How vulnerable consumers are treated in their time of need will reflect on the entire industry.
The FCA’s definition of a vulnerable consumer is “someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to harm, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care.”
Based on this definition it is hard to argue that someone claiming on a protection plan is one of the most vulnerable consumers an adviser will come across. Yet how such consumers are treated in their time of need will reflect on the entire industry.
There are many aspects to a claim to consider, from how easy it is to submit, how it is assessed, through to how a decision is delivered. Each step of the process must be carried out with compassion, speed and as little added stress placed on the claimant as possible.
When submitting a claim, the claimant will be divulging very personal and, in most cases, upsetting information. Whilst some may be comfortable sharing this over the phone, others may want to do this online or via post.
As such, having all these options available is very beneficial. Some insurers require the completion of a claim form in all cases. This is a particularly poor process as insurers should be set up to collect the relevant information at first point of contact, regardless of the channel used.
Subsequent information should only be requested if the insurer cannot obtain this themselves or if the claimant was unable to provide this at outset.
Keeping all parties up to date on a regular basis is also vitally important especially where there are delays in obtaining the required information. Radio silence is not an option and updates should always include what is still required, from who and when it will be next chased.
On the rare occasions that a claim is declined, this should always be communicated by a senior member of the claims team or underwriter via a phone call. The reasons for the adverse decision should be explained fully, with the claimant or adviser given the opportunity to challenge the decision.
Undoubtedly, ensuring that a claim is paid as quickly and efficiently as possible is of utmost importance.
There are, however, a number of insurers that are now going beyond this. AIG have their claims support fund, Aviva have Project Teddy, and LV= have Green Heart. These are all similar initiatives that make additional funds available to provide small gestures of support to claimants.
These can be hampers, a toy for their children or even money to pay for travel to and from treatments. Whatever the gesture, this kind of initiative can make the claimant feel valued, and can hopefully go some small way in brightening their day.
The claims processes employed by insurers have improved immeasurably in recent times thanks to the work carried out by the Protection Distributors group and many other industry groups.