Thursday, March 13, 2014

On Carriers and Service

Believe it or not, I don't really expect perfection from carriers. I do expect a level of service commensurate with their overall reputation; that is, I generally expect a carrier with an excellent reputation to provide excellent service. And, for the most part, this has been my experience.

Sometimes, though, even the best carriers fail to live up to that lofty goal, as was recently the case with John Hancock, specifically their Long Term Care insurance arm:

Some 20 years ago, I sold a policy to a very nice gentleman who eventually moved to another state, and who has been on claim for several years. The plan had two "buckets:" one for facility care, and one for home care. He has exhausted his facility care benefits and his children are attempting to determine if there's a way to access the home care benefits.

Seems simple enough, no?

When I originally reached out to JH in early February, I was looking for specific info on a 20 year old policy. The service rep with whom I spoke told me that she had to "research the archives" to find the answers to my questions, and would email them to me in the next day or so. I did hear from her two days later, with the message that she was "still gathering necessary documents and information needed for this policy." It would be another week or so before I heard from her again, and the information she shared did not fully answer my questions.

In the meantime, I had called the service number again, and got another rep who had no trouble pulling up the information I needed.

All of that was just for questions related to the policy. When I started asking claims-specific questions, I was transferred to the claims department. On the one hand, this is common: most carriers have separate departments for policy service and claims. What became increasingly frustrating was that, each time I called back, I got a different rep, and different answers. It was only when I was finally connected to the supervisor that I began to get consistent answers each time.

One can imagine how quickly this became old.

And there's this: I asked this supervisor for written confirmation of her answers (either by mail, email or fax), and was told that she couldn't do that.

It was at this point that I reached out to the company's media relations folks, and asked them if they'd like to respond to these issues before I posted about them. I have found this to be a very fair, very effective way to encourage carriers to engage in a little reflection, and ultimately provide a better experience to their customers, my clients.

I soon heard from Seth Kilgore, Director of LTC Claim Operations. He indicated that he would indeed appreciate the opportunity to address these issues, and we spoke at length later that day, and I followed up with some additional documentation.

We spoke again a few days later, and it was clear that Mr Kilgore took these issues seriously. He told me that he has begun asking his managers to actually listen to the recorded calls, and to provide written confirmation of answers when requested to do so. He told me that, while this is an unusual request, it is not an unreasonable one.

He's also going to treat this experience as a learning and training opportunity, to try to avoid the "different reps, different answers" problem.

As regards the specific manager with whom I spoke, Mr Kilgore told me that, once I started asking more detailed questions and asking for written confirmation, she should have escalated  to her leader or manager. Again, he saw this as a reasonable request, and a learning opportunity for the supervisor.

As regards the specific claims situation which prompted this whole ordeal, he is helping me to shepherd that through, as well.

So, once again the incredibly valuable megaphone that is InsureBlog enabled me to connect with the person best suited to address some major concerns, and the folks at John Hancock restored my faith in their reputation.
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