The Importance of Advisers’ Knowledge at Claim Time

In the first of two CPD features, Warwick Beard of TAL discusses the importance of the adviser’s role at claim time. His message serves as a timely reminder about the value that all advisers deliver for their clients at a time when their help is needed the most…

 

When people have their lives disrupted by a significant event, and are in the unfortunate position of having to make a claim on their life insurance policy, they want an expert on their side.

There is nobody else in the claims experience that offers the same service that financial advisers do, and advisers are in the unique position of deeply understanding their clients’ financial affairs and having the opportunity to make an invaluable impact during their hardest times.

While it is incumbent on advisers to have a strong level of knowledge when it comes to life insurance product definitions, indemnity requirements, financial structures, and ongoing income clauses, having good working relationships with insurers often gives the greatest opportunity to ensure they can play a role in facilitating a smooth claims experience for their clients.

Key priority

There is no doubt that a key priority for the financial advice industry is to build trusting and long-lasting relationships with clients. Within that, the ability of an adviser to offer emotional guidance through direct communication is extremely valuable to a client navigating an insurance claim.

Providing a human touch and expressing empathy during the course of navigating a claim will go a long way in building a longer-term supportive relationship, and there is an opportunity for advisers to foster a relationship with their clients which is more akin to a partnership through constant and relevant dialogue.

When people are navigating the claims experience, they are often looking to their advisers for care, sensitivity and objectivity, and want to be understood – this is what makes that human touch and an already established level of adviser-client trust so important.

Simple keeping-in-touch practices like updating clients around timings for their next review, letting them know how their claims are progressing, and even setting expectations in initial conversations around how frequently they will be communicating, can help clients enjoy the interaction and advice that comes with one-on-one dealings with an adviser.

Education is paramount

Advisers’ knowledge and expertise around the claims process means they can assist clients on the claims journey so they are able to focus on their personal matters, such as returning to better health or looking after their family.

At TAL we broaden our support to advisers dealing with claims by providing them with direct contact to our claims consultants. In recent times, when advisers need information or answers, speed is highly valued. Providing this direct access allows for the potential to build relationships and for advisers to feel better supported so that they can fulfil their promises and obligations to clients.

This open communication is a priority for us. By working closely with advisers, we know that quick responses and an accessible claims team are a crucial part of the claims experience. We believe that direct access can only lead to more efficient claims processes and, ultimately, improve client outcomes.

There is also a role for life insurers to support advisers through their education journey. Our education program, TAL Risk Academy, is a significant opportunity for us to contribute to and enhance advisers’ knowledge around claims. Since 2018, 1,875 advisers have participated in our TAL Risk Academy claims education. These courses are continually evolving, and some include real examples and case studies to help advisers enhance their ability to relate and communicate with clients on a deeper level, subsequently helps form trusted relationships for the long-term.

While knowledge is power, it doesn’t mean advisers are expected to do it all themselves. Drawing on the expertise of life insurers and their various specialists will help advisers provide an outstanding claims experience for their clients, while also creating operational efficiencies.

Build trust

Advisers can offer invaluable support to their clients by navigating the medical and financial complexities of a claim while also offering emotional support.

Those advisers who understand the product offering and the claims process intimately will deliver the best value to their clients and foster stronger relationships.

By working together in the best interests of clients, advisers and their life insurance partners can make a formidable team, adding exponential value over the life of the client relationship, and particularly during clients’ most difficult times.

Warwick Beard is TAL Retail Claims Liaison Manager

 

The Key to Unlocking Value Through Claims Transformation

In this article, TAL’s head of Claims, Jenny Oliver, sets out the background and rationale behind the development of the firm’s claims philosophy and says its claims philosophy is more than just words on a page…

 

A positive experience at claim time is at the core of healthy, rewarding, and long-lasting relationships between life insurers and their customers.

While life insurers often have lengthy relationships with our customers, they are by their nature ‘low touch,’ and this can make it challenging to build trust into the customer relationship over time. It is often only when the customer needs to claim that we have an opportunity to fully engage with them and as a result it is often the claims experience that will define a customer’s view of their life insurer.

Getting the claims process and experience right, during a time that is often one of the most difficult in a person’s life, is paramount, and goes directly to the value customers see in the life insurance category as a whole.

Operating within this customer relationship paradigm demands two equally important areas of focus for life insurers. The first is that when thinking about delivery across the entire customer relationship and every customer touchpoint, it’s important to recognise that building those relationships is not a one-stop-shop.

Insurers need to work in an agile way through continuous delivery and continuous improvement to make both their business and their customers stronger. This, in turn, will build trust and confidence that, should a customer need to claim in the future, their insurer will be there to not just pay their claim, but also to support them through that process.

The second area of focus is the actual claims experience itself, which can ultimately be the difference between a positive and negative perception of the entire life insurance industry.

At TAL, we recognise that handling claims effectively is the most important thing we do, and we want to provide an outstanding claims experience for our customers, which is where we make the biggest contribution to the people we protect.

