A variation in how different insurers responded to vulnerable customers following the Canterbury earthquakes has prompted the Human Rights Commission to create a standardised set of guidelines for the whole sector to reference.
The Best practice guidelines for the prioritisation of vulnerable customers
are aimed specifically at brokers and insurers and should enable them to first determine vulnerability and second, put policies and practices in place to support those identified as vulnerable.
“People who are vulnerable are less able to cope with and recover from stresses and pressures, which is why there is a responsibility to ensure their needs are incorporated into business practices and policies,” chief commissioner David Rutherford said.
“The aftermath of Canterbury earthquakes has highlighted the need for consistent approaches to how vulnerable customers are prioritised.
“The guidelines will be an invaluable resource for insurers, and potentially other businesses and social sector agencies, going forward.”
New Zealand insurers and members of the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) had input into creating the guidelines.
It allows for a degree of flexibility and an ability to consider each customer’s situation on a case-by-case basis.
The Commission surveyed insurers who consistently identified around 8% of customers to be vulnerable.
While it acknowledged vulnerability is fluid rather than static, the Commission suggested certain critieria to be considered when assessing vulnerability.
- Health or disability situation
- Living situation
- Family situation
- Geographic/environmental factors
- Non-English speaking
- An intersection of the above factors
The Commission recommended insurers develop systems and processes to enable customers self-identify as vulnerable at any time and place an emphasis on supporting vulnerable customers by employing dedicated support staff, for instance.
It also suggested insurers share information about vulnerable customers where appropriate (and with their permission).
It said the insurance sector also had a role to play in pre-empting and mitigating factors which cause vulnerability amongst its customers before these factors eventuate.
In that respect the Commission said the sector should consider which aspects of the claims process cause customers stress, how this stress could be avoided or mitigated, and the impact of staff stress or burnout on their capacity to deliver high quality interaction with and service to customers.
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