Over the past decade, the value put on support services has increased in many ways.
Once known as ‘additional services’ or ‘value-adds’, support services have far exceeded this. They are integral to the insurance offer, not ‘extras’ or optional bolt-ons.
They do all they can to help people in a variety of circumstances, with advice, counselling, certainty or whatever is needed.
This is especially pertinent now, when many people are experiencing reduced income.
In addition, the isolation period is stretching people’s mental health and patience, and with the NHS severely overstretched, there will be a knock-on effect in terms of access to clinical support.
While supporting people from the impact of a financial shock is one thing we do really well as an industry, we need to provide more than just a financial benefit. Keeping these services running has been a key objective of insurers and service providers, as they are more necessary than ever.
Support services are usually free for employees to use — and may be for their families too — and there is a significant amount of support available.
This ranges from early intervention services, designed to help employees back to work, to counselling, digital doctor appointments and access to second medical opinions.
Insurers always work in partnership with suppliers to ensure customer needs are addressed in situations such as the current crisis.
That could mean providing clarity on an employer’s responsibilities and options one day, and counselling a single parent struggling to cope with reduced income and children unable to go to school the next.
There is clearly value in using support services. At a basic level for an employee, these services come at no cost to them versus what they would have to pay if they were buying insurance personally. Support services also offer peace of mind.
The importance of employers promoting these services at this particular time should not be underestimated, as a paternalistic employer will certainly be viewed in a good light after the pandemic.
For those employers who do not wish to use such services, it is important to remember that non-engagement is already factored into pricing.
Employers are not paying for something they are not using.
As is common in group insurance, cost is managed across the whole portfolio. All of the support services are non-contractual parts of the policy and usage and promotion is optional. Which leads to the question: why not promote them?
In the past there has been concern that employers will not want to switch provider if these services are effectively embedded in their processes and culture, which has led to hesitation in some quarters to communicate the full range with clients.