We are onto episode 2 of season 2 and this time I have Roger Edwards with me.
Roger is an independent marketing consultant and has worked within the insurance world for many years. He is bringing his experience to help us understand how to avoid enraging customers.
My 3 key takeaways,
1. Trust in insurance is the basis for people engaging and not engaging with our sector.
2. Roger’s 3 key communication tips: assume your client knows nothing about your product/service, speak in their language and avoid jargon!
3. Roger’s experience of difficulties placing a life insurance claim.
Please let us know if you have any thoughts on what we have been discussing. Roger has an award winning podcast of his own the Marketing and Finance Podcast, that you can find on all major podcast platforms.
Roger is also an avid vlogger and has a popular youtube channel that you can watch. You’ll find a lot of his travel videos there amongst other bits, one was even spotted and landed him a feature in a National Geographic documentary!
Next time I have Leo Miles from Macmillan Cancer Support joining me. We are going to be talking about cancer and insurance.
Kathryn: Hi everyone and welcome to episode two of season two. I’m Kathryn Knowles and I am going to be talking today to Roger Edwards. Hi Roger!
Roger: Hi Kathryn! How are you doing this morning?
Kathryn: I’m good thank you. How are you?
Roger: Oh I am fantastic. Up here in Scotland, as you know, the lockdown is unlocking a little bit slower than it is in England but I can finally go and sit outside my favourite café and have a cup of the best coffee in Edinburgh. So I’m actually quite excited.
Kathryn: That does sound really, really good. I was going to say, I think a lot of people aren’t necessarily dreaming of the coffees at the moment. I think everyone’s been – in England seems to be dreaming of something else but I do have to agree, I think that sounds absolutely amazing. I may try and get out to my local coffee shop at some point later. So today everybody we are going to be talking about engaging clients, things that we sort of like think are good things to do, some potential no-no’s and this year’s protection review. We’ll also be chatting about Roger’s experience pacing claims for life insurance a few years ago when unfortunately his father passed away. So this is the Practical Protection podcast. So Roger, tell me about how have things been for you then? I know obviously then you’re clearly excited about getting a coffee and I know I’ve been seeing you on social media, looking forward to getting down to the harbour, seeing different things out and about. What’s it been like?
Roger: Well do you know what? As I said, in Scotland the lockdown has unlocked a little slower than it has in England and it’s just nice to be able to get back to doing some of those things that you just used to take for granted. You know, a lot of people who follow me on social media and Twitter know that I love to go down to Fisherrow Harbour which is about four miles away from me down in Musselburgh and it’s just a nice little harbour, you know, probably about 40 or 50 little sailing yachts and there’s a café nearby and I just like to buy a coffee and have a wander round. And I couldn’t do that for like nearly two months and just getting back to those little snippets of normality are – it’s just great. But then on the other side of the coin, you know, I do quite a lot of travelling. I’ve lived in Edinburgh for 27 years coming up and a lot of the work that I do is down in England. A bit like you having to travel from Filey to London quite often, and that is the thing about lockdown that I’ve really enjoyed is not having to travel as much –
Kathryn: No airports.
Roger: Not having to travel at all, no sitting –
Kathryn: No airport shops.
Roger: No airport shops, no airport security queues, no hanging around in the sin bin waiting for a, you know, a slot to land. You know, all of that, I think the virus crisis has proven that a lot of the meetings that we used to travel for can be done over Zoom and Microsoft Teams and that sort of thing and I’m just thinking that and hoping that when things eventually do go back to some level of normality, that we sort of learn from this and cut out some of those non-essential meetings and carry on doing things over video because it’s good for us in terms of our health but it’s also good for the environment as well.
Kathryn: Oh absolutely and I think something that still stands out to me from one of the earliest episodes that we did with Mike Adams from Purple, was what he said about, you know, organisations – he’s argued with organisations for years about the ability to put facilities in place for people to be able to work from home so that more people with disabilities are able to get into employment and different things like that and he’s always faced this barrier of people saying, you know, so like ‘No, it’s impossible for us to do that.’ And literally within a matter of days, the entire nation switched – almost the entire nation switched to working from home and I really hope that this kind of, again, sort of similarly kickstarts a thing where we can maybe start to see much more doors opening for people who’ve maybe struggled to get into the workplace. You know, it could be someone’s got a disability, it could be, you know, a single parent, anything like that.
Same as you, I hope we just like keep some lessons from this and it would be nice to get back to some normality at the same point and I’m sure there’s plenty of people who would love to be back, you know, in the hustle and bustle of London and everything but yeah, it would be nice if we could keep a bit of it.
Roger: I think, you know, you said that the subject of today’s podcast was trust and there’s an element of trust here in this whole working from home thing. I think before corona virus, the suggestion of working from home in some companies and with certain management styles – and I’m not picking on anybody here, it’s just a fact – in certain companies and certain management styles there wasn’t that trust. So we can’t let people work from home because they’ll abuse it, they’ll just sit around drinking coffee or playing on their games or whatever it is. But the reality is that most people would work from home perfectly happily and it’s that – it’s just that element of trust that wasn’t there and then suddenly corona virus comes along, the crisis forces companies to do it because they have to and wow, look, it works! It works! So, you know, I can remember many, many, many years ago when a phone was first put on everybody’s desk and God that shows how long I’ve been around.
