Added-value support services are now pretty much a ‘hygiene factor’ in the UK protection market, but the amount of value they actually bring varies significantly.
Cynics may take the view that insurers are adding services to policies simply to keep up with the Jones's, with little regard to the benefit actually provided to the customers.
I would argue that many services add real tangible value to customers and their families.
This might be helping with the many non-financial needs that arise when serious ill health strikes, a bereavement is suffered, or at the other end of the scale, helping customers stay fit and well with access to early intervention services.
This article focuses on services to support serious ill health and the importance of personalised support and communication around these.
Whatever the purpose of the service, to really add value to a protection policy, they need to meet some key criteria:
1. Meet the needs of the individual
As is so often illustrated in our work, two people with exactly the same diagnosis can have completely different needs. We are, after all, unique beings so it is not surprising that we cope with illness differently, have different family situations, react to treatment differently, have different appetites for information, and so on.
2. Deliver what it says on the tin
So often we hear of disappointments that a service did not deliver what was expected, health conditions may be excluded, or an inadequate number or range of therapy is available. While the small print may state these limitations (in varying degrees of clarity), clients are usually attempting to access them at an extremely vulnerable or distressing time in their lives when their ability to deal with detailed information may be lacking.
Being declined a service at such a time, having taken the difficult step of reaching out, can have a devastating effect on the individual and in turn destroy any trust in the hosting insurance company.
3. Ease of access
Plucking up the courage to ask for help can be extremely hard and consequently many do not until a crisis is reached. Technology is a massive enabler and those services available at point of claim and insurers who proactively refer (subject to consent) are making a serious effort to ensure claimants get meaningful support when they really need it.
Unfortunately there is no single quality benchmark that covers all the added-value services offered by protection policies. Some may fall within the scope of the Care Quality Commission, others are outside. Therefore it is not easy to compare quality between the wide range of different support services.
More work is needed within the protection industry to allow advisers and employers to assess non-financial benefits in the same way as they can for the financial aspects. In the meantime, other measures such as net promoter score and customer satisfaction surveys are an excellent indication.