Critical Illness Producer Perspectives
President Calvin Coolidge once said “No man ever listened himself out of a job.” Those are words to live by but too often go unheeded by many of us in the insurance industry.
Our industry is filled with many creative, brilliant and compassionate people who work very hard to develop products that offer valuable protection to our customers when they need it most. Every one of us should feel proud of the work we’ve done to help protect millions of Americans from the devastating financial consequences too often associated with surviving a Critical Illness.
Because of those efforts, Critical Illness sales grew from a mere $8 million in 1998 to more than $332 million in 2013 (U.S. Critical Illlness Market Survey, 2013/2014). Although this is quite an accomplishment, most Americans still have no idea what Critical Illness insurance is, and few have ever been approached by an agent or through their employer to purchase this important product.
So why hasn’t everyone heard of Critical Illness insurance? Could it be that as an industry, we’ve been spending too much time watching what others are doing and listening to ourselves talk about what great innovations we’ve added to Critical Illness insurance instead of listening to what producers feel is important and will resonate with consumers?
As a reinsurance leader in the Critical Illness market, Gen Re is invested in helping this industry grow successfully. We feel that in order to do so, we have to do a better job of listening. So we set out on a “listening tour” to meet with the people who sell and enroll Critical Illness coverage every day.
During our travels, we sat down with a number of experienced Critical Illness producers from around the country in order to gather their perspectives on the industry. We met with a cross-section of Individual, Worksite and Group producers and learned what was really important to them. As one might expect, there were some clear differences in perspectives, but a surprising number of themes emerged as we analyzed and compared these interviews. We recorded the conversations and will be sharing them via a series of short video blogs in 2015 on genre.com/perspective. Following are just some of the interesting takeaways from our interviews.
Simplicity Trumps Complexity
Nearly all of our experienced Critical Illness producers said that simplicity is key when selling this product. Whether sitting at a kitchen table selling a high face amount individual product, or presenting to a benefits committee at a large employer - simplicity is essential. Throughout our discussions, we heard a common theme that the sale is often lost once the focus shifts to product “features” rather than “benefits."
Less is More
The discussions on simplicity transitioned nicely into how many benefit eligibility triggers would be “optimal” for a Critical Illness sale. Here too the focus was on simplicity. Producers were concerned that with too many triggers the product “starts to lose credibility” and that no one really “focuses on them.” at some point. One producer felt that “people will begin being lost after the 5th condition.” To be fair, there were a couple agents who advocated for more triggers. But even they advocated for something in the 20-30 range. In our recent Critical Illness Market Survey, we asked insurers about their benefit eligibility triggers—the reported average number is 13.
In terms of insurance products, Critical Illness insurances remains the “new kid on the block.” As such, agents are asking for more training opportunities for themselves as well as educational information for their clients. To the degree that insurers have provided training, the focus has been on product rather than how to successfully demonstrate the need for this important product. Agents are hungry for more training, articles, infographics and successful claimant stories that will help them to better articulate the value of Critical Illness insurance.
Producers generally have met with the most success when they demonstrate the value of Critical Illness insurance as a complementary product. Whether using it to plug the gaps in High Deductible Health Plans or showing how Accident and Critical Illness insurance are perfect companion products, the value proposition is best understood when consumers recognize what their other policies don’t cover, and what Critical Illness does.
This “listening tour” was a wonderful opportunity to hear first-hand what our customers find important when selling Critical Illness coverage. In some cases it served to verify existing thought, while in others it opened our eyes to a whole new way of thinking. We’re excited by what we learned and look forward to sharing these videos via our Critical Illness blog posts throughout 2015.