British Friendly's Iain Clark discusses why real life claim stories are so valuable.
One of the prevailing attitudes in the protection world towards the consumer media is that they are always looking for a way to bash insurers.
While this has happened in the past occasionally, there are many positive stories about the benefits of buying protection.
Something that has become clear - and proven by the Seven Families campaign - is that case studies provide an excellent way for advisers and providers to communicate the message that the policies we sell and the advice given really is incredibly valuable.
No journalist wants to run a corporate message that sings the praises of a particular company - that's the job of an advert - but if a happy client is willing to do it in a way that offers readers a genuine insight into how and what to buy, that is seen as valuable.
The benefit of this type coverage is positive for the industry as a whole, as well as the specific companies mentioned.
As our survey of self-employed UK workers last year showed, protection is still not trusted and not as valued as it should be.
The survey, conducted in April 2015 among 502 self-employed workers, reveals that lack of trust is one of the main reasons for not taking out a policy - only 2% of respondents believe that income protection claims are paid more than 90% of the time by UK insurers.
Nearly 1 in 5 believe claims are paid less than 20% of the time. At the same time almost 1 in 2 of those surveyed (45%) believe the main reason income protection claims are declined is because insurers deliberately try not to pay claims.
So when a positive story from a ‘real' person appears in the press, it helps to chip away at that negative and, on the whole, undeserved image.
That is why we recently produced a booklet of case studies and a film about the claims process https://advisers.britishfriendly.com/about-us/decade-claims/.
The feedback we receive suggests that these kinds of first hand experiences help to allay people's fears that they may be wasting their money, and illustrates just how, why and when income protection will pay out.
Claims statistics can also play a similar role in allaying public scepticism. Advisers say that the real value of the claims data is not so much in comparing one firm against the other - although this does provide a useful incentive for those firms that don't focus on paying claims to change their ways - but in giving advisers the tools to demonstrate to their clients that insurance policies really do what they promise.
Although those of us who work in protection know that average payout rates exceed 90%, the public perception sits at around 50% on average.
Mark Dennison, director at advisory firm LightBlue believes that "claims statistics demonstrate that providers welcome transparency and are proud of the difference that their policies make to people's lives.
Similarly, case studies humanise those figures and bring emotion to cold statistics. People identify with case studies as the stories illustrate what could happen to them. Both statistics and case studies add value by highlighting how protection can bring something positive to a negative situation."
At British Friendly we have made a particular effort to give advisers the tools - through case studies, films and our swift publication of annual and ten-year claims stats - to tackle these prejudices with clients.
The message will, we hope, continue to come through loud and clear, and in the meantime all insurers have a duty to be producing as much useful material for advisers in this area as possible.
Iain Clark is distribution and marketing director at British Friendly
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