Should your client need to claim on their income protection plan it means the worst has literally happened. With their ability to earn an income curtailed clients will be worried about their future and so need all the support they can get to make it through a tough time. Insurers have recognised this and have been putting various initiatives in place to improve their claims processes and customer experience at a difficult time.

The claims process needs to run smoothly and be made as easy as possible for the client. Not only does the product need to ‘do what it says on the tin’, in providing financial help to claimants, the client experience will make a huge difference at a very testing time and shape their views of insurers and advisers going forward. In this article we look at how providers support clients through the income protection claims process.

In a nutshell, if you want to build a lasting relationship with clients, their experience needs to be a good one. To this end, all 12 insurers in our survey provide claimants with a single point of contact during the claims process and these contacts have received specific training on how to speak with claimants. This will be reassuring for advisers who know from experience how frustrating it is to repeat the same information to lots of different people.

The training that claims handlers receive is similar. All except those at Cirencester Friendly receive training from a support group for bereaved/ill people – such as the Samaritans – and training on specific medical conditions from a medical professional.

Flexibility in terms of who can notify the insurer of a claim is useful and all insurers allow various people, such as the servicing adviser to a family member of the life assured to do this. Insurers vary as to whether the person notifying them of the claim will need to compete a claim form. It is interesting to note that those who require a competed claim form are all friendly societies – British Friendly, Cirencester Friendly and The Exeter.

Do you notify advisers of a claim in progress if notification has not come from them?
Aegon Yes, in any event
AIG Yes, but only with the client’s permission
Aviva No
British Friendly Yes, in any event
Cirencester Friendly Yes, but only with the client’s permission
Holloway Friendly Yes, but only with the client’s permission
Legal & General Yes, but only with the client’s permission
LV= Yes, but only with the client’s permission
Royal London Yes, in any event
The Exeter Yes, in any event
Vitality Life Yes, in any event
Zurich Yes, in any event

If someone other than an adviser has notified the insurer of the claim, most insurers will notify the adviser that a claim is in progress. Half the insurers in our table notify the adviser in any event, but five will do so only if the client has given the insurer permission to do this. Only Aviva will not notify the adviser in these circumstances.

Claimants will obviously receive regular updates on the progress of their claims, but servicing advisers will also be kept informed most cases, with Cirencester Friendly the only exception  Most insurers will contact the adviser using a range of methods – secure email, telephone and post. 

A dedicated call centre is something that all insurers provide to support clients going through the claims process. None is available 24-hours a day during weekdays but there are a couple of insurers who operate these services for longer than the core hours of 8am to 6pm. AIG is one of them, running its service from 8am to 8pm. VitalityLife’s service is slightly longer at 8am until 9pm. VitalityLife also opens its call centres at weekends, during the core hours of 9am to 1pm, as does Zurich.

In the digital era, you would expect insurers to be less rigid than they were years ago about requiring original versions of all documentation to be sent in support of a claim. Most will accept photocopies of documents, whether certified or not certified by a relevant professional, and smartphone/camera photographs of documents.

Most insurers also take a relaxed approach to the way documents can be sent, whether by post, email or picture messaging/MMS. However, Aegon, AIG Cirencester and VitalityLife  are not keen on documents sent by picture messaging/MMS.

Once a claim has been settled or has ended, all providers will offer ongoing support but there is some variation between them. All firms except Cirencester Friendly make a follow-up call to the claimant to check how their recovery is progressing. All providers offer some sort of intervention, such as counselling or rehabilitation services, if the recovery is not going well. However, fewer providers make a follow-up call to offer the claimant added value benefits such as counselling, legal services and rehabilitation services.

If possible do you collect customer feedback during and after the claims process
Aegon Yes, after the claims process
AIG Yes, both during and after the claims process
Aviva Yes, both during and after the claims process
British Friendly Yes, after the claims process
Cirencester Friendly No
Holloway Friendly Yes, both during and after the claims process
Legal & General Yes, both during and after the claims process
LV= Yes, both during and after the claims process
Royal London Yes, both during and after the claims process
The Exeter Yes, both during and after the claims process
Vitality Life Yes, both during and after the claims process
Zurich Yes, after the claims process

Collecting customer feedback is a way that companies can check if they are getting the customer experience right. As our table shows, most providers gather this information during and after the claims process, which should provide them with a more complete picture of their customer service standards. Cirencester Friendly do not collect customer feedback

Overall, the claims process appears to be pretty standard across the board, with minor variations between providers. The call centres that claimants can go to for support is an area in which some insurers like AIG, VitalityLife and Zurich are differentiating themselves.

AIG’s weekday service is longer than most other insurers, while Zurich opens its call centre at weekends – which most insurers don’t do. However, VitalityLife is the standout provider here because its call centre has the longest weekday opening hours and it also operates a service at weekends.