“The one that sticks in my mind was when somebody asked for advice on what to pack for a skiing holiday.”
Protection has changed. Your clients don’t just buy a policy (or two). They gain access to one of the best kept secrets in all of financial services: value-added services.
These include – and the following is by no means exhaustive – advice on illness and stress; guidance on marriage and separation; and support on daily living, including on money management.
At least this is what it will say on the flyers. In reality, your clients and their families can also telephone a support service on any number of queries including, to take another real-life example, what to do if they have a boundary dispute with a neighbour.
Geoff Butcher, UK claims officer at Zurich, which offers Zurich Support Service for free to all protection customers and their families, said: “It is a massively valuable but, to be honest, under-used resource. Advisers’ clients and their families can get advice on pretty much anything!
“The idea is that customers should use it throughout the lifetime of their policy, particularly as it can help prevent an issue escalating.
“I think it’s one of those things that sounds great when you buy, but is then put in a drawer and forgotten about. We want to change that.”
Zurich introduced Zurich Support Service more than ten years ago. It began life as a support service for employees before somebody realised its potential value to customers.
Today, Zurich Support Service is run by an independent team of counsellors, advisers and legal experts. They’re a phone call away whenever advised clients – or members of their family – need them.
The rise of value-added services has added yet another competitive element to protection: Today, providers spar on the breadth of these services almost as much as they do on product features and benefits.
Might value-added services one day usurp the products themselves?
Not according to Geoff: “They will always be a nice-to-have,” he says, “and a useful differentiator when choosing between two similar products. But no, they will never top the product.”
One thing Geoff would like to impress on advisers and clients is the value of Zurich Support Service as a preventative measure.
He said the availability of qualified nurses could help rehabilitate somebody who has been unable to work due to injury or illness, before they make a claim on their income protection policy.
Zurich employs a team of six nurses who are able to help policyholders: two general nurses; two mental health nurses; an occupational health nurse; and a physiotherapist.
Geoff said Zurich would be doing more to remind advisers and their clients of the availability of Zurich Support Service.
“For us it is clear signposting and reminding customers that they have this service throughout the lifetime of the policy, not just at claim,” he said.
“It is also about using this in conjunction with rehabilitation services to help the customer back to work, and even prevent an absence becoming a claim.”