Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Consumer Insight : Insurance is a Subject Matter of Solicitation

If you have seen any advertisement of Insurance products, you may not have missed this disclaimer " Insurance is a subject matter of solicitation ".

As a consumer , this disclaimer/warning is of utmost importance but often ignored.

What is the meaning of the clause " Insurance is a subject matter of solicitation".

The dictionary meaning of solicitation is " Ask For". Hence insurance is a subject that should be asked for . It means that customers have to talk to an adviser who will suggest the right product for your needs. Insurance should not be SOLD but Solicited......

Sounds out of the world isn't it ?

How many of us have asked for Insurance ?

In India, insurance is sold not solicited. Hence this dictum seem totally meaningless OR is it ?

If you read the terms and conditions put forth by Insurance companies, one will find relevance to this dictum.

The above dictum have relevance to consumers because it puts the responsibility for selecting the right product on the consumers than on the company. The website of a leading insurer states " Customer's participation in the insurance products are purely on a voluntary basis ".

As a consumer, the responsibility lies in
Understanding one's insurance needs .
Planning
Meet with a trained financial adviser.
Selecting the right product
Signing the contract.

But we know that most of the consumers are not aware about either their needs or the various options available before them. Hence the consumers have to obtain the help from a trained insurance advisor who will " advise " the customers and then help them to select the right product .

In practice, we find that none of the above applies. Insurance advisers take up the role of pure selling machines trying to " close" the sale rather than " advice " the customers. Companies put pressure on their agents to achieve targets often forgoing the basic dictum that drive this business.
While in the developed markets like USA , the actions of financial planners are highly regulated, here the onus is on the customers . CAVAET EMPTOR.... Buyers beware....

Most of the insurance firms also does not practice the dictum iof solicitation in its pure essence. If you have listened to any of the recent " sales talk" of advisers, they pitch the ULIP plans irrespective of whether you like investing in stock market or not.

There is no analysis of one's financial position or insurance needs. ( There are professional financial /insurance advisers who do all the right things but many doesn't) .

It is because of this non-professional selling approach that makes customers run away from an important product like insurance.

If insurance firms practiced what they preached, then insurance would have gained a much higher value as a product. And insurance sales persons would be regarded as a friend rather than a nightmare.

99% of my MBA students hate to get into a job in an insurance company. Much of this hatred happened because we forgot that we should sell the right kind of product to the right kind of consumers. As a customer I believe that insurance is one of the most important products which helps a consumer to be secure. But alas.....

In my experience as a prospective customer, I met only one advisor who professionally and systematically explored my insurance needs. Rest of all were trying to " sell " me insurance.

The million dollar question for an Insurance salesperson is

Will you walk away from a consumer for whom you do not have a right product ? Will you recommend your competitor's product to him if it fits his need ?

Its time for the insurance companies to Walk the Talk.... It is tough... your quarterly results will show negligible growth. But consumers will love you for it.....

Insurance is a subject matter of solicitation.