The life insurance industry hasn’t adequately supported the beneficiary largely because the industry has focused on supporting the sales channel and the insured.
In general, life insurance companies haven’t considered beneficiaries as key stakeholders. If companies don’t offer the proper experience to this group, carriers risk disappointing potential customers, damaging their brand’s reputation and, ultimately, hurting sales.
The beneficiaries of a life insurance policy require a dramatically different experience than that provided to the insured. The claims experience in life insurance is very different than for any other type of policy. Instead of the insured filing the claim, it might be their children or caregivers doing so. And the person filing the claim will be grieving, in addition to dealing with financial and logistical challenges. Many beneficiaries need emotional support, so it is essential for carriers to provide an optimal experience by using a variety of different contact and support options that offer the right combination of choice, guidance and advice.
Provide Varied and Personalized Capabilities
Today, it’s important that life insurers offer automated self-service capabilities. However, life insurers can’t eliminate the human element, which is sometimes just as important as quickly delivering the claims check.
To expedite the claims process, one insurer that also owned a bank set up an account for the beneficiary and provided an account number and instructions on how to get the settlement funds. But this approach, while efficient, didn’t create the right experience for the beneficiary, who may have needed guidance in a time of need. The approach also eliminated the most important touchpoint for the salesperson, who wants to be involved in delivering the promise he sold long ago. Life insurers need to offer the right advice and hand-holding at the right moments. When there’s a death in the family, the survivors typically aren’t in the right state of mind to make important financial decisions.
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On the other hand, neglecting to offer digital capabilities can also be a mistake. Many long-term-care insurance companies, for instance, make the mistake of thinking that their customers will not use online and digital capabilities, given their age. However, the insured is not always the one making the claims. It’s usually their caregivers, who tend to be the insured's digitally savvy children and who prefer to take a picture with their phone to submit a claim rather than stay on the phone with a claims contact-center representative.
Therefore, life insurers need to provide multi-channel access, because each channel can suit different needs of their customers. Limiting services or focusing on one to the exclusion of others can create a customer experience that simply does not work in all situations and for all people.
Starting the claims process
To kick off the claims process, a life insurer should reach out to the beneficiary with a call from a contact center representative. A salesperson might not be the best fit to make the call, but a trained representative can provide comfort, offer help and support or even just serve as a sympathetic listener. The representative can ask how he or she can help, outline the multiple choices the beneficiary has in terms of next steps to the claims process and stress that all actions will happen on the beneficiary’s timeline. You want to make the customer feel special, that you’re taking care of him or her. That’s why the industry exists.
By offering a great claimant experience, insurers may even see beneficiaries turn into lifetime customers. Life insurance, as an industry, is seeing growth that is flat to low, at best, having traditionally been restricted to the upper-middle class and affluent groups, while the lower and middle-income groups have proven to be a challenge for the industry to reach. By offering the right experience and educating beneficiaries of the value of life and annuities products early in their lives, insurers can better position themselves to deliver their products and service to those groups.
Stay in Touch
Life insurers can engage with the insured and the beneficiaries well before a claim to foster a relationship. Insurers can leverage an engagement platform like Life.io, a digital platform that educates, engages and rewards policyholders throughout their customer journey. Combined with the right experience and the right digital capabilities, such an approach to staying in touch could be a game-changer for the industry.
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Life carriers must connect with beneficiaries as often as possible. It’s important to capture beneficiary email addresses and phone numbers early, updating the information continually and using tools and technologies to keep in touch. The data will be very valuable for insurers in creating their products as well as evolving service models.
Improving the beneficiary experience with an omni-channel approach, fostering a relationship and focusing on this key stakeholder can not only help facilitate the claims process but also provide life insurers with opportunities for growth.