Digital innovation in insurance
How do we ensure vulnerable customers are not left behind?
It’s 2020, paying lip service to protecting vulnerable customers just doesn’t cut it, in any industry. I don’t know about your business, but in ours, customers are smart, they are demanding and they know exactly what they want. The expectations of our regulators and our customers are ever increasing, but more importantly than that, we’re all customers and treating others as we would want to be treated is just a given. So now, more than ever before, delivering excellent customer service should dominate any business strategy.
But, efficiency alone will not be the single winning ingredient when it comes to looking after vulnerable customers. This is because, today, vulnerability covers so much more than just whether a customer has fallen in to financial hardship.
So, what is a vulnerable customer? The FCA definition is “someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care.” The drivers of vulnerability are varied; for some, it’s ongoing personal circumstances, whilst others may be impacted by transient life events such as bereavement or illness. The FCA estimates that 50 per cent of UK adults could potentially be vulnerable at any given time; food for thought indeed, and highlighting that any one of us will more than likely, at some point in our lives, find that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not sufficient to meet our needs.
In the context of digital innovation, it’s key to ensure customers aren’t excluded or unfairly treated along the way. For some, a digital customer journey provides the medium where they feel most comfortable, whereas others may feel a lack of technical knowledge, or not having access to the internet could exclude them from understanding or buying products. Meeting customers in their preferred channel is key and dedicated Customer Services teams remain a key touchpoint for many.
A survey last year by data analytics company Consumer Intelligence, found that three quarters of respondents struggled to understand, or felt overwhelmed, by the information provided by their insurer. Coupled with the finding from the same survey, that only 13 per cent of participants would identify themselves as being vulnerable according to the FCA definition, this highlights the challenge faced by our industry in identifying those in need of additional support and the importance we must place on putting measures in place to do so.
As part of our Vulnerable Customers Programme, last year, we launched a new and dedicated ‘Lending Support Team’ to help our most vulnerable customers navigate and manage their insurance. This team has received specialised training across a range of vulnerabilities and is able to present customers with a broader and informed variety of options. We continue to invest in ongoing and enhanced training to provide colleagues with the skills they need to identify vulnerability. This might be when speaking to those with mental health and cognitive issues or low literacy, or perhaps listening and empathising during difficult conversations. Our contact centre team not only offer a range of practical solutions to those facing financial difficulty, but are now also equipped to support those recently bereaved. In addition, we continue to utilise and develop digital profiling within our online journeys, through which anomalies and potential vulnerability may be ‘flagged’, so we can engage with the customer to offer an enhanced service befitting to their needs.
Ultimately, organisations need to ensure that vulnerability considerations are embedded every step of the way. Customer insight from across each sector of society is integral to building sound propositions that really make a difference, and which ensure nobody is left behind.
As an industry, we have achieved an enormous amount, but we know there is more to do.
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