Kathryn: I was going to say, that seems really strange to me that there wouldn’t have been phones.
Roger: And the, you know, the HR department, ‘Ooh we’re a bit worried about this, people will spend all their time on the phone to their friends.’ No they won’t.
Roger: It’s a management issue, you know. Okay, if somebody does abuse it then they get told off but most people don’t and then, you know, when we all got email it was the same thing. ‘Oh we can’t let people have email. Can’t let everybody have email because they’ll be emailing their friends.’ No they won’t. ‘Oh we can’t let people have social media.’ It’s the same thing as working from home. There’s got to be the trust and as soon as you overcome that trust hurdle, then it works.
Roger: It works, it’s always a management issue rather than a practical issue.
Kathryn: Absolutely. So last time myself and Catherine Morgan took part in the truth or lie feature and so it’s your job today to figure out which of us was telling the truth and which of us was telling the lie. So I said that during lockdown I’ve taken to learning origami and Catherine said that she was once an extra in the film The Young Victoria. So we need to figure out which one you think is true.
Roger: Ooh, do you know what? I can definitely see you doing origami. I think it’s something that the kids would love. You know, I can see you creating one of those little, like unicorns out of Bladerunner that sort of thing but, having listened to Catherine last week and seeing her photograph, I also think it’s highly plausible that she’s been an extra in a film so I’m actually going to go with that. I’m going to say that she was an extra in The Young Victoria and you haven’t started origami.
Kathryn: You are right, you are right. I’m clearly a terrible liar, I think that is what this is teaching me through all these episodes. No, it’s actually Alan that took up origami.
Kathryn: Aah, I’m going to share a picture at the end of the week – he did a Pikachu for our sons and – so one of them is obsessed with Pokemon and the other one is obsessed with unicorns so when you were just saying that, I was like ‘Oh it’s unicorns, yeah.’ So we’ve got, yeah, and he started that sort of like towards the beginning of lockdown and it quickly has been replaced by him painting miniatures.
Kathryn: But we seem to have gone around everything. He’s done origami, I’ve been doing the flute, he’s now painting miniatures [both laugh].
Roger: That’s really good. Well at the least the children have got the origami animals to look at so that’s good.
Roger: So it’s only a half-lie.
Kathryn: It was a – yeah, it’s only a part-lie. So Roger obviously, as you were saying just then, you’ve been in the industry for a long, long time. You’ve worked obviously in multiple marketing departments for insurers. You’ve been the marketing director of Bright Grey and you’re now an independent consultant. I’m sure that a lot of people listening know who you are but can you just tell us a bit more about yourself so that people get to know you better?
Roger: Yeah, I mean I have been a career marketing person, you know, way back when I was at university I did a degree which was part marketing. It was part marketing, part economics and my desire was always to be a marketing person. It started off I guess as a bit of a coincidence that the first job that I got was in financial services and that was because there was a financial services firm looking for a marketing assistant and therefore quite a lot of the companies that I’ve worked for over the years, albeit in a marketing role, have been financial services companies and latterly – and the aforementioned Bright Grey as you’ve mentioned and just prior to that, Scottish Provident, were protection companies. So I have been quite heavily associated with the protection industry and I, you know, one of my roles at the moment as a consultant is being marketing director for Protection Review so that association with protection continues but my background has always been pure marketing and pure marketing is what I really enjoy doing.
And so yeah, occasionally I have worked with companies outside of financial services, fitness industry that sort of thing and travel and I – ultimately the marketing techniques and the marketing strategies are the same across all industries. So it’s actually quite nice to apply them. But I think that financial services has a unique problem that I’ve always had an interest in trying to solve and then it’s almost become an obsession for me over the last 25 years and that is that it’s a complicated industry and I just don’t like complicated products, complicated language, complicated processes. We know customers don’t like complexity. We know that complexity enrages customers and it’s always been my thought that customers will be engaged by simplicity but simplicity is really hard and because simplicity is hard, that’s why everything’s so complicated, because it’s hard for people to make it simple.
So a lot of the work that I’ve done over the last 25 years or so has been trying to bring simplicity to the protection industry in – I mean, I was involved quite heavily in the ABI standardisation of critical illness – but it is still a complicated industry and we still use complicated language so it’s definitely, definitely an ongoing – an ongoing fight but do you know, over the last – what would you say Kathryn, decade? I think we’re making remarkable strides forward. You know, the language we use in protection is a lot easier to understand. The documentation is easier to read, you know, we’ve done so much more to engage the public through various, you know, campaigns like Seven Families, stuff the Protection Review is doing, stuff the product providers are doing and, you know, people like you who’ve really focused on social media and your quirky campaigns. I think we’re finally starting to do some really engaging stuff but we need to do more.
Kathryn: Yeah, I think I agree with you. I think it’s definitely getting better, especially over the last few years but I’m certainly not going to have a go at any kind of person in compliance at all because I’m the compliance person for Cura. But, you know, I think there is that kind of historical thing of, you know, compliance being very scared, you know, financial promotions being very scared about what could be interpreted wrongly by certain things and I think there’s been that fear of needing to use like this really sort of specific – really technical language so that there’s no room for kind of misinterpretation but then there is that thing as well though, obviously from some of the training and things that I’ve been doing, is the fact that – there’s I think – I believe the average reading age in the UK is about the age of a nine-year old.
