What if in the future you could get a discount on your dental insurance as a reward for good oral hygiene? Or if you could buy a life insurance policy without going to the doctor for a physical? What if you never had to file an insurance claim again? At Guardian, we’re looking into how to leverage big data to improve the customer experience so we can make it easier than ever to protect what’s most important.

Above all, we want our policyholders to know that we care about them and are invested in their success. That’s hard to do if you only communicate through call centers where customer service representatives don’t have enough information to offer the help customers need, when and how they need it. So, we’ve focused on compiling essential customer data to empower our customer service representatives with all the necessary information at their fingertips to offer personalized support. And that personalization extends beyond a phone call; we’ve applied personalization to our customer website experience, too.

“Along with providing a more satisfying experience, we can enable folks to get what they need with less human intervention on our part,” says Tom Olds, SVP of Enterprise Data Analytics.

Using identity resolution ⁠— a process that tracks user activity across multiple devices and touchpoints ⁠— we’re now able to match visitors to our site to existing data that helps us determine what visitors are looking for, and how we can help them find it.

“That saves costs, which we can then pass along to customers and policyholders,” Olds says.

Improved data analysis is helping us provide better care for our current and potential customers. One way we’re doing this is using improved data analysis to assess disability claims. With better analysis, we can identify which claimants have the best chance of returning to work and can provide them with the clinical and rehabilitation resources they need to return to their careers.

Using holistic data and AI, we can also get a more accurate risk assessment over the entire pool of our potential customers and price premiums more fairly, so you’re not paying more than you should for your policy. And the more efficient we are, the better we’re able to reward our customers with lower premium payments or higher dividend payments.

But that’s not the only way we use data to put more money in your pocket. Using big data to assess investment opportunities, our investment team is getting even better at managing investments for maximum return, which we can then pass on to customers.

“Using a large amount of 3rd party-sourced data such as financial statements, earnings estimates, transcripts  and broad financial markets and economic indicators,  we look for predictive signals which can guide our investment analysts in deciding what to invest in,” Olds says.

With so much data available, it’s important to us to keep customer information safe. One way we’re doing that is by using biometrics in our call centers. When we speak to someone on the phone, we can match their unique voiceprint to one we already have on file to help us be sure the person we’re talking to really is who they say they are. Along with other unique identifiers, biometrics help ensure no one else can get access to your information.

These types of new technologies are also built on foundational information security and privacy controls embedded throughout Guardian. “Data privacy and protection remain central to the way we do business and safeguard our customer’s information. As we look to reach the next generation of our customers in a digital world, we also continue to maintain and proactively strengthen these protections and our transparency over how and why information is used by us.” says Noreen Fierro, Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer.

We also use roles-based access to data, so our employees only have access to the data they absolutely need to do their job. Using role-based access means no one has unlimited access to customer data, and we only access your information when we need it. We also make sure we’re not holding onto data we don’t need.

“If there’s no reason for us to have a person’s information or records on that person, we will delete that information,” says Dan Johnson, Chief Technology Officer.

How will we be using data in the near future? Johnson thinks we’ll soon be able to gather machine-generated data from the Internet of Things ⁠— a system of internet-enabled devices ⁠— to serve customers better.

Auto insurance companies are already using devices to track customer driving habits and reward safe driving with discounts or perks. In the same way, Johnson can imagine using data from a smart toothbrush to reward dental insurance policyholders for their good oral hygiene habits. We could also use data analysis to evaluate a life insurance application without the need for blood and urine tests, or any physical exam at all, making it that much easier to get covered.

What Johnson would most like to see is greater regulatory involvement to help the insurance industry develop increasingly ethical AI-artificial intelligence that has morality built into the math so it can make the best possible assessments. In the insurance industry, ethical AI primarily looks for anti-selection patterns ⁠— patterns where a lack of data results in an inaccurate risk assessment. Increasingly ethical AI means increasingly accurate results, which is of the utmost importance.

“We’re dealing with people and human lives,” Johnson says. “It’s not just a math result.”

Johnson says he often looks to other industries, like banking, to see if new technology is serving customers the way they want to be served. Many companies have invested heavily in creating their own cognitive agents, like Alexa and Siri, but if user adoption is low, that could be a sign that customers want to talk to a real person, not an AI-powered chatbot. In some cases, it may make more sense to partner with other companies who have already created tools that customers use and trust to serve customers on their preferred platforms.

Maybe someday you’ll be able to purchase an insurance policy from Alexa, but in the meantime, we’re focused on creating an efficient and personalized experience that allows us to pass on savings to our policyholders.