"Gone are the days where we can treat everyone the same, and rightly so."
Providers have looked at their policies and understood that there will be instances where customers will struggle to provide a lot of evidence at point of claim and have therefore added in guarantees. These guarantees mean that a customer can secure a sum assured at outset so when the worst happens, they aren’t searching for p60s, payslips or tax returns. This will accelerate the speed in which claims are paid and customers will have peace of mind that, whatever happens, the policy will pay out for a predetermined amount.
We have also seen some providers scrap the need for clients to prove any financial evidence or minimum hours worked for their income protection plans. This has been revolutionary for customers who may be newly self-employed, part time workers or have zero-hour contracts. The pandemic has had such an impact on those that are self-employed, the furloughed or even those that have lost their jobs. These types of policy ensure that, if they ever need to make a claim, they do not need to fret about a drop in income effecting their financial evidence. They can still claim the maximum amount without the need to prove how much they have earned or how many hours they have worked.
Technology has also played a part in the claims process becoming more streamlined. Providers have created dedicated claims portals where all documentation can be sent, stored and viewed, making it easier for customers to receive claim forms and updates at the touch of a button. Even the providers that aren’t quite so advanced have adopted ‘send and sign’ software. Customers will not be required to send back a wet signature and, unless they want anything in hard copy, they can keep everything in their email on their phone or computer. There is still some work to be done to be able to get GP reports back more quickly and, hopefully, with the advancements of the NHS app during the pandemic, we will be able to build on that, but for now the customer has complete control of their paperwork.
Providers have also improved the way in which they request information from GPs. Some have adopted the full disclosure method where they send a Subject Access Request and surgeries will need to come back with every note for the customer. This helps for customers who have long and complex health issues and will help providers see the full picture as quickly as possible. For customers who may have a specific illness, a Targeted Report may be requested, which will speed up the process as the claims handlers will not have to trawl through unnecessary information. The key point here is that they no longer have a blanket solution for all customers.
During the pandemic, I took some time from my usual job to support the claims team in my previous business. Technology is great but, in my opinion, nothing beats being able to speak to someone and get the reassurance that you are looking for when it comes to being able to claim during a difficult period in your life. I am usually adviser-facing, and getting back on the phones to support customers meant that I was dealing with financial, emotional and sometimes psychological issues. The complete change of pace made me realise how much the claims team are right at the core of the business and have a set of completely different skills to any of the sales, new business or even underwriting departments. They are compassionate, caring and patient and put customers right at the heart of what they do. Nearly every claims team will have been overrun during the pandemic, but most will still have supported every customer in the way they needed.
Having a dedicated claims handler can make the world of difference to a customer. Having one point of contact to be able to refer to rather than having to repeat yourself to a member of a large call centre puts that customer at ease during a time when they already have enough to worry about. A lot of providers have specialist team members for different illnesses, and this only strengthens the claims process. Claims handlers have more control and are taking a more common-sense approach to sometimes complex cases. Gone are the days where we can treat everyone the same, and rightly so. Customers place their premiums with providers to take care of them when they need it most so, with more focus on claims in the past few years, providers are making headway to make sure everyone is treated as an individual.