A three-pronged strategy has helped industry superannuation fund AustralianSuper use technology to engage members about their insurance needs, including some “encouraging” results with notoriously apathetic younger members.

AustralianSuper acting group executive, member experience, Katie Le Cras outlined the organisation’s early results as part of a panel on increasing customer engagement at the Investment Magazine Group Insurance Summit at the Four Seasons, Sydney.

The first step was a bot. In under two months, AustralianSuper developed a cost-efficient chat-bot named ASH – short for Australian Super Help. The organisation is now handling about 4000 chat sessions a month, with about 80 per cent of them handled by ASH without needing to go through to an agent.

Google Analytics traces those members using the chats, revealing some are following up with a change in insurance activity.

“It’s early days but we are seeing it,” Le Cras said. “The research has told us that if you’re providing our members with a channel that resonates with them – that means something to them – you’re more inclined to get an activity through that channel.”

The second part of the strategy is a mobile app that had more than 220,000 active downloads in the last calendar year. “Active”, in this case, refers to people not just downloading the app but using it as well. About 60 per cent are under 44 and half of those are under 34.

Lastly, a customer relationship management tool sorts members into cohorts that are more complex than those arranged simply by age or account balance. It reveals more into member personas by looking at what pages they are visiting, if they are contributing to their balance, whether they are looking at insurance pages and other things.

These tools allow the organisation to use “gentle nudges” to “try to encourage them to think about insurance”, Le Cras said. Decisions that come about through this process can be “pushed straight through into the system in real time, because that’s what they expect as well,” she explained.

Despite these efforts, engagement with insurance remains low, particularly from younger members. Jenni Baxter, executive general manager, insurance, at Rice Warner, said: “I don’t think we’ve made significant inroads with engagement on insurance, at all.”

This was despite alarming statistics showing Australians typically have only a small savings buffer to deal with an incident that would put them out of work.

A June survey of more than 2000 Australians by finder.com.au found two out of three Australians wouldn’t be able to support themselves past six months if they were unable to work tomorrow due to illness or injury, Baxter said.

“So if you scale that up, that’s the equivalent of 12.2 million people,” Baxter said.

One-third of respondents said they wouldn’t last a month.

“And that’s financial loss that’s kicking in straight away, but there’s obviously also financial stress,” she explained. “There’s a high correlation [between financial stress and] mental health and physical health declining, there’s a direct link to marital discord and breakup, and that has direct and indirect effects on children.”

This underscores the importance of Australians being insured, or knowing they have insurance cover.

“Our disability products, of course, have waiting periods, but you make different decisions and I think you have different discussions within your family unit, with your mortgage provider, your landlord, your credit card provider if you know the money is coming, as opposed to believing it’s a hopeless situation,” Baxter said.

Ben Hurley is a journalist and editor with more than a decade of experience in the industry. He has written for The Australian Financial Review, Business Review Weekly, The Guardian and a range of specialised and industry publications.