OPINION | As the group insurance industry tries to convince the Parliamentary Joint Committee Inquiry into Life Insurance that more regulatory intervention is unnecessary, funds and insurers must work together to improve practices for handling claims.

It is not until the unfortunate happens that anyone thinks seriously of the process of making a claim on their life insurance.

Fortunately, 92 per cent of Australians now have some form of life insurance cover, due to superannuation or through their financial advisers.

This safety net provides Australians peace of mind and protects them and their families financially. However, for those who do need to turn to their insurance, it is during a particularly stressful time, and the process can appear overwhelming. This is the moment of truth, when we as an industry need to deliver on our promise.

The question is, how do we provide a claims experience where people are engag ed and empowered?

We must all implement a fundamental change in claims philosophy, with the focus on a claimant’s ability, rather than disability, and the knowledge that claimants need both sensitivity and professionalism.

From looking at AIA Australia’s own journey, I believe it starts by talking to claimants; listening to what they are going through after an unexpected traumatic event that leaves them living with an injury or illness. This is a time when people can’t work, and in some instances cannot manage day-to-day tasks like doing the shopping.

In recognising this, we can better understand their needs and how we can play an important role through the claims process as one of the key parties that claimants deal with at this critical time. We can be there not  just to pay a claim in a timely manner but also to support them as they navigate this life change – providing a real service and not just a transaction.

Every claimant is unique. It’s important to focus on open communication, demonstrating an awareness of the situation with sensitivity and empathy. In the case of rehabilitation, before implementing a return-to-work plan we may need to help the person integrate back into the community and get some exercise to start feeling good again. In some instances, the reason a return-to-work program is not successful may not be the original physical ailment. The person may simply be feeling overwhelmed and not yet confident they can do it.

Of critical importance is engagement as early as possible. Research indicates that if an employee is off work for 20 days, they have a 70 per cent chance of returning to work; if they are off for 45 days, the chance of returning drops to 50 per cent; and after 70 days it drops to 35 per cent. It is important to ensure that the right services are provided to assist rehabilitation so clients can return to work.

 

Continually improve

In the past, insurers have focused on the efficiency of the claims process and making it faster. So why change? While the intention was good, it in some instances removed the personal engagement aspect and resulted in a very transactional experience in which the claimant may not have felt fully supported.

This is an area where the industry needs to improve continually. Customers want and need support, throughout the whole journey.

The greater the relationship and engagement, the smoother the process will be.

Many people don’t know where to turn during the claims process because they don’t understand it and they feel it is too complex.

With better education and more frequent communication in simplified language, much of this could be alleviated.

It is also envisaged that the rollout of the Life Insurance Code of Practice (effective from July 1, 2017) will assist in enhancing the claims experience, through improved timeliness, transparency and increased communication.

We have an important role to play. Our opportunity is to reimagine the claims experience to ensure timely payment but also to support and assist claimants through the process and back into life.

This article first appeared in the March print edition of Investment Magazine. To subscribe and have the magazine delivered CLICK HERE. To sign-up for our free regular email newsletters CLICK HERE.