Martin Werth: Bank the little wins to boost protection

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I recently attended an excellent conference, where British cycling coach Sir David Brailsford gave the keynote address. He discussed his transformation of the UK team from just two gold medals in 18 Olympics up to 2000 to 18 in the subsequent three, with eight in both 2008 and 2012. His message? A relentless search for every possible process improvement to deliver the “aggregation of marginal gains”. The sum of these little wins, each of which is not perfection, can be transformational.

The same logic can apply to protection. The 10 critical success factors I would focus the marginal gains on are:

  1. Remove unnecessary breaks in the sales process: Each enforced break adds cost, as the adviser must re-engage the customer. Some even abandon the process.
  2. Automate pre-application underwriter helpline calls: Our research shows 60 per cent of advisers typically contact two or more insurers before making a recommendation. This is a huge drain on adviser and insurer resources.
  3. If big “T” tele-underwriting works, ask the question at the point of sale: This is used to provide the insurer with additional information. However, where the customer knows the answers, a good reflexive rules engine should elicit the same data at the point of sale.
  4. Increase the percentage of automated “buy now” decisions: Insurers should also continuously review how to automate their top causes of “refer” decisions.
  5. Use general practitioner reports where they add genuine value: GPRs are expensive, so their value is questionable where they result in standard terms or only marginally impact an underwriter’s original assessment. They should be targeted at conditions where the customer does not know sufficient information and an automated rating would be too unreliable.
  6. Close sales not applications: An application is not a sale. Advisers need better early signposting of the probability of a sale, so they can select insurers that can close them and significantly reduce their not taken ups.
  7. Empower online customers: More people want to compare and purchase online but the sales process is clunky at best. Distributors should pilot processes where they can track and support their customers in real time.
  8. Plan to extend the scope of benefits: Customers invariably buy life cover in spite of their wider protection needs. By underwriting other benefits in the background, advisers can determine the best nudge tactics to widen clients’ protection cover.
  9. Forensically analyse data to identify improvements: Every customer interaction provides invaluable information on the sales experience. Continuous monitoring of the smallest details helps to identify and prioritise further marginal gains to increase sales, remove cost and reduce non-disclosure.
  10. Migrate from quick quotes to accurate terms: Quick quotes are no longer the only option for comparing insurer terms. Advisers should A/B test quick quotes alongside more accurate or final terms to determine end-to-end sales time, completion rates and customer experience.

An obsession with process can remove small costs and causes of abandoned sales, which can improve sales volume and profitability for advisers and insurers as well as the customer experience.

Martin Werth is chief executive of UnderwriteMe