Why We're Failing Policyholders

Why We’re Failing Our Policyholders


Simple but critical concepts, like the cost of delaying a term conversion, must be done annually with a needs review.

A policyholder with a $75,000 term policy called in to change his address. Let’s call him Jack. During the conversation, the agent learnt that Jack had had bought a second home and so now moved between Wisconsin and Utah, spending much of his time golfing. The agent congratulated Jack on his successful retirement and spent much time discussing their shared interest in golf. Their relationship was as rock solid as any between agent and policyholder.

The agent, Sam, eventually got to business and instinctively probed for the rationale between Jack’s apparent net worth and his having only $75,000 of coverage. He asked whether Jack had any insurance elsewhere. Jack said he did not. Sam then asked why Jack bought the policy he did. Jack said it was because “I had a 10 year before, and it ran out, so I had to get another 10 year”. He was 76 when he bought his last “10 year” and it had been 3 years.

Had Sam had a needs review pulled up, there could have been some pointed questions added around why he got that amount of coverage, how long it would last for his wife should something happen to him, whether his wife would have to sell one or both houses to keep up with the bills, and whether he felt he should adjust it for inflation since it was also $75,000 two terms ago (13 years ago). That ‘decision tree’ is critical to getting Jack thinking about his coverage, but the unique thing about technology is it’s ability to provide the tree and questions in the context of the policy it is looking at.

Sam proceeded to take the opportunity to remind Jack about his options. He told him about a valuable rider that they had put in place which would cover his premiums should he obtain a terminal illness. And he told him about his ability to convert his policy at anytime before he turned 81 and, rather than having the policy cancel at age 81, have it last forever. That option was appealing to Jack immediately. “And how much would that cost?” was a great buying signal.

Ultimately, dealing with hundreds of clients, Sam didn’t have the material in front of him to answer that. Instead he provided the diplomatic answer that it would ‘depend’ on when he did it, how much he did, and what rates were at the time. He didn’t ask Jack any more probing questions. Jack’s interest started to dim very quickly under the weight of the vague answer provided to him – it’s human nature to be wary of vague answers from a sales rep, especially pertaining to cost. Jack took the next step – “Well I might like to discuss it if you call me back in a couple of years”. The conversation ended cordially but both parties lost.

We can imagine an alternative scenario in which Sam had a “Cost of Waiting” report prepared ahead of time. He could have searched for Jack’s policy review by policy number or name and instantly been presented with the needs review tree described above as well as a list of options and costs. For instance, the cost of waiting would let him explain specifically what costs Jack would incur with each year that he delayed making the change. He could have even emailed Jack that report with one click to provide the power of visualization while they spoke.

The report would have also shown Sam that Jack was very healthy for someone in his late 70’s – he had been rated Preferred Best just 3 years prior. Jack would likely have been very confident in his chances of longevity but his policy would only take him to 86. Had Sam had the Needs Review, the Cost of Waiting, instant comparable quotes based on the allowable conversion rating, and other pertinent information from a comprehensive policy review report in front of him, he would not have been guaranteed to, but would have had a greater likelihood of, protecting Jack’s wife permanently, and perhaps at a more appropriate level, while generating new revenue.

Sam did an excellent job with the information that he had, so it’s important that we think about the tools he needs to do a better job. Often times, agents and agencies, and carriers for that matter, are like an army fighting on the front lines with bows and arrows, while someone behind them whispers about a new tool, but they yell “we’re busy fighting!”. At InforcePRO we obviously believe very strongly in the power of software to transform how policies are serviced.