Kathryn: And, you know, obviously I’ve got an almost nine-year old and so I can see his level of reading and compared – and you sort of think, you know, ‘If he did read these documents, you know, he’d be able to follow probably quite a lot of it, you know, and be able to follow it. He’d be able to sound the words and everything like that and be able to speak them, but his actual understanding of what that means wouldn’t be, you know, it wouldn’t be there.’
Kathryn: So I do think there is still that need for – I think here’s been significant work done on it and I think, you know, sometimes just looking a little bit like – sorry, thinking the general insurance side of things where they have what’s known as their IPID documents where it’s like, ‘This is what it does cover,’ in big green tick boxes and what it doesn’t cover in big red crosses. That’s quite a good thing I think to sort of like really make things visually much more appealing. But as you say, when you were saying earlier, that we are focusing on trust in this kind of episode and one of the biggest things for me that I think the insurance industry faces is trust because if you – if everybody believed what we say in the insurance industry about the statistics, about what these policies actually cover people for and everything like that, assuming that people didn’t really have, you know, there wasn’t really a concern over the budget that they had to be able to pay for these insurances, to me a significantly higher amount of people would be engaging with protection insurance if they believed that it does what we say it does and obviously we’ve got incredible statistics.
You know, I mean we’re now seeing incredible case studies as well but, you know, when we’re seeing things in lockdown at the moment and sort of looking at it from the industry point of view for a second, so in lockdown we’re seeing that there’s been some really quite – I can’t think of any other way to say this and it’s going to sound so daft – but a bit shady practices [both laugh] from some lead generators. Not all but from some and, you know, we are hearing reports of firms cold calling people and saying that, you know, ‘You’ve got life insurance with this company, you do realise that doesn’t cover you if you die from corona virus? You need to take out insurance with us.’ You know, really – I mean that situation – really unscrupulous business practices. I mean, if – what are your thoughts on things like that? I mean, I’m assuming that they are not helping the way that our industry is perceived?
Roger: I think the biggest problem we have in protection always has been that the perception that people have from – about us is so much different from the reality and let’s be honest, you know, way back things weren’t great, you know, the number of claims that we did pay out 20 years ago was probably, you know, in the 70s and 80s percents, it wasn’t as high as the very high 90s that we’re seeing today. So the industry did have an issue. You know, I can remember there was something on Watchdog pretty much every week where a company had declined a claim and Watchdog had a go at them and then they ended up paying. I even went on the ITV version of Watchdog back in the year 2000 to dig Scottish Provident out of a hole that it had dug for itself. So I think that the industry did have a problem and that created this massive, massive perception that people still have today, that we decline claims and unfortunately you’ve got these unscrupulous shady, as you say, businesses that are making these phone calls saying, ‘Hey do you realise that this company won’t pay out if you die of Covid?’ Well that’s just – it’s just a scam. It’s as bad as those people who ring you up and say, ‘We believe you’ve been in a car accident, we’ll get you compensation.’
The problem is, is that it’s just another, you know, it’s just another thing that reinforces the bad perception that people have of the industry and I guess one of the other things that we, you know, we now live in this world where we’ve got social media, we’ve got Facebook, we’ve got Twitter, everything and these become almost like echo chambers for what we believe and most people suffer from something called confirmation bias and what confirmation bias means is that you will always go and look for stuff that supports your viewpoint. So if you believe that the insurance industry is a scam or it won’t pay claims, you can go onto Twitter and you can find evidence to prove it. You can go onto the Daily Mail website and find stories to prove it and old episodes of Watchdog. It’s all there to reinforce your viewpoint. What a lot of people don’t do and what we probably all should do is always try to find evidence of the contrary but we can, you know, we get it confirmed and, you know, these people – these shady dealer firms are not helping the situation.
Now we have as an industry, as we’ve said before, we’ve – we’re publishing these claim statistics every year. They’re in the high 90s and the stories that go with them, you know, the Seven Families stories were powerful, the case studies that product providers put out there are powerful but we need to do more of that. We need to tell more of the stories because at the moment, people with confirmation bias find it easier to find the negative evidence to back up their viewpoint. They’re not being presented with enough contrary evidence. More – so the more positive stuff that we can put out and continue to pay the claims and continue to, you know, to knock down these companies that are nothing more than scam – scam companies – the more positive stuff we can get out there so that people will start to see the opposite side. But it – this isn’t going to happen overnight, you know, we’ve been doing this for many, many years now and it has started very gradually to turn the tide. I think – I can’t remember the exact stats but I think the, you know, maybe 10 years ago the perception that people had was that we only pay 34% of claims. I’m sure there was a stat that was along those lines as opposed to the 80, 90% that it is and recently I’ve seen that that figure has got a lot better. It’s probably still in the 50s and early 60s so there’s still a big gap but we’re getting there. But we’ve still got a long way to go.
So we just need to keep pushing out the positive stuff so that it eventually overtakes the negative stuff that’s out there and people start to see more of the positive stuff and less of the negative stuff.
