Financial services providers like Standard Life have invested millions of pounds into e-commerce services during the last few years. Some of these services you will be using on a regular basis and will simply take for granted. Others you will have heard of, or shown some initial interest when they were launched, and then forgotten about.
For example, do you remember when providers launched a service called contract enquiry? Do you know what it is? What it does? Who else offers this service? Do you care?
If you have never heard of this service, then it’s because it is one of the best kept secrets in our industry. Put simply, contract enquiry enables you to access real-time valuations using back office software from leading suppliers. Just like the office systems that you are currently using on a daily basis, the purpose of contract enquiry is to make your job easier and to save you time.
Imagine valuations at a touch of button. Now imagine how much harder your job would be if you did not use this service. At this stage, I would hope that you have not only heard of contract enquiry, but you are using it on a daily basis.
However, let’s have a reality check. Did you know that, as an industry, we do over 100 million quotes through the portals each year. And yet, we only deliver a few hundred thousand electronic valuations to advisers like you. Why?
Well, assuming that the majority of advisers do use one of the leading back office software systems (which seems to be the case), I would like to suggest a few reasons for this lack of uptake: registration, policy numbers and great customer service.
The initial registration process seems to be a barrier that is putting some advisers off getting started. You first have to register with each provider and then you need to ensure that you have installed your Unipass digital certificