This is the third highlights post covering some of the great discussion at our September Protection Forum. In this section, advisers discussed how to better relate to clients and speak their language. 

The key thing is getting people to buy into protection as early as possible, which means creating a space for low-budget protection for younger clients before they need it.

Harvey Kambo:

In real terms, and I think Paul at Vita and I had had a conversation recently about tenants customers in particular. We all come from different walks of adviser life as well as consumer life. And sometimes we come across different kinds of clients. So, if you’re talking to clients who earn 2000 pounds a month, and have a mortgage and have children and have all of these things their mindset is slightly different to somebody who’s moving into their first rental flat earns 800 pounds a month, doesn’t have kids and wants to make sure they have beer money for the weekend. I think Paul referred to it as that when we were talking, and really that 40 pounds a month for the full plan is their beer money. And they’d rather spend 11 or 12 pounds on protecting themselves. I think that there is a space to have those budget options, because for me, the important and key thing is that we get people to buy into protection as early as possible. When they’re young, when they perhaps, don’t have health problems that are going to be excluded from a plan so that they get on this journey to being better protected. They might, during the course of their lives, find ways of bettering that initial policy that they took out, but let’s get them on board, let’s get them protecting themselves. And I think that that’s key.

Many value-added benefits that come with cover allow clients to benefit from their policy even if they never make a claim.

Zanele Sibanda:

My view is more aligned to the insurer value-added benefits that should be considered when making a recommendation. Whilst price can be a consideration and with cover definitions being broadly similar, it should also be about making sure that clients can benefit from their policy even if they never make a claim. Looking at the value-added benefits, SMEs see great value in these extra benefits such as EAPS, grief counselling, legal helplines and help with recruitment on the loss of a keyperson.

Most insurers are adding to their value-added benefits. They are important and clients find these valuable when they can understand what else their policy can do for them other than just provide a pay-out at point of claim.

We talk a lot about the benefits from cover, which is especially good for mental health clients, and then talk about premiums at the end once they understand all the value they can get from the plan.

Emma Astley:

I think when our clients come through to us, they’ve no idea about insurance, they’re scared of asking questions, and it’s about just having a nice chat with them, getting to know them, chatting with the kids, if you need to. I love doing that. And just to then open them up to listen in of what their needs are and what they can be protected for. So really we don’t talk about price at the beginning. We talk about the benefits, what they can have.

Most of the providers have fantastic benefits, and we don’t talk about them enough. So especially the mental health clients that have come through, we let them know about all the counselling that they can have, the support and how the children can be covered. That’s a massive thing we talk about. So then the clients understand their need then, and that’s what it’s about, is the client understanding why they need insurance and a premium then becomes irrelevant with our clients coming through. We actually think it’s going to cost £50, £70, but when we actually put the recommendation towards them and it might be £30 a month for four different products, they’re like, “wow, this is brilliant. I now know I need it and I can afford it”. So, premiums, talk about that last when you’ve made the recommendations, but discuss their need and why they need the protection and the benefits. Definitely.

Lots of big firms don’t concentrate on the value of advice and helping people get the best protection they can, but instead just give clients the cheapest and easiest option. We spend a lot of time working on our sales process and often use technology to help us match products for clients such as the FTRC Quality Analyser to assess how well a product actually does what it says it will do. There needs to be a clear and simple sales process for advisers to follow, especially if they don’t work regularly in protection.

Charly Higman:

I think it’s difficult for some advice firms, to get their sales process right. Particularly if the culture of the firm is not Protection driven or there is no specific person within the firm that “owns” the protection element.

There are firms out there, big firms, that don’t concentrate on the value of advice and maintaining long term relationships with their clients, they are transactional firms, concentrating on commerciality and having a constant stream of new customers rather than fully servicing the clients they already have. 

I see so many examples, particularly in the mortgage sector where people are purchasing a mortgage, they are being sold life assurance, particularly decreasing term assurance, recommending that because it’s the easiest and cheapest option.  There doesn’t appear to be much emphasis on client priorities or discussion on the types of protection product available, this can be catastrophic for families if the worst does happen…

Our sales process is something we’ve thought long and hard about. Where possible we use technology to help us match products for clients.   One product we use is F&TRC’s Quality Analyser, we built our own templates so that we can initially concentrate on “does the product do what it says on the tin”?  So, for example, if we’re looking for something that’s critical illness driven, we want to know how well it will pay out according to the diagnosis definitions and then we want to know how much it’s going to pay out, in order to judge its position in the market, so a lot of the weighting used will be on how the product does in fulfilling its primary function, then we will keep some of the weighting and use it for value added benefits and children’s cover if we’ve established they are important to the client.

So, we spent a lot of time and effort getting that right, and making an easy sales process to follow for our advisers, because that’s the difficulty in my view, there are way too many variables and without a clearly thought through and consistent sales process advisers will struggle.  Particularly wealth advisers who may not do a lot of protection business, they need something they can pick up and run with even if they haven’t done any protection business for a while…

Even before COVID, people struggled very often to get appointments at their GPs, and for many people having access through their phone to a surgery is invaluable. Many clients buy policies and aren’t made aware of the benefits they get with them, which increases cancellation rates because the benefit isn’t made tangible to them.

Harvey Kambo:

I actually think that this is a long term thing for me, personally. I think that we are thinking about COVID because that period has impressed upon us, the need for the GP services and other benefits within policies. But I think that if you look prior to the COVID pandemic starting, people were struggling to get appointments with their GPS.  In a lot of cases, people were struggling to get GP appointments for up to two weeks and couldn’t arrange them conveniently. For people who work with little children who might have minor ailments and want to get medical advice, it is invaluable to have access to GP services that are conveniently at the end of a phone or on a FaceTime call.

All of these things are priceless in my view. And I think that beyond this period of the pandemic, they will remain valuable to clients. We just need to point them out to them because I think very many clients buy policies and don’t realise the benefits within them because we don’t point them out to them. And the more they use these benefits, it helps cancellation rates, because I think if you’re using your policy for things like mental health facilities, counselling services, GP services, all these things make you not want to lose your policy. This intangible benefit that you perhaps have bought and put away for years and all you see is the direct debit going out every month becomes a nuisance to you but when you’re using it on a regular basis these things become important and valuable to you.

You don’t want to have to wait for a GP appointment, or see somebody about something minor that your child’s suffering with, or go out at the moment because of the pandemic. But also in other cases, because you’re working and your child is at school. We need to tell clients where to find them. And that’s what we need to get better at.

I’m a huge fan of health apps and use one myself, but worry that they’re a trend during COVID when healthcare is more of an issue and usage will diminish after a time.

Paul Reed:

I’m a huge fan of it. I actually used my Smart Health app this weekend with my two year old son when we were away in Cornwall. So I’m a big, big believer in the usage, in terms of the longevity of whether they will continue to be spoken about, I think, unfortunately, maybe I’m quite pessimistic on this, but if I look at the protection industry as a whole, not just focusing on protection specialists, like we might have on this call I think it might go through a bit of a trend.

So at the minute where COVID hit, everyone is thinking, “Oh yes, the health apps are a great benefit”. In my experience of mortgage advisers where when the mortgage market is buoyant, they might talk about protection occasionally, or they may well not. When the recession hits and mortgages tighten up, all of a sudden they love protection and they’re selling loads of it. And then the mortgage market picks up again and they forget all about protection.

So I wonder whether the smart apps might go through that same peak and trough. When COVID does hopefully settle down in the, in the coming months and years where then we’ll see the focus on those apps diminish, unfortunately despite the absolute value that they bring to policies. I hope it’s not the case, my cynicism there.

I believe that we will continue to see online GP services used going forwards. We’ve had 10 years’ worth of e-commerce growth and penetration in the last three months, and that won’t just disappear.

Paul Yates:

It was two things. Number one, I absolutely agree with Harvey that we will have online GP services going forward. We’ll see increased use going forward. We’ve had 10 years’ worth of e-commerce growth in the last three months of COVID lockdown; 10 years worth of extra e-commerce penetration – bad news for the high street, but it’s good news for online services. It’s not going to go back to the way it was. People don’t go back, they don’t forget, it might go slightly reduce, but it will not go back to how it was. So, I absolutely agree with you Harvey.

From the point of view of wellness apps, that’s a very interesting point. I think they are slightly different from GP services in that what’s important about the apps is the engagement part. How do you keep people engaged is a really interesting question. We’ve done quite a bit of work with Dacadoo in the past and they have whole teams and all they do is try and put the messaging out to keep people coming back to the app and engaging.

It’s not just using the app. It’s actually, how do you keep people interested in and carrying on engaging with it? We’ve all tried faddish things here and there and it’s gone well for a while and then stopped. How do you carry the initial enthusiasm on? How do you get people involved in it from a point of view of their policies? I think the jury is still – I still believe that adoption of tools like this will happen.

After putting clients on a policy, we send them a digital and hard copy that details what the policy does so that they can remember why they have the cover. We also do a review appointment every year and give them more information and stats about their policy.

Matthew Chapman:

One of the things that we do whenever we place policies is we found, because I do a lot of menu plans and I do a lot of sort of lot multiple policy stuff as well. The one thing that really helps that after we’ve done a recommendation, we’ve put the cover on risk or even done the applications, what we tend to do is send an email out to the clients and then we send them a written copy as well.

And it’s basically a very simple table, which is the policy number that they’ve got, the provider, the level of cover they’ve got, what it covers, and for us, a sort of brief description of the different things that covers them for, and then also a number they can call if they ever experience an issue and need to make a claim. It’s a way of them having a very centralised document, which we can use as reference and they can use for reference because I’ve found one of the problems that clients have is they forget why they’ve got the cover, what the cover’s all about or what they’re covered for. So it’s a really interesting and very simple way that you can get the client engaged in it.

And then the second thing is, every year before anniversary, what we do is we send out an email to the client and we arrange a review appointment. But what we do is remind them. So we do claims stats specific for that provider, what their policy covers them for, the average claims and using claim statistics that, you know, Roy and Kevin and people like that put together over the years, which is brilliant. And we kind of stick all that in there with a load of information, and a bit more key facts about their policy. And we sort of invite them to then come and have a review to make sure it’s still fit for purpose. And it’s a really good way.

And again, like Emma and Harvey, both said, reminding them of the different, additional benefits that are included in the plan. So don’t forget you’ve got 24/7 GP. So it’s, “don’t forget you’ve got this, and mental health counselling, and nutritional support and things like that”. And if you keep them informed as to what they’ve got, they place huge amounts of value on that, on that cover.

We keep in close contact with our customers and engage with them regularly through lots of different means, and often become quite friendly with them.

Emma Astley:

Quite similar, actually. We do have an after-sales process, so we’ll contact the client. They always get a welcome text and a welcome email. A week later, we do a follow-up call and then we do one month, three months, six months and nine months. And, but then on the 12th month call, we actually send out or we do it on the sale. We send them a certificate. So that shows them quite simply how much they’re covered for what’s the term, what for, so they have a bread down quite visually, easy, simple. And then on the 12 month renewal email that we send to them, people see it as a renewal, even though we make it quite clear, it’s not a renewable product, but we send them a certificate again to let them know how much the sum assured is, what the premiums are. And just simply have any of your circumstances changed, if you’ve got any further questions, but let them know about all the other products and stuff that we have available as a company. But we do a lot of engaging on Instagram, still with the clients. So we’re always chatting away with them and, you know, just always engaging throughout the year. They’ve become quite friendly with my clients, really. That’s something that we are a bit different with.