Having spent most of my career in the insurance industry, with a deep involvement on the health insurance side, I’ve become somewhat of a default go-to guy for all insurance related matters and queries, among relatives, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, customers, and readers alike. In fact, I have little choice in the matter!
Recently at Coverfox, we got a query from one of our readers, asking if there was a procedure in place to change one’s health insurance agent if one wasn’t happy with the services offered post policy sale. It was much to their dismay (and equally ours), that there is very little that can be done in such a case.
Insurance companies, since their inception in India, have built their business models around the practice of one agent/broker making a sale for the company, and thus becoming the customers' only point of contact for all future purpose and references. There is no option to change this agent as long as the customer remains with the company. And having to change the company or buy a new policy owing to bad customer service by the agent is not feasible especially since health insurance is product for life. In effect, when buying a health policy, you are not just buying a financial cover for your lifelong healthcare expenses, but also “marrying” an insurance service provider - an agent, a bank, a broker - for life. The only difference being that in this marriage you don’t have the option of a divorce.
The role of an agent or broker is to help you find your footing at your worst with expert guidance, support so you don’t have to worry about the paperwork that comes alongside a hospitalization claim.
Unlike your first car that you sold and replaced with a jazzy new bigger car, your health insurance policy is a life long decision. If you’re going to continue with the same policy as well as agent for life, a bad agent can pose to be a huge problem for you. Some of them however may actually worsen your troubles due to their lackadaisical, unresponsive attitude after sales, at the time of making claims which is exactly when an agent can really prove his/her worth. Trust me, the disappointment and irritation you’d feel would be much worse than what you felt spoiler alert at watching the season finale of an extremely popular TV series and finding out a key character dying!
Here is what having the wrong agent can do to you:
This rule, which comes across as a rather rigid and unfriendly one from the point of view of customers was actually made to drive greater efficiencies in management of customer base and to incentivize the brokers/agents to work harder in closing a sale. The idea of a customer having one point of contact for all his queries and issues is supposed to be helpful. But then, in many a case it has become a Pandora’s Box with many issues faced by customers, in case they are unsatisfied by their agent/broker
While we lobby, debate and pray so that this rule changes soon, for the better, for now, it would be best if you, dear reader, ask just these 6 extremely important questions to your agent/broker. The answers will definitely determine if this marriage is made in heaven or headed straight for hell.
Cherry pick you agent
To find your Mr. 007, here are some questions you must get answered that will help you choose your best health insurance agent
1. What is the range of products he usually sells?
If insurance is just one of the many other financial products that he sells, there is your warning bell! He may not be a serious player. Buying through an agent/broker specialized on insurance products would be a much better bet than someone who is spread across all products - the simple reason being that his earnings and reputation depend solely on the services he delivers in the insurance business. Hence he will be more careful and diligent in dealing with his customers. Choosing a specialist may or may not be an efficient way, but will always prove effective. It’s the same logic as to having a goalkeeper, trained in goal keeping guard the post in a football match instead of the mid fielder who isn’t trained in doing so.
2. What are the services he should offer post - sales?
Health insurance claims if not handled well can get very tedious. The agent MUST provide you with detailed post-sales services, from making minor changes in address to end-to-end claims services. It’s almost like how a Xerox shop offers services ranging from making a simple photocopy to binding that end semester submission that determines your grades.
3. Can he provide references of 2 Customers where he has handled claims?
It would be a massive plus for you if the insurance intermediary can provide references of 2 customers. That way, you get a first-hand report of how he/his team handled their claims. You can also quiz him on his bad experiences, which, no doubt he would have had at least a few of. An honest answer would be a sketch of one or two issues in the past and how the agent overcame it with his attitude, skill and knowledge.
4. What his overall set-up like? How does he ensure that you are always attended to?
What happens when the intermediary is on leave? What happens when you are unhappy with the response/experience? Is there a clear escalation matrix in place that ensures you are responded to? - You might want to ask each of these questions before you buy the policy from him. Though you must always be prepared for the worst case scenario, knowing answers to these questions could give you a clear sense of direction right from the beginning – on what to expect and where the scope ends.
5. Did the agent understand your needs/goals/preferences before he recommended a product to you? Did he objectively compare between other leading products in the market before his final recommendation?
What is important is that he knows the process and products well enough to make sure you get the best of choices. But what's more important is that you understand his process which he uses to recommend a product/solution to you. He should be able to comb the market and look for wrinkles in a plan in a transparent manner. Ask questions, clarify and don’t allow yourself to get satisfied easily. You need to be convinced with reasoning and clarity. And the right person should not be in rush to sell you a policy.
6. How will he help in case things go wrong?
Let's say after 2-3 years you make a claim, which the insurance company declines. If you are not satisfied, how will the insurance intermediary help you? - Because you must dig the well before you are thirsty. People come and go, but insurance brokers and broking companies are here to stay!
Your agent/broker becomes your advocate. Making an informed decision with the help of the right intermediary will make all the difference. The stress caused in dealing with an unresponsive, unsupportive agent is not covered under any health insurance plans! You are buying something for a long period of time and it is your prerogative to be confident about your choice.
For any questions or further queries, feel free to leave a comment.