Three words formed the basis of what I wanted to achieve on my own. These were: simpler, content and experiment.
But looking back, I am disappointed that we could not make things simpler, either at a corporate or an industry level. Talking to individuals often reveals a desire for simplification. They say that protection products and processes are too complicated, meaning clients do not understand them and become fed up with the time it takes to apply.
At the same time, however, we are locked into a cycle where complexity persists, because that is the key to gaining competitive advantage. It might not grow the market as a whole, but it allows companies to maximise their shares of it. Breaking out of this cycle, therefore, presents a huge challenge for the protection industry and so ‘simpler’ remains one of my key ambitions – not just products and processes, but marketing communications as well.
‘Content’ is also key to overcoming the barriers that still prevent people from buying protection for their families. This is where I think the industry has a massive opportunity to innovate using video, social media and other communication channels.
But in order to produce great content, we also have to listen and understand more than ever before what the man in the street is saying about our industry. In the past, that meant putting together expensive focus groups and huge quantitative surveys to drive out opinions. While these methods are still valid, there are many other ways you can listen to the public.
By using hashtags on Twitter and Facebook, such as #LifeInsurance, you can learn a great deal about what people think. “It’s too expensive,” is an old perennial. “The company will try and find a way of weaseling out of paying a claim,” is another.
It is said that the public believes life assurance companies only pay out 38 per cent of claims. We all know the figure is over 90 per cent. That is a shocking gulf between perception and reality. Try a few protection hashtags or Google searches and you will see that there are many other examples of people chatting about protection in this way.
Unfortunately, while the internet lets us eavesdrop on the public, it also makes it harder for us to change their minds. That is because people have a tendency to seek information that confirms their beliefs – it is called ‘confirmation bias’. They gather and remember information selectively and interpret it with bias. They also tend to view ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing view.
So you hear in the pub that companies only pay 38 per cent of protection insurance claims. Despite the fact that they can find many opposing arguments on the web, they will select articles that confirm their viewpoint and deliberately or subconsciously ignore those that conflict with their view. You can now see why it is so hard to convince them of the truth. Their belief is so deeply ingrained that they will only acknowledge the information that confirms their view.