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Progress points

Did you know that a person spends two weeks of his/her life waiting at traffic lights, two years talking on the telephone and a year searching for misplaced objects?

That is a lot of wasted time and the bad news for sellers of protection is that, according to a recent Sesame study, advisers spend an average of 32 days a year chasing up providers and checking on the progress of pipeline cases.

I have little doubt this average will increase. From our experience, training and developing some of our key partners, we know this is a barrier to some IFAs and mortgage brokers selling protection. Anything they submit which does not gain immediate acceptance is perceived as disappearing into a black hole, with communication from the provider often either limited or overly long-winded. Indeed, the selling point for many of our new partnerships is not our expertise with point of sale software or our tele-underwriting service but the fact that we offer full administrative support.

It must be said that many providers have made inroads. It also remains the case they are often let down where third parties become embroiled in proceedings (yes, we are still talking about GP reports).

The widely held belief is the protection industry might be the best placed to thrive as a result of the changing economic climate – it has been massively undersold in recent years, our products are easier to sell when impending gloom is at the front of the consumer’s mind and advisers across the board are looking for new or forgotten sources of income.

There is an opportunity for brokers, distributors and providers to coordinate efforts into making the sale and purchase of protection less about subtle differences in product or marginal savings on cost but about tangible and dem-onstrable customer service, ideally without the treating customers fairly prefix.

TCF is a worthwhile and laudable initiative but I can’t help wondering how the average customer views an industry which appears to need such a scheme to remind it to do what, for most of us, is the first principle of business.

We can take as inspiration what occurred at the recent peak of the mortgage sector, where price and service took equal priority when advice was given in a hugely competitive marketplace. My own mortgage broker counselled me to take a slightly more expensive rate for my remortgage, on the basis that the cheaper lender had a reputation for slow turn-round times and lax communication.

The really good news is that improving customer service need not be about updating back-office systems or enhancing online tools.

Get it cracked and we can all spend time on the important or enjoyable aspects of life. Kissing, for example, only takes up on average two weeks of a person’s time on this planet. What a shame.

Phil Jeynes is key account manager at Direct Life & Pensions

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