Donna Jermer is a Marketing SVP for iptiQ Americas by Swiss Re and acting Director of Marketing for Lumico Life Insurance.
Armed with increasingly sophisticated technological tools, customers in the life insurance sector can now access more data than ever before. As technology continues to advance, life insurance policyholders can be selective when it comes to their providers.
That means providers must earn the trust of their policyholders. They can do this by charging their marketing and communications teams to demystify products and services — by simplifying processes, reducing jargon and increasing overall transparency within customer communications. Only through those means can providers forge the long-term relationships that are central to the industry and ensure benefit for all concerned.
A largely overlooked aspect of this relationship is the support given to beneficiaries. Involving them in the customer experience from the beginning, as opposed to including them after the fact, is without question the ultimate in unique selling proposition (USP).
Such support can take many forms:
• Beneficiaries, such as policyholders, should be included within the policyholder onboarding process.
• Policyholders should be educated about the process of selecting beneficiaries and providing their contact information to the insurer. This is so that claims can be paid promptly. Too often there are lags on these fronts, leading to unnecessary delays in getting payments processed.
• Outreach programs to policyholders and beneficiaries should be reframed so that better education and support are provided and the claims process is simplified with a new focus on families and their needs.
The data on matters relating to beneficiaries is clear. A survey of over 400 participants, conducted by my company in February, showed that over half of beneficiaries believe a paper copy of relevant policy documents is “really useful,” and nearly half responded the same way when asked whether they would want a fireproof folder for such documents, instructions on how to file a claim, access to an electronic copy of the policy and a planning guide for end-of-life conversations.
According to the AARP, 92% of people think it’s important to discuss their end-of-life wishes with loved ones, though the Conversation Project reports that only 32% have done so. Moreover, 96% of people 65 and older consider it important to put their wishes in writing for medical care in the case of serious illness, but only about a quarter have shared the document with their doctor.
Clearly, policyholders must bear the brunt of the burden when it comes to keeping beneficiaries in the loop, but the provider can help all the same. Sixty-three percent of the beneficiaries responding to the first of the above surveys thought a grievance booklet would be of great benefit, and 57% view a guide to just how the claims process works as being “really useful.” Weekly email updates of that process are also preferred.
The bottom line is that companies can and should be doing more to support beneficiaries, who have too often been left in the dark about policies and, as a result, have been unaware of money that is rightfully theirs. In 2017, for instance, it was reported that $7.4 billion had gone unclaimed, which has since caused insurance companies to redouble their efforts at finding beneficiaries.
Going the extra mile is in insurers’ best interests, as those beneficiaries are more motivated to get life insurance themselves once they go through the process. That aligns with the notion that providers should be empathetic and innovative in the interest of the customer experience — they should constantly tailor products and services according to individual needs.
Specific to the onboarding process, it would be ideal for providers to make use of digital vaults or file-sharing services to bring (and keep) policyholders and beneficiaries up to speed. Both make possible the secure transfer of data so that all parties are aligned.
But again, transparency is key in communications, whether between the insured party and his or her loved ones, or the customer and the provider. While having end-of-life conversations is often difficult, there are many that provide guidance on that front, including the Hospice Foundation of America. It is not inconceivable that insurance providers could also be of aid on this front, making sure that the lines of communication are open and that beneficiaries’ contact information is on file and up to date. There have been cases, certainly, where beneficiaries aren’t even aware of the policies held by their loved ones, nor what their wishes might be. That only leads to additional heartache at a trying time.
The long and short of it is that insurance providers can be doing far more to support beneficiaries and that it is in their best interest to do so. It will simplify the process for all concerned, provide peace of mind and increase the likelihood of brand loyalty.
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