Kathryn: And it comes down to as well, doesn’t it, that it’s easier I think for any of us and I know I’ve done it in the past as well – it’s easy to go on and complain when something’s not going right and not necessarily to go on and praise when something has gone well. You know, you don’t automatically – if something’s gone really well you don’t think, ‘Ooh that was such a lovely delivery, I’m going to go on Twitter and tell everybody about it.’ But if something goes wrong, you’re just like, ‘Right I’m going to go on Twitter, I’m going to tag that company and they’re going to hear my very – they’re going to hear my grumblings in my tweet.’ You know, it’s very much what we all tend to do. I mean, what is your thought as well sort of like – I know obviously you’ve mentioned the social media then – so one of the things that, you know, I think we have to be careful of in our industry is in a sense, you know, we’ve already – we know that there’s some people in the public who are potentially kind of badmouthing the insurance sector.
You know, sometimes rightfully so – sometimes possibly because they’ve not understood something the way that if maybe something should have been explained more clearly to them and what is your thoughts in regards to what we do as advisers or insurers or different things when we are seeing, you know, maybe these negative things from people in the public? I know myself, if I see something too negative then I do feel a bit cautious about getting involved because I don’t want to get involved in any kind of like a Twitter spat or be told that I’m just another insurer out for everybody’s – obviously I’m not an insurer but an adviser out for somebody’s money or different things like that. And I’m also cautious as well if I see other – if I see something that I think is in a sense a dodgy advertisement or something – what I tend to do is – I know there is someone very specifically at AIG that I sort of – I make her aware of it because they’re really investigating these things at the moment. That’s Kelly Phillips at AIG and, you know, she’s sort of like gathering all of this information together and really sort of like trying to get on top of it. But then I see others who maybe really call out these other companies and like they’ll share it and they’ll say different things which kind of then shows a bit of infighting within our industry. So kind of what do you think is in a sense – how can we tackle this a bit more?
Roger: Yeah, it’s a difficult one isn’t it because, you know, your natural instinct is you want to call out something that you feel is clearly wrong. I think one of the big problems with social media is it’s so polarising. You know, again there’s been, you know, over the last year we’ve had lots of political stuff going on so we had Brexit, there was the General Election and in Scotland we had the independence referendum a few years ago and the problem is that people’s views are usually so polarised on social media that it is totally impossible to change their minds and by trying to change their minds on social media, it can often descend into, you know, sometimes quite bitter conversations. So my view has always been, you know, even if you desperately want to say something and let’s, you know, during the election campaign, I got drawn into – nearly drawn into more conversations about politics than I had ever done in my life.
Roger: I mean, I’ve always tried to avoid politics because I know that it can be so polarising but even I was feeling so cross that I was failing myself getting sucked into it and I just don’t think that social media is a good environment for that polarising chat.
Roger: So my view is that we’ve – just still effectively go back to what I said before – we’ve got to continue to put out the positive stuff rather than directly going after people who may be positing negative stuff or at least leave it to a few individuals who decided that they want to take on the role. You mentioned the lady from AIG. That is a role that they have decided to take on and that’s fine. I think that, for the most of us, it just doesn’t – it almost reinforces that confirmation bias to a certain extent because we’re trying to fight one corner and other people are trying to fight the other and they’ll believe what they believe and we believe what we believe. What we need to do is to get more positive stuff out there.
So more case studies, more claim statistics, more real life human stories about how the industry’s helped people so that there is more of that stuff out there. And we can perhaps point that out to people, you know, ‘You may think the industry is really bad but did you read this positive story in The Telegraph or wherever it is?’ Rather than just getting into arguments that we can’t win. So to me it’s putting out positive messages and again, you know, we learn a few things from the politicians even if we might hate them – you know, ‘Get Brexit Done’ was an extremely clever statement that got itself lodged in everybody’s head whether you agreed with it or not. It was a three-word statement that got into people’s heads. It’s almost like an advertising campaign like ‘For mash get Smash’ isn’t it? Or –
Roger: ‘Ronseal does whatever it says on the tin.’ It was a strapline that got into peoples’ heads. Maybe the protection industry needs to do more of that sort of thing, you know?
Kathryn: Possibly. I would – I’ve got it stuck in my head now – ‘We pay claims’.
Roger: We pay claims, yeah.
Kathryn: We pay claims. I think, you know, it’s – there’s so many things as well though, you know, maybe sort of saying like – think, you know, it’s – we have to be fair to say as well that a lot of people do trust the insurances. You know, there’s so many – well millions of people who do have different insurances out and, you know, there’s certainly, you know, I think there’s certain insurance products that maybe do have a lower claim success rate and different things like that and people are affected by that. I don’t think people see protection insurance on its own. I think, as we always say, you know, kind of insurance is probably just lumped in general into banking and finance and –
Kathryn: Whatever peoples’ opinions are of their local bank, you know, will translate to probably insurance world and vice versa. But I think another thing that has obviously started to develop quite a bit is that obviously we are producing incredible claim statistics and we have done for quite a few years and it seems now as if like the general media is probably noticing that and I don’t think that there’s necessarily as many of these negative stories about, you know, ‘Oh you know, this is going to be – this has happened – this person’s not paid a claim, they’re terrible.’ And we’re now seeing the stories more to do with, ‘Well that insurer’s awful because this person is overweight and they’ve declined them insurance.’ And, you know, there was the other one where it was quite specific as well where someone had had depression and they were declined insurance by an insurer.