Every single claim is different, and every customer brings to this process a different set of circumstances and needs and getting the experience right for each individual customer is critical.

To create that consistency of experience across such diverse circumstances amongst the claims TAL pays to more than 36,000 customers and their families each year requires the right frameworks to be in place, and few are more important than the Claims Philosophy.

At TAL we have developed our most comprehensive Claims Philosophy to date, designed to ensure our customers can feel confident and understand how claims will be handled, and our people understand the ways we are accountable for delivering on those expectations.

Claims philosophy

While claims philosophies are not a new concept, the claims function has come out of the back office and is now regarded as one of the front-line service functions, so it’s essential that life insurers revisit the frameworks and philosophies they have in place to ensure that they remain highly relevant and a true reflection of the work that goes on within the claims team.

In 2020, we took the opportunity at TAL to step back and consider how we make our Claims Philosophy as meaningful as possible and build accountability into it, and the processes and systems that flow from it.

The customer experience is informed by a diverse range of touchpoints, from how life insurers collect the relevant information to support their claim, to what support we’re providing to our customers, how we make decisions, and how we’re looking after our people. No longer is this just about the outcomes that businesses want to deliver. There is now a strong focus on the tangible things in the business – such as processes and accountabilities – that drive those outcomes.

Through the process of revisiting and reimagining our TAL Claims Philosophy, we listened, consulted widely, and worked with our customers, partners, and our people, to articulate the set of beliefs that sit behind the actions we take every day to deliver positive experiences and outcomes for our customers.

By articulating the processes and component parts, our customers and our people know what to expect, and also what is expected of them throughout the claims journey.
When unpacking what our customers and people encountered on the claims journey, we found our processes and accountabilities were comprehensive, but as with anything in a business, there is always room for improvement, and so we set out to develop our most customer-focused and in-depth Claims Philosophy yet.

A values-based approach to delivering customer outcome

Our approach to that design process began with defining the core beliefs that underpin TAL’s entire approach to delivering a positive claims experience.

The importance of providing guidance and support every step of the way, partnering with our customers and support network to simplify the process where possible, keeping customers’ best health outcomes front of mind and working to help them achieve those, delivering fair outcomes for every customer, and investing in our claims team to ensure we have the right resources in place to meet customer needs, are all core beliefs which underpin TAL’s Claims Philosophy.

These shared values inform the expectations we set for ourselves, and the way we handle claims, interact with claimants as well as their families, make decisions, and provide support along the entire claims journey.

By getting crystal clear on what matters to us, we were able to define a set of positive customer outcomes that every team member can keep front of mind, and ensure our actions are driving against those outcomes.

Clarity and understanding for the customer around both the process and the status of the claim, simplicity, and efficiency where it’s most valuable, and a compassionate approach to supporting every customer and reducing the burden of claiming are all enshrined in our Claims Philosophy, as are the priorities at a business level which will continue to support their delivery.

This framework then serves as a shared ‘north star’ for every member of the claims team, and all those across the wider business who support them. When we are acting in accordance with our TAL Claims Philosophy, we can be confident that we are working to ensure the claims experience for every customer – regardless of the outcome of their claim – is aligned to our values as an organisation and as people.

As new customer needs are identified, the solutions we develop are tested against our Claims Philosophy, to ensure we are continually delivering a more consistent claims experience and remain accountable to our defined and aligned set of performance metrics and measures.

There is no question that technology has a key role to play in making many aspects of the claims experience easier for our customers, however we believe at TAL that technology is most valuable within the claims process when viewed as a platform enabler of the experience, rather than a solution in itself.

Each of our customers is unique, and when they want to tell their story or share their concerns with another person, we must ensure that our claims consultants are well equipped and feel empowered to support them.

Life insurers should be looking to offer more than just a claim payment, and claims consultants – the way they are trained, their attitude and their approach to work – are key to providing the best possible experience for customers.

A well-developed and rigorously considered claims philosophy is an important part of that equation and sits at the heart of the operational approach an insurer takes to claims.

Our Claims Philosophy helps us identify and act on what we need to do to improve, and that has enabled us to invest more than ever in claims processes, our people, and our technology, with confidence that the investment will drive positive outcomes for our customers, our partners, and our people.

Better outcomes

We want our customers to feel confident they will be supported in the best way possible and by our actions throughout the claims experience we seek to alleviate any trepidation they may have felt in approaching us to make a claim.

By reflecting deeply on what we do today and where we want to be tomorrow, we have been able to arrive at a framework which spells out what we are trying to achieve through everything we do and use that to operationalise changes and enhancements for the benefit of everyone making a claim.

We know that if our customers at claim time feel confident as they navigate through the process, then our Claims Philosophy has done its job. Likewise, if our people are crystal clear on what is expected of them, and feel they have the tools and support to deliver against that, there is no limit to what can be achieved

If our customers are confident in the philosophy underneath the surface, they can be confident in their trust in us as life insurers.

Jenny Oliver is TAL’s Chief Claims Officer

 

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