According to a recent poll from EDM Group, one-third of people claim to have switched insurers in the past two years because of poor service. In your view, how can insurers improve customer service?
Mark Myers, British Friendly
When customers talk about good customer service from an insurance company they often mean claims.
They want the application process to be quick and slick, avoiding extensive underwriting processes and having the price changed half way through the process. But the fundamental issue is that consumers must get and perceive they get what they pay for.
When a claim is made the customer is at their most vulnerable and most in need of our support. If this process is handled with efficiency and empathy, any application issues will be long forgotten in the knowledge that the ‘peace of mind promise' they bought has delivered and given them the breathing space they need.
It is critical that we pay out every possible claim. This means adopting a no-quibble approach that focuses on the spirit of the policy, not the technicalities or small print. It also starts further up the chain by designing out ways in which customers can fall foul when it comes to claim.
In the IP market, for example, eliminating all definitions apart from Own Occupation for the life of the claim and eradicating any ADL tests are vital.
Almost all customers are honest and resent being treated with suspicion when they come to claim. Every rejected claim for non-disclosure must make us ask what could been have done in the application process to prevent that happening?
Fraud aside, as an industry we will have failed until we pay 100% of claims.
Chris McNab, LV=
There are a number of aspects of service around protection and that depend on how the customer interacts with us: whether they come to us through an adviser or direct. It's key that we manage expectations and the customer receives the service they expect.
We have always tried to make the application stage of the journey as simple as possible, particularly when it comes to underwriting and getting as many people as possible online. At point of sale is a key stage.
It's that instant gratification, Amazon-type approach where people click a few buttons and buy the policy. No one likes to have to wait ten weeks for a decision. We've tried to reduce the number of GP reports and medical evidence we have to gather, so about 90% of customers can get an instant decision at point of sale or in a few days.
Even then, there are still ways to try to reduce further the medical reports you go through by having conversations with the customer. Then you have ongoing interactions with customers. Different aspects of service matter at different times.
I think EDM might be talking about more general types of insurance. With life insurance, generally if they are happy with their point of sale, they will not leave for service issues. We try to do the best we can in terms of customer service, and to do it efficiently. One of the things we do is to have an instant feedback service, which is a bit like Trip Advisor.
Paul Moulton, AXA-PPP
From a major insurer perspective, this is predicated on what our customers tell us and on what we track in terms of dissatisfaction.
In our consumer business, we would suggest there are probably four main reasons as to why people discontinue personal private medical insurance (PMI). One is that people die, individuals gain PMI through a new employer, they are unable to afford it or deem it not be a priority with their budget and cancel it, or that they switch due to a number of reasons.
The majority of switch business is around perceived affordability. The majority of people move or cancel cover is through affordability, not dissatisfaction. They could be satisfied over customer service but frustrated over affordability.
One of the interesting things in the individual marketplace is that it's rare for providers to take individuals who have claimed or have ongoing claim potential to claim on a policy because all you are potentially doing is taking a guaranteed loss. The biggest reason is perceived lack of affordability.
From our perspective, it depends on how you define service. Most of our tracking says customer satisfaction, in terms of the general day-to-day interactions, is high, but there is always a huge frustration around affordability.
We have ongoing challenges around demands for health insurance as people age, and the cost of delivery and therefore the cost of premiums. Individual paid-for medical insurance is still biased towards older policyholders who might have higher incomes.
Julie Gill, Westfield Health
We are proud of our ‘world class' customer service and continually strive to make the customer experience the best it can be. It is about delivering what customers want, when they want it, in the most cost-effective way.
It's crucial to listen to customer needs and to acknowledge, review and act upon their feedback. Using customer satisfaction measures, such as the Net Promoter Score, from both inside and outside the industry enables us to monitor our progress and make improvements wherever there is a need. Accepting when mistakes are made and doing the utmost to put things right for the customer can only make for a better relationship with them.
We believe in developing a culture of improvement. It's important to have a clear vision of what great customer service looks like in the industry, and to subsequently train and develop staff to deliver a consistently excellent and personal service. This helps employees to grow their knowledge, and empowers them to make decisions at the first point of contact.
Focusing our efforts on adding value helps us to achieve customer service excellence. Insurers can work harder to improve the customer experience if they recognise what value is, and can then identify and eliminate waste and make use of technology to give the customer flexibility and choice.