I'd like to say I'm proud that my new life insurance policy is in place, but the journey has been too long and too difficult. Shelly's eight-day purchase journey showed us how far the life insurance industry has come, but my journey is a testament to how much work is left to do. Shelly was looking for a hassle free process, and she got it with an insurance company that offered a complete online experience (minus the quick and easy medical exam she had to take). I call this a "convenience experience": fast, frictionless, fully digital. I, on the other hand, wanted a bargain provider: low cost, no frills – but often times, at the expense of a good consumer experience.
I began my purchase journey on March 7, 2017 and finally completed it 111 days later on June 26. To add to my frustration, I did not even get the product I originally intended to buy. My goal was to replace my existing 20-year-term insurance policy (issued in 2011) with three new policies that would gradually reduce my total coverage over the next 10, 15, and 20 years to correspond with my decreasing financial responsibilities for my wife and children. However, after 111 frustrating days, I decided to take what was offered, which was a new 20-year term policy that didn't consider my changing needs. It felt a bit like looking forward to eating Zuppa Di Pesce at an Italian restaurant and waiting forever only to be served linguine with clam sauce.
The whole process started on a sour note when my agent, a pleasant woman named Jane, noted during our first call that we needed to complete my application process quickly to beat my birthday deadline, which was a good six months and ten days away. She explained that I would be considered one year older a full six months before my actual birthday. This is because some insurance companies use what is called "age nearest birthday" to determine the rate you will pay. This left me feeling uneasy. Jane seemed to be saying, "We have to game the system here, or it will game us."
In the end though, three big things delayed my process – three things that could have been prevented had they deployed existing solutions.
1. My medical exam.
I had to schedule my medical exam three times because twice, the paramedical examiner did not show up – neither at the office, nor at my home. I can assure you that when the examiner fails to show up at a person's home for an 11 AM Sunday medical exam, the consumer will feel hungry (you have to fast before the exam), impatient, and incredibly frustrated (especially if it's the second no-show). On the third try, I ended up driving to their office to make sure the exam would get done. After my exam was complete the office manager offered me a freshly-baked brownie. I can give them one (literal) brownie point for that.
Solution: Make the medical exam more efficient; or, better yet, reduce the need for medical exams by harnessing predictive analytics to enable fluid-less underwriting.
2. My medical records.
My application process was delayed because my doctor did not provide my medical records promptly. By April 27, Debbie – my new agent – suggested that I contact my doctor directly about this issue. I said no. Note to insurers: don't ask the consumer to do your work for you. When my medical records finally did arrive, the insurance company said they needed more information about my insomnia history. Insomnia?! What insomnia?! I sleep like a baby! I have never in my life had a problem with insomnia. Second note to insurers: Don't assume medical records are accurate; ask the consumer to verify any red flags before proceeding.
Solution: Get medical records faster from doctors by making small improvements to response letters as our Behavioral Economics team has shown. Or, access electronic medical records so doctors aren't bothered at all.
3. New York Regulation 60.
Because I am a resident of New York and thus subject to New York Regulation 60, Debbie informed me that the regulation required a mandatory 30-day waiting period to allow my old life insurance company time to provide information about my existing policy before I could purchase a replacement policy. I've since learned that this regulation was intended to protect consumers against unwanted replacements of existing life insurance or annuity policies. Good to know, but in my case, it just meant more delays.
Solution: Our industry has supported a work-around amendment for this regulation that allows insurers to process new life insurance policies during the waiting period. My insurer simply failed to have me sign the necessary forms until I was more than a month into my process.
What my 111 day journey has shown me is that we are not lacking solutions. The problem is these solutions aren't implemented as an industry-wide standard. So what can we do together in the industry to improve the life insurance purchase experience journey for others? By paying more attention to consumer journeys like mine (and Kamlesh's journey, which is up next), we can easily see the places where our solutions are needed most, so we can lead the way in transforming our industry!
Category: Funding longer lives
Location: United States