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Going through the emotions

We recently asked people who already have a protection product how important claims support was for them. The results make interesting reading and suggest that the potential support available to customers should be a consideration when recommending a provider.

Traditionally, advisers concentrate on the details of how much cover for what price over what term and with what provider. That is what you are there to do. But our research shows that is just as important to make sure your clients will get the best possible experience should they ever have to claim.

A total of 74 per cent of those questioned said that they would be more likely to buy a protection plan that offered not only financial reassurance but also emotional and practical support from the insurer when making a claim. Not only this, but 89 per cent of these customers would be willing to pay more for these protection plans. For them there seems to be a real value attached to this kind of support, strengthening the argument for advice not price.

We are all aware of the supermarkets&#39 interest in our industry. They, as much as we, are aware of the huge protection gap in the UK. They view it as an opportunity and through their hard-hitting, price-driven campaigns they are targeting the mass consumer market. In the UK, this represents a lot of people and a huge opportunity.

It could be argued that the supermarkets are helping to create a perception that people buying life cover and even critical-illness cover do not need advice to do so, which could be viewed as a potential threat to advisers. On the other hand, it could also be argued that the protection message is now reaching a lot more people, making them more receptive to the idea of protection, creating more opportunities for advisers.

The supermarkets would have us believe that the legendary retail ethos of pile them high and sell them cheap can work with financial products.

We must not underestimate the influence supermarkets have in the consumer market. They have an enviable relationship with customers. For them, there are no issues of mistrust or misselling. Their relationship is built around regular store visits over a long period. Once you find yourself in their domain you are subject to a mass of messages, carefully constructed to make you buy, trust and relate.

Look around your local supermarket and you might be surprised at just how many messages are being thrown at you in a variety of guises.

These can be changed regularly and can be as big and loud as the supermarket wants them to be. This is a very powerful mark-eting tool.

It is important for advisers to demonstrate added value beyond the marketing hype and the cost cutting. Supermarkets&#39 relationship with the consumer is enviable yes, but it is one to many whereas the adviser&#39s relationship with a client is one to one.

Supermarkets cannot tailor packages to suit needs and they cannot compete with the level of service and attention you can give. They may be experts in selling but they are not experts in insurance.

Advisers are and that is a strength you must play to. But providers must help you by supplying the tools that help you to demon-strate added value to your clients.

Features that can help address the needs of the client at point of claim are practical and emotional support services, such as trained nurses, therapists and counsellors available to speak to the whole family if that is what they need. This help could be arranged quickly, in the client&#39s home and could involve such things as arranging childcare, discussing treatment plans, helping with research and, importantly, giving the client an opportunity to speak freely about concerns to someone who is not personally involved.

Our research suggests that such services add value, and in the process, some much-needed humanity to protection insurance.

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