Zurich's Peter Hamilton explains why the claims
experience is key to changing consumer perceptions
Jan Carlzon, CEO at Swedish airline SAS in the 1980s, is often
credited with the phrase 'moments of truth', referring to those
interactions with customers that make or break the perception of
the company in question. In the world of insurance, it's hard to
think of a more critical juncture than what we might call the
'moment of claim'.
The claim is everything - it's how we will be judged, and it's
right that there is ongoing scrutiny of every aspect.
In the general insurance arena, the American startup insurer
Lemonade has been causing a stir for a number of reasons. Most
recently, it announced it had paid a claim within five seconds of
receipt - something that is going to be hard to beat (and any gain
will be, at best, marginal!). The claim was for a lost coat, and an
algorithm rather than a human claims assessor made the decision and
transmitted the money.
The life industry may take a while to catch up, though we should
be challenged by these developments to think differently. The sums
assured will typically be higher and the appropriate payee not
always immediately clear, but the customer need is likely to be
For our own part, we have significantly improved the turnaround
time for claims and introduced:
- A choice of how to be kept up to date on a claim - post, phone,
text or email
- Voice recording used as authentication, meaning one call is all
that's required to proceed with a claim
- Electronic submission of evidence - customers can use their
mobile to photograph evidence, saving time on postage and chasing
- A choice of flexible payment options, including electronic
- Quick payments upfront - we will pay money immediately to meet
funeral and other costs (whatever they are there's no monetary
limit), as long as it is within the sum assured. We don't need a
will and we don't need probate.
Technology will help us accelerate the process even further, but
it will be a while before robots can truly empathise with what a
customer is going through at what will often be a traumatic time in
their life. We have invested heavily in the development of soft
skills, including empathy and understanding grief.
In the world of protection, surveys regularly suggest that
consumers believe payout rates to be below 50% (despite them
actually being well into the 90% and above segment). In 2016,
Zurich paid out close to £2bn in GI and life claims in the UK. This
is a huge number, and evidence of genuine social good, but the
online comments under financial press articles on any weekend shows
that collectively, we have more to do.
Harnessing technology will be important, but the bigger
challenge is changing public perceptions and behaviours; so that
they expect claims to be paid, they trust us with their data and
they expect us to use it to craft better, bespoke propositions and
communications for them. And so that insurance is seen as a social
good, not a necessary evil, and there is a genuine community of
interest. If we can't do this, and others can, it won't just be
Lemonade who will have a pop.
Peter Hamilton is head of retail partnerships at