More often than not, our decision to buy life insurance is driven by a persevering life insurance advisor rather than meticulous financial planning. What should one look for when choosing the “right” product, and indeed the “right” insurance partner? First, we need to understand our financial protection needs and then select a product with benefits that match.
It is important to choose a product that best fits our overall financial plan, to effectively meet our short- and long-term requirements.
Beyond the choice of products, we must be comfortable with our choice of insurer. This involves adequate consideration of the quality of service that the insurer is capable of providing—not just at the time of buying the policy but throughout the policy term.
That’s because life insurance is a long-term contract between the insurer and the policyholder and there will be several moments of truth during the term of the policy when the insurer’s brand will have to deliver on its promise of service quality and customer-centricity.
Access points: Most important, there must be multiple touch-points to provide the policyholder with immediate access to the insurer for service requests on policy management and for clarifications and queries. Insurance companies provide several such service touch-points—a wide network of branches, contact centres, email, website and SMS. It is important that our expectations of quick and reliable service requests are met. This also means that there should be a customer complaint and grievance cell that addresses such issues.
Speed: It is important to have an insurer who is quick to process service requests regarding the policy. From policy issuance, where speed will translate to peace of mind that the risk cover has commenced expediently and investment decisions have been effected in time, to query management, where a quick turnaround would enable instant access to information, speed matters. In the case of Ulips, the policyholder may also want to shift from one fund option to another.
Payment options: Being a long-term product that addresses changing financial needs and stages in life, the insurer must have different payment options, because an important part of the process of buying a policy is the choice of the mode of payment. Today, most companies offer automated methods of payment like electronic clearing service.
They serve to ensure continuity of the policy through the term without the policyholder having to remember premium payment dates. It also helps the policyholder relocate to other cities without the worries of effecting changes to his policy.
Claims process: Finally, the insurer’s claims process speaks a lot about its philosophy of addressing the one need for which the policy was bought in the first place. A fair and transparent claims settlement procedure is a critical service feature to look for. Make sure that claims related to riders which come into effect before maturity of the policy, are well documented and clearly explained.
Tim Thomas, COO, Bharti AXA Life Insurance