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Avoiding negativity and building customer trust by Charlotte Nixon, Quilter Financial Planning

Charlotte Nixon, Proposition Director (Protection and Mortgages), Quilter Financial Planning talks about how we can avoid negativity and help to build customer trust.

If you pick up a copy of any of the national papers and flick to the Money Section, you will invariably find a story about a protection product. Unfortunately, it is almost always negative.

Whether we like it or not, negative news gets more attention but those in the industry know that these types of adverse stories about protection claims going wrong are outliers. However, consumers faced with these stories justifiably get wary and lose trust in the value that protection can deliver.

Sadly, you simply would never see a headline in a consumer-facing piece reading “98% of claims paid out in 2021” but this is the truth. Many consumers do understand that one story should not tarnish a whole industry but when there is even any question in someone’s mind it can lead to inertia and that is at least one reason why there is such a large protection gap in this country.

As the pandemic has been so horrifying it has made people much more aware that at the drop of a hat their lives can change drastically. As such, many people instantly felt the need to get a form of protection in place to combat this. In our network for example our protection business grew by 10% in 2020 as clients flocked to our advisers seeking a product that would help them or their family if the worst was to happen.

Despite the pandemic feeling like it will never be over, especially as Omicron sweeps the nation, it will eventually subside. Although there will likely be some lasting changes to society, such as the proliferation of home working, I suspect people will revert back to not thinking about getting protection until it’s too late without the spectre of a pandemic looming over them.

We, therefore, need to innovate in the protection space to ensure that the importance of these products doesn’t get forgotten about. The only means of doing this in a way that truly puts customers at the heart of everything is if all sections of the industry collaborate. This does not necessarily mean we need to overhaul the various products available, but we do need to look carefully at the journey advisers and clients go through.

Advisers while playing a key role in providing feedback to providers already have the huge challenge of promoting the importance of protection to their clients. They naturally need to be engaged in the process, but the big gains will come from providers, distributors and technology providers working hand in glove. Improving the adviser and customer journey will ultimately ensure advisers can do what they do best which is build relationships, provide quality advice and promote these products to the people that need them.

The underwriting process, attaining GP reports and updating ageing technology are all areas we should be ploughing effort into improving as these typically provide the biggest headaches for advisers and can put them off offering more protection.

Making the whole client journey slicker will ultimately help advisers illustrate to their clients that the stories they read in the paper are just anomalies in an industry that has the customer at the heart of everything they do. We won’t be able to stop negative stories appearing in the consumer press, but we can build consumer trust in protection in other ways, and this will be critical as we exit the pandemic, whenever that may be.

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