The CII's Bobbi Sills asks: how well is the insurance profession responding to customer vulnerability?
Vulnerability exists in many forms and can be temporary, sporadic or permanent in nature. During the claims process, all customers are vulnerable to a degree, but this can be exacerbated if they have pre-existing vulnerabilities.
Risk factors that we can flag as potentially vulnerable include: old age, disability, poor mental health, long-term or short-term chronic illness, and a sudden change in circumstance, such as job loss or divorce. It is important for insurance professionals to remember that vulnerable customers will not necessarily identify themselves as 'vulnerable'.
In 2017, the CII's New Generation Group published a report identifying that the insurance profession needed to do more to service the needs of vulnerable people. According to the report, there were individuals in vulnerable situations who had expressed frustration following their experience with insurers.
The topic of how to engage with vulnerable customers was debated at the Claims and Fraud Summit hosted by Insurance Post in November, with guest speakers Jonathan Clark, global head of business solutions claims at SCOR and past president of the CII; Sue McCall, head of claims at Aspen Risk Management and chair of the CII's Society of Claims Professionals; and Martin Milliner, claims director of LV=.
A key challenge in addressing customer vulnerability can be identifying vulnerability at the point of claim. This may be as some people could be reluctant to disclose information concerning their vulnerability and even in such cases, they may only want to do so once. Mr Milliner said: "At the front end, you have to have the trust built with the customer to understand their vulnerabilities." The infrastructure in contact centres is often robotic in nature, which does little to nurture this trust.
A key challenge in addressing customer vulnerability is in identifying vulnerability at the point of claim
The busy nature of the contact centre can also increase difficulty in handling vulnerability at the point of claim. Ms McCall said: "A lot of stress sits within claims call centres, so you have a situation where there is a vulnerable claims handler handling a vulnerable client." Ms McCall's view was shared by Mr Clark, who said: "One of the real challenges is that sometimes internal processes become very visible."
Mr Clark suggested that insurance companies should mimic successful initiatives outside of the profession, for example utility companies that move vulnerable customers to a handler in a less-pressured environment with the capacity to provide additional support.
Once insurers have captured information on vulnerability, they need to ensure that it is communicated effectively with third parties in the supply chain. With more and more interactions becoming digital, the garnering of data is ever-more challenging. Mr Clark noted: "This is an area that insurers have got to get better at."
Barriers to processing claims can be overwhelming for vulnerable customers, which in turn can result in a nil claim. If the claim is being outsourced, firms must ensure an efficient process of transferring information is in place so that customers do not have to tell handlers about their characteristics or circumstances more than once.
With more insurers making progressive changes to accommodate vulnerable customers, firms must continue to strive for flexible infrastructures and be aware that a more personalised approach to claims handling is required.
For updated good practice guidance around vulnerable customers, visit: www.cii.co.uk/59683
Bobbi Sills is communications executive at the CII
Picture Credit | IKON