Protection online services – there has to be a better way

You may know from experience how many different protection online services are available – and how using these can be a frustrating experience. Here, Ross Jackson of Royal London makes the case for a radical new approach to improve what is often an onerous process.

In your personal life online, you’re used to a slick, modern user experience – and yet, when it comes to sourcing protection products for your clients, you often have to put up with slow, unresponsive sites and an over-complex process. When your time is precious, there ought to be an easier way.

Developing an intuitive online experience

When we were designing Royal London’s new online service, our first priority was to make the process of applying for protection quicker and simpler to save you time and money. We spoke to a number of advisers and based our development around what advisers told us they actually wanted. So we developed our online service from the ground up focusing on the following areas:

  • A faster process – we have reduced the end-to-end processing time for a standard protection application. For non-standard applications, we’ve found that asking just a couple of extra questions can mean that if we can’t give a point of sale decision, it’s more likely the underwriter will have all the information they need to make a decision without needing to trouble you or your client again.
  • Screen usability – we’ve improved this by using clearer questions with help text separated out.
  • Immediate decisions – we managed to increase this to 73% of customers at point of sale.  Some providers can inflate their straight-through processing rates (STP) by including system-issued evidence or by having a high decline rate.  Our measure of immediate decisions is cases that can be put in force (70% of customers), and those cases that we tell you we’re not able to offer cover for (3% of customers).
  • Fewer, more relevant questions – we’ve cut down the number of application questions by 30% so we’re targeting the things we need to know.  This hasn’t been by combining questions into one huge, lumbering, multi-faceted question as some providers do, but by looking at disclosure patterns and working out what questions really add value.
  • Device compatibility – have you noticed how most modern websites have lots of big buttons and simple navigation? That’s because they’re designed with a ‘mobile first’ approach so that you can use them on your tablet or smartphone (and we mean really ‘use’ them – not that horrible pinching and zooming nonsense!). Our online service works just as well on smartphones and tablets as it does on PCs and laptops. And you can start the application on one device, save it and then continue on another.
  • One simple view of client applications – our new dashboard lets you see all your clients’ protection applications in progress and the stages they’re at.
  • Client participation – we know that clients can drop out of the process if you’re waiting on them to provide answers to questions or supply supplementary information. And this information can sometimes be of a very personal nature. So we created a ‘send to client’ option to give you the choice to complete the application online yourself when you’re with a client, or to start the application and then send sections to them to complete in their own time.
  • Transparent pricing – isn’t it annoying when you do a quote for a client only to find the actual price is much higher once it’s been through underwriting? That’s why we developed ‘indicative pricing’ and ‘estimated decisions’. ‘Indicative pricing’ gives you an indicative price range if we’re unable to offer an instant decision online and have to refer your client’s application to our underwriters. ‘Estimated decisions’ allows you to estimate price and get an underwriting decision at any time during the online application journey based on the questions answered so far – at the click of a button.

There are many further improvements we want to introduce to our online service to make your experience even better. In fact, we have a dedicated team that reviews and refreshes the underwriting rules that sit within the system and looks at ways of improving the underwriting journey.

Official recognition of our online service

We were delighted to be awarded five stars for protection in the 2016 FTAdviser Online and Innovation Service Awards. These recognise providers that deliver great service and are developing technologies to help advisers do business more effectively. The awards are voted for by advisers, so this achievement is a clear indication that we’re doing the right things. We were also highly commended for the 5* Innovation award in 2016 for online service – this was an award for providers considered to be headlining the industry through innovation and technology. Over 1,100 advisers voted for these awards, rating providers on a number of areas including:

  • Overall functionality and design (including mobile)
  • Ease of transaction/business processing tools
  • Online product tools and literature
  • Flexibility of charging options
  • Innovation ( including platform, apps, portal, tools)

If you were one of the advisers who voted for us then thank you! It means a lot. But if you’ve not yet experienced our new online service, then you can find out more and try it for yourself here.

Ross Jackson, Royal London

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