I am a great fan of call recording. My firm was an early adopter, in part because we heard much about the ombudsman’s propensity to give clients the benefit of the doubt in a dispute over who said what to whom. We also recognised the huge training benefits that come from listening to yourself speak.
In our business, any claim denied for non-disclosure reasons is a likely referral to the ombudsman. The amounts are generally large and the need for them great.
Such a dispute puts an intense focus on the application process, and assurances from well-meaning advisers and tele-interviewers are frankly much less convincing than the distress and anger of a customer denied. Call recording aids objectivity by making the facts of the case much clearer.
One of three things happen as soon as the tapes are played:
- The insurer accepts it was its questions that caused the non-disclosure and pays
- We accept it was the way we asked or failed to ask the questions and we pay
- The customer listens to the words and gives up their claim.
Very few cases end up remaining debatable. So I would urge all advisers to record all calls, and meetings too. The technology available is good and not expensive, either. In a litigious and unsympathetically regulated age, it is money well spent. Used right, it will also improve your business and behaviours too.
In the protection market, there is a wider benefit beyond these obvious professional ones. In my recent outings in this column I have been trying to convince you that an overwhelming focus on how we treat claimants is the best way of growing our market.
We need to keep improving not only the proportion of claims paid, but also the clarity, consistency and logic of how that number is achieved and the publicity we generate about it. Beyond that, we should be striving for a position where no honest claimant feels unfairly treated. Recorded conversations help that.
The bereaved do not easily accept that the insured person they knew so well has intentionally not disclosed. But if they hear a recording of that very process happening, they are more likely to reconcile themselves to the situation.
What is more, when the evidence of a non-disclosure is plain for all to hear, those unpaid claims can be categorised separately so they do not affect the headline claims paid rate. After all, they are not caused by the insurer not paying what it should.
We need to get consumer understanding of claims statistics to a point where it is simply taken for granted that anything not fraudulent will be paid. There is a lot more to that than recording everything said during an application process but that is a base from which the rest can come. Anything else is just not fit for the 21st century customer.
Tom Baigrie is chief executive of LifeSearch