“While our results suggest that we are making progress in some areas, they also show that more needs to be done to help the public build knowledge and confidence in their finances,” he said.

“What remains clear from the latest survey results is the relationship between money and our wellbeing. Over 55% of New Zealanders say financial problems have affected their wellbeing.”

Read more: Investigation of customer vulnerability in insurance

“This underscores the continued impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of all New Zealanders,” he said.

“Especially the younger generations, and we hope the survey results encourage people to focus on their financial well-being, which clearly plays a direct role in health and happiness.”

When it comes to dealing with customers in trouble, Suncorp New Zealand believes that insurers should now “look at the broader picture” rather than just look at the customer’s insurance policy. Customer Advocacy Manager Ryan Perica noted that all Suncorp employees have been trained to identify when a customer may be in trouble and how to respond – whether through advice on financial and insurance support or by connecting to a service that helps them address broader wellbeing issues.

“Vulnerability can mean a lot to many people in different situations,” said Pericaica

“It can be a change in the stages of life – which can be good, like a new baby or a new house. It could be a health related situation, such as a disability or mental health problem, or it could be a more serious situation related to bereavement or domestic violence. Then of course you need to consider financial vulnerability and things like natural disasters and PTSD.

“So first and foremost, I think you need to increase your employees’ knowledge of what ‘Vulnerable Customers’ means and how they can look out for it.”

“All of our frontline teams have completed a basic and an advanced course on identifying and reacting to vulnerabilities, and we have built this around the so-called ‘four Rs'”, he explained.

“The first is to identify the vulnerability and the second is to review it – that is, not just try to work on it on your own, but speak to an executive or nonprofit partner if you need help with that Customer. The third phase is “answering,” and it can be as simple as slowing down while talking to the customer, checking in, and making sure they have a support agent in case they need one.

“The final stage is ‘refer’, which thinks about how we can connect this client with more holistic support for the broader challenges they face.”

Suncorp New Zealand has also developed a “Heart to Heart” training program that focuses on emotional intelligence and trains employees to ask the right questions. Perica said this could be something as simple as “Are you okay?” or “Do you want to tell more about what is happening?”

In this way, employees can develop a more complete understanding of the customer’s situation and respond with the right assistance.

Read more: Are insurers reacting correctly to endangered customers?

“When our customers tell us more about their situation, it means we are able to provide support,” said Perica.

“But without this conversation, we won’t be able to offer this support, so we’re training our frontline staff to have these meaningful conversations.”

“We had customers who were in financial need, so of course we can look at insurance and premium support,” he said.

“We have also referred customers to organizations like Good Shepherd who can look at their finances in general and offer further assistance.”

“There are also scenarios that don’t necessarily require a training manual,” said Perica.

“During the lockdown, we had an elderly customer in a remote location who mentioned he wasn’t sure how to get his groceries. Instead of just passing that on, we checked their location and tried to find some delivery services and connect them to some phone numbers. That wasn’t part of our ‘framework’, but we really wanted to go beyond that. “

“The most important advice I would give to anyone who is struggling is to disclose and share their situation,” he concluded.

“There is always the perspective of ‘others are worse off than me’, but I encourage everyone to share their challenges, because often we can support you.”

Read More Now