work with your current twins?  Are updates or further expansion stages planned? In other words, have avatars in ERGO Sales come to stay?

Andre Amerkamp: As already mentioned, we are currently in pilot operation. We are looking at how our customers react to the avatars – what they particularly like, but also where there may be criticism. Our ERGO customer workshop will also be asked about this. If the response is positive, there are good arguments for pursuing this topic further.

Sandy Bakus: In the “Agents Online Platforms” department at ERGO and also among us salespeople, there are lots of ideas on how avatars could be designed in sales. So it remains exciting in any case...

Interview: Ingo Schenk

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