And it’s – it feels more like it’s the – in a sense the access to insurance side of things that is where this trust is starting to sort of like move towards – and I know it’s quite hard as well because, you know, there are times where – and obviously at Cura we have some – and I’m not meaning to sound sort of like really, you know, I’m going to try and be modest a bit – but you know, we have some incredible – incredible stories where we have helped people with health conditions to get insurance when they were told everywhere – absolutely everywhere else there was no chance. And, you know, sometimes you want to try and get that out there but I know from trying to engage, you know, different people and different journalists and that, that the positive stories aren’t necessarily what’s wanted.
Kathryn: Because, you know, the thing that’s said is that ‘Well we’re not free PR,’ and it’s just a case of, ‘Well, you know, that’s not the – well certainly from me – it’s not the intention to have free PR. It’s to get messages out there,’ which is why I do my videos and different things and I, you know, obviously specifically go and engage with charities as well to educate what’s available. So it is really hard to get that message out there anyway, isn’t it?
Roger: It is and, you know, you’re absolutely right. The media like negative stories. I mean, you know, that’s why they publish the corona virus death statistics every day with glee when they go up and, you know, all the, you know, it – on the one hand they’re saying, ‘Oh it’s about time Boris lifted the restrictions because everybody’s fed up of being inside,’ blah blah blah so when he does lift the restrictions, all we see are photographs all over the front page of the Daily Mail or in the other newspapers with pictures of people crowding out Soho and then the papers are saying, ‘Look at this! This is appalling, we’re going to have a second wave, how could the politicians have been so stupid?’ And yes, they’re always looking for those negative stories and that’s what – unfortunately that’s what sells – that’s what sells newspapers. Again, I just keep coming back to the fact that we’ve got to keep putting out the positive stories. Not – maybe not necessarily through the news media but through our own initiatives like what you’re doing with your videos and that sort of thing because people will watch them.
You know, a lot of people get their news from YouTube or from Twitter. Now again, we’ve already said that some of these social media platforms can be echo chambers but if we – again, if we flood it with more positive stuff then I’m hoping that, you know, eventually that positive stuff will prevail. The other difficulty, as you’ve said here, with – if people start to have a look at the underwriting side of it, it’s a difficult one to win. I can remember back now – I can’t remember how long – how many years ago it was. I was still at Bright Grey when we introduced flat rates for men and women for life insurance and critical illness. We were no longer allowed to charge different rates for women and different rates for men because that was deemed to be discriminatory – nearly tripped over that word there. And I remember at the time thinking, you know, how far could this go? Because somebody is bound to say, ‘Well now we’ve eliminated the sex discrimination, what about ageism?’ You know, it’s unfair to charge an 80-year old more than it is to charge a 20-year old for life insurance. Now, when you look at that, that is positively stupid isn’t it? Because the mortality rate for somebody in their 80s is sadly a lot higher than it is for somebody in their 20s.
But it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility either than one day somebody might say, ‘No, I’m sorry, it’s discriminatory therefore you’ve got to move to flat age pricing.’ Now that would kill the industry because can you imagine how expensive the rates would get? So we’ve got to tread – we’ve got to tread a careful path here and the media have got some responsibility. We can’t start to create the impression that underwriting is a discriminatory thing. It’s risk assessment.
Roger: And it’s the risk assessment based upon facts that can be backed up by data. And then you go, ‘Oh well yeah, but the male-female rates was backed up by data as well.’ But, you know, we’ve got to put ourselves into a position where we can explain what’s happening is about risk and it isn’t about discrimination and it’s a very fine line. It’s a very fine line and again, maybe that’s where we need to put a bit of focus into coming up with some simple messages, simple to understand messages and visual ones like you were saying before, green ticks and red crosses. How could we make these risk assessment practices more engaging so that people can understand them so that they don’t feel as if they’re being discriminated against if something happens?
Kathryn: Going on from that, sorry it fits quite nicely really, so what would be your idea – so a big thing for me is thinking like especially with the latest trend by the media to look at like kind of the underwriting side of things and where’s there’s these kind of barriers to access to insurance, is that idea of the signposting which obviously, as many of us in the industry are trying to get this as, you know, just like at Cura, we signpost out for mortgages and pensions and different things like that that we’re sort of saying, you know, there needs to be much more of this kind of similar kind of, you know, coming back to protection advisers like ourselves, to sort of like say, ‘If you need help, you know, we are here as well.’ So when we’re sort of like looking at that within our industry and I suppose also as well into the public – what are your big sort of engagement do’s? What do you think, you know, if you were going to start looking at a marketing campaign and I’m sure that I’m completely doing this wrong and I don’t mean it to seem like you can explain what you would do in a marketing campaign in a couple of minutes but, you know, what would be your first approach? What would you be saying like, ‘If we’re going to do this, we really want to focus on this and we really want to focus on that?’
