by John Darer® CLU ChFC CSSC RSP CLTC
Futurist John Naisbitt first developed the concept of high tech, high touch in his 1982 bestseller Megatrends, which sold 14 million copies in 57 countries. He theorized that in a world of technology, people long for personal, human contact.
How can structured settlement insurance company privacy policies be more compatible with the ability to provide old fashioned customer service where agents and customers need it and want it?
You know the kind of customer service where your insurance agent has the information at their finger tips, or can easily obtain it, instead of handing you off to a customer service telephone number, following which you are subjected to a long on-hold time, a retina scan, providing a urine sample, waiting for that to come back. surrendering your first born, and then two or three "brief holds", before you get to "the last 4 digits of your social security number".
This afternoon after wasting 25 minutes on the phone with one company's customer service department simply to verify if a check went out, I was told, after 3 "brief holds" to have the annuitant contact them and/or, get this, write a letter and mail it to them. You've got to be "kidding me!
So this afternoon I conducted a survey of currently writing structured settlement annuity issuers to see how they handle requests. All but two of the companies would provide the information requested to an agent that they knew was involved in the case, via the commission split agreement. One company would also require the agent to provide the last 4 digits of the annuitant's social security number.
It's very easy to simply refer people to a customer service phone number, but as Naisbitt surmised 33 years ago, people want to talk to a human, not navigate a maze of numbers. The other day I had to contact a major bank's estate division and its poorly designed customer service phone that had me going 9 buttons deep, until I got where I needed to go.
I still get plenty of calls from human beings who need to speak to someone knowledgeable, despite our posting a convenient list of customer service phone numbers to current and formerly writing structured settlement annuity issuers on our website at 4strucures.com. Our customers, and those of others, have already tried to call the toll-free number at the insurer. They want to speak to someone who knows their history, or at least the history. not someone right out of training.
And if I'm the licensed agent who wrote the structured settlement in the first place, perhaps I want to be there for the person. For example, a young adult may benefit from speaking to me as a form of wealth orientation. I met with his or her parents. I can give that person a valuable window into the past, to give them context, as they think about the future. It's possible that their attorney or one or more of their parents have retired or died. When a customer calls who I haven't heard in a while and wonders if I remember them, I can hear their feeling of comfort when I remember something about them and share that with them.
So I open this up for industry thought and meaningful discussion about how companies can live within their privacy obligations while assisting the people that bring them business to do their jobs in a time efficient manner. We need solutions that can be communicated to agents at the outset, bearing in mind the way our industry is uniquely designed.