Roger: Mm, I always come back to three rules when it comes to engagement with marketing and I’m just going to focus on the communication bit here because we haven’t really got time to talk about product development and research and that sort of thing. But my three rules have always been, first of all rule number one is assume your customer or client knows nothing, you know, they don’t know what TPD is, they don’t know what accelerated critical illness versus standalone critical illness – they don’t even know what underwriting is. Yet we all talk about underwriting as if it’s common language. Every single industry has its own language. It’s almost like, you know, you go to France, you have to learn French. If you start looking at insurance, you’ve got to learn insurance. We’ve got to find a way of communicating this product names, processes and things in a way which assumes zero level of knowledge.
Now okay, yes you are going to find some people who may think, you know, teaching granny to suck eggs or that there’s an element of being a bit patronising, but you’ve got to remember that most people don’t. You know, you said it to yourself earlier, can you explain it to a seven-year old? I’m pretty sure way though that back at Bright Grey we even considered having a panel of kids to review the product literature because we wanted it to be understood by seven-year olds. So assume the client knows nothing and then if you assume they know nothing then no question that they can ask can ever be too simple. You know, what is life insurance? It’s a perfectly legitimate question and can you answer that in an easy to understand way? The second is you’ve got to talk in the language of the customer and as an industry we don’t talk in the language of the customer that often. And again, I say, you to the pub, if you’re allowed to go to the pub of course, you go to the pub, you’ll say to somebody, ‘Kathryn, I’ll get us a couple of pints,’ and you’ll say, ‘Yeah, thanks Roger.’ What I wouldn’t do is go and say, ‘Kathryn, I shall go to the bar and procure for us two pints of fermented hops in liquid served in a cylindrical clear vessel of fused silicon which I shall then bring back to this table and put it in front of you so that we can imbibe it for 34 minutes and 25 seconds and engage our –’
Kathryn: I would –
Roger: ‘In conversation,’ you know, you’d look at me and think, ‘Roger, what are you doing?’
Kathryn: I was going to say, I would love that. Anyone who knows me knows that I would love that. I’d be like absolutely – let’s do this all night [both laugh].
Roger: You know, but that’s – to a certain extent that’s what we do. We talk in passive language. We use passive sentences rather than active sentences. We use long paragraphs with big words and we think it’s professional. No, talk in the language of the customer. Most people don’t. And then the third one is don’t use – try not to use the industry jargon. I mean it’s okay to a certain extent, you know, if it’s to B2B, so you’re a protection provider talking to a financial adviser, then you would expect them to know what TPD was and accelerated critical illness and standalone critical illness. So I can sort of see a little bit B2B but when you’re talking directly to the customer, you know, let’s not talk about TPD, PTD, ACIC, SA, you know, ABI, PHI, income protection IP. It just gets – it’s gobbledegook. So those are the three rules. Assume they know nothing, talk in their language and don’t use the industry’s jargon.
Kathryn: I think that’s the really, really good points to make and it’s kind of the thing that it’s – when you say it like that, in a sense it sounds so simple and it really does sound so simple but then when you actually start to try and apply it, that is sort of where I think it becomes harder because then that kind of sort of – well like as I say from my own compliance mind, it kind of like comes in a bit nagging at times. Like, ‘Oh well, if you say it like that or could that be misconstrued? Have you completely covered everything that you need to cover there to say what it isn’t going to cover?’ And I think sometimes we kind of need to just also trust that people will just understand what we’re on about if we are sort of like straightforward, from the sense of them being to understand it but also not just assume that there’s going to be some kind of loophole that they’re going to be trying to look for. I mean, obviously some people may do but, you know, not everybody will.
But I think, again just carrying on this theme of trust and sort of like going back a little bit towards the claims, so we’ve got kind of this thing of saying, well people don’t really trust an insurance because they don’t trust the claim’s going to pay out when the insurer says it will. But then there’s also people who have engaged and then they have trusted that a claim will pay out but then the trust is then lost when a claim is being made. It’s sort of like the insurer doesn’t behave sort of like the way that they necessarily expected or in a supportive manner. And I know that you’ve got like a story that sort of goes very much with this. Would you mind sharing it with us please?
Roger: Yeah, now this is three years ago now. My father died. Now obviously, difficult time and when I was going through his stuff, he came – I came across quite a lot of life insurance policies taken out between something like 1977 and about 1985. There was about 20 policies all told. Most of them were sort of non-profit whole of life plans. A couple of endowments. All the sum assureds were quite low, you know, two or three thousand pounds each so, you know, not big policies but it was a real nightmare actually for various reasons trying to get the claims paid on these things. First – the first issue was that quite a lot of the companies that he’d taken the policies out with didn’t exist anymore. So I had to actually go and find which back-book company had bought up that particular book of business. So that was the first hoop to get through and again it’s not actually – you can have a guess and because I worked in the industry, I knew it might have been a certain back-book company but, you know, the man on the street isn’t going to know that.
So that was the first difficult thing. Then the second one was actually making the claim. So I had 20 policies, some with the same company, some with others. So, you know, you’ve got to go through the usual sitting on the phone, phoning them up and then you’ll get that hold music that says, ‘We are experiencing an unprecedented number of calls so it’s going to take longer.’ Did – every single time you phone an insurance company that message comes up. Every single time. So if that is always the case, then why don’t you get more people on the phone? Sorry, bit of a rant there. But they always seem to play that message. Then I get the customer service agent coming on. Now, some of them were really quite kind and quite empathetic. Some of them in fairness sounded as if they were a bit bored, didn’t really want to be there and the usual – one of the conversations went something like, ‘Okay, can you give me a policy number?’ So I said something like 12345678X and then Dad’s date of birth, so I told them and then they said, ‘So can you tell me his address?’
Now, and I said, ‘Well the problem is, the policy that I’ve got here – the policy document doesn’t have his address on it and he took this out in 1977 and between now and 1977 – today, 2017 whenever it was, he’s lived in eight different houses. Eight different addresses. So I don’t know which address you have on your system. So the guy says, ‘Well unfortunately we’ve got to protect against fraud so you’ll have to give me one of the addresses but if you give me the wrong one, then I’m going to get locked out of my system and that’s to protect you from potential fraud.’ So I thought, ‘Well I’ve got a one in eight chance,’ so okay, so I guessed it, got it wrong, so that particular agent had been locked out of his system now. Now I understand it’s to protect fraud, that’s fine. They’re trying to avoid phishing and that sort of thing but he says, ‘No, I can’t deal with you anymore.’ So I said, ‘Well what’s my alternative?’ And he said, ‘Well you’ll have to phone back again.’ And I said, ‘Well are you telling me that I’ll have to phone back and potentially phone back seven times until I get the address right?’ He said, ‘Well – and seven different agents will get locked out if you do it.’
So then I said ‘Well can I email you all the addresses?’ ‘No, we don’t accept emails, we only accept written letters sent by snail mail.’ Okay, well that’s not very modern is it?
Kathryn: No more legitimate than an email isn’t it? I mean it’s – I don’t get that.
Roger: And so in the end I had to write them a snail mail letter which, you know, went through the system. Quite a lot of these companies have got KPIs where they, you know, they have a five-day turnaround for a process. So – and what that seems to mean in a lot of these back-book case businesses is that five days means that they will let it sit there for five days before they actually do anything with it rather than they’ve got to turn it round in five days. So I had to go through that almost with every single policy and you start to – you know, I start to get cross and upset as well. You know, I had to send copies of the death certificate to all of them. One of the companies lost the first pack that I sent through so I had to send another pack through and then of course when they sent me the pack back, they sent me both back so they obviously did get the original.
And you just think, you know, you can’t really criticise them for these processes because the processes are designed to help people but I couldn’t help thinking I work in this industry or have worked in this industry for a long time and it’s driving me nuts. Imagine what it would have been like if it was my mother doing this, you know, and she’s in her 80s. She doesn’t understand those sorts of questions or why that agent was going to be locked out of his system. It just feels as if it’s an insurance company being bad and, you know, I couldn’t help thinking that again, you’re not communicating the process simply enough for people to understand and it’s adding to that perception that it’s hard to deal with you.
Kathryn: And as if they’re putting barriers in place when – like you say, it’s not necessarily that there are barriers in place, it’s just the processes within the systems that they’re having to deal with but, you know, something that really stands out for me there is like you were saying about obviously having to send it in the post. I don’t understand this concept, you know, still that a letter coming in the post is more legitimate than an email. That just completely baffles me and it – I find it the same for when we’re looking at direct debit mandates sometimes where sometimes, you know, they still need the wet signatures, trust forms that still have to be done by paper. It just, you know, there’s certain parts of it that just, you know, obviously just need some modernisation and that. But you – you see it sometimes with one insurer where they have modernised and then it frustrates you with other ones because you’re just like, ‘Why can’t you just update your systems like X over there?’
But no, I mean obviously as you say, you’re in the industry and for many other people – if it had been your Mum, you know, how difficult it could have been and eventually how they may have just actually given up trying to actually get the claim through and again it would then just feed into that negativity – well, two things – it would feed into the negativity still towards our industry but more importantly it means that that person that really needs financial support at that time, who rightly deserves it because their family member has been paying for the insurance, isn’t getting the support that the insurer has promised to provide. So, I mean hopefully we’re tackling that. So one thing that obviously Alan, my husband for anybody who doesn’t realise, Alan Knowles, he is the Chair of the PDG and something that they’ve had that a lot of insurers have been signing up for is the claims charter. So it’s always worthwhile if somebody is supporting a client who is going through a claim to establish if that insurer is part of this pledge with the PDG. And I won’t go through all of it but you can see it on the Protection Distributors Group website but very, very briefly it sort of like covers some – I think it’s six key things – yeah, six key things where basically it means that, you know, an insurer – to be able to say that they have this kind of approval from the PDG, that they must have a dedicated claims team available with some kind of a phone-based claims process so that the person can actually have a dedicated person that they speak to and, you know, that paperwork is kept to an absolute minimum, that digital sources are provided absolutely everywhere they can, that nobody can turn – be turned away from a claim by the – from the insurer unless that person is from the claims team so it must be a member of the claims team that contacts them to say if the claim has or hasn’t approved.
That they have to be contacted with regular updates at least every two weeks unless there’s another kind of amount agreed at another time or obviously sometimes I know, we’ve had a claim go through with Cura once that took a significantly long period of time because the – there was suspicious circumstances around the death and the coroner wouldn’t actually release the report. So, you know, in some instances it can actually take quite a bit of time for these to go forward but obviously as well that they need to have a named contact then they will be the contact that contacts them every couple of weeks. That their intermediaries, so like ourselves – if we’ve been involved in setting up the policy, that we are notified of a claim so that we can provide support but also so that we can update our systems as well so that we can, one, contact the client to – obviously their spouse or their kin just to sort of say, ‘Is there anything we can do to help? We can follow this up,’ but also so we can update our systems so that we don’t contact them, you know, we don’t unfortunately have that instance where we contact a widow or a widower in a few months time and say, ‘How are you both doing?’ and then to obviously find out that very sad situation and it’s – that’s just not nice for anybody involved obviously.
That they need to proactively offer the funeral payment pledge as well which is another part of the PDG thing and that once a claim is approved that the payment is received within 72 hours. So there are quite a few things there that are really important I think for an adviser to be aware of, just to sort of keep that in the back of their mind, that if a claim is happening and also I’m assuming that in an insurer’s claims department, that the claims team would know if they’re part of the PDG thing but just always to be conscious that that kind of pledge is there and that they – if their company that they’re working for has pledged to do that, that those processes are followed. So, sorry starting to round up the episode a little bit. This is obviously going to be launched in a few days’ time when Protect X is going to be going live. So can you tell everybody about Protect X which will be happening in a sense right now?
Roger: Yeah, Protect X is on 9th July which is the day you’re sending this podcast out as well. Now, Protect X is Protection Review’s online mini-conference. Obviously because of the corona virus crisis, we had to postpone the full Protection Review conference. The Protection Review conference would have been today, 9th July. It would have been at the Landmark Hotel in London as always and it would have been the conference during the day and the dinner and awards in the evening. Now obviously we had to postpone that until December and we’re hoping that we can go ahead with that in December but what we’ve done this year for the main conference was we changed the afternoon session into this thing we call Protect X and the idea – we totally ripped it off from TEDx, you know, the TEDx talks where people stand up and make quite short, really quite snappy, quite controversial speeches. So that was the intention for the main conference and we realised that once we’d postponed the main conference, that that format would really work in an online environment because each speech, and there was going to be seven of them, was always going to – was only going to last for seven minutes.
So we’re doing Protect X today. We’ve got those seven speakers talking for seven minutes about a really, you know, controversial, hard-hitting topic, one of which is the lead generators in the protection industry that you’ve already mentioned today, Kathryn. So it will be interesting to see what they have to say about that. And then after we’ve done the seven speeches, we then have a panel debate with five different people. Alan Knowles is one of the panel debaters and we’ll talk about their reactions to the topics and issues that came up in those seven speeches. So the whole thing only lasts for an hour and a half. It’s going out live on YouTube and Facebook, the Protection Review YouTube and Facebook groups and obviously you’ll be able to watch it later as a replay. We’re hoping it’s going to be successful. It’s a great format. When we get to December, we’ll have another seven speakers doing it in the live environment because we think that the format works well at a proper conference but of course we’ll have to find another seven speakers to do that which is fine because I think about 27 people applied to be in the original seven.
Kathryn: Oh wow.
Roger: So we’ve got plenty of people to choose from. So I think the format’s got legs. So we’re really excited about Protect X. Quite a lot of work has gone into that so whether you’re listening to this before Protect X or whether you’re listening to this after Protect X, it would be really interesting to get your feedback and let us know what you thought of it.
Kathryn: Absolutely. I have to say as well though, you’ve just reminded me obviously, the one thing I think that sort of like really got me about lockdown is the fact that I won’t be at the Landmark Hotel staying over this week and I won’t be getting that hot stone massage. That is really – that’s – I’m going to feel very, very sad now [both laugh] for a few hours. But also, you know, obviously thank you very much for doing this and for speaking to me and of course chatting through everything and your thoughts on trust and insurance.
Roger: Not at all, it’s been a great chat. I think we’ve covered a lot of ground today, Kathryn.
Kathryn: We have done. I think we could chat for a very, very long time. So we’re now to the truth and lie feature. Okay everybody, so see what you’ll be able to figure out which one of us – and I was just saying, obviously I’m clearly a very bad liar as I think happens every single time that I do these. So –
Roger: Which is obviously a double-bluff.
Kathryn: Ooh, is it?
Roger: This week, you’re definitely going to be telling the truth aren’t you?
Kathryn: Ooh, you never know. So mine this week is to say that I have read a new book every week during lockdown.
Roger: And mine, Kathryn, is that I have got my bike back which was – for a while because of the lockdown had been up in Aberdeen with my son, now I’ve got it back and I’ve been out every day doing some cycling. So I’m getting fit again.
Kathryn: Brilliant. Well thank you everybody for listening and thank you Roger for joining me. It’s been lovely to speak to you about everything. I’m going to be back in about two weeks’ time chatting with somebody about cancer and insurance and I hope that you are interested in hearing about that. If you’d like a reminder of the next episode, please drop me a message on social media or visit the website www.practical-protection.co.uk. And don’t forget as well that you can now get your CPD certificates for listening to the podcast. Thank you very much Roger.
Roger: Great to be here, Kathryn. Thanks very much for having me. See you soon.
Kathryn: Thank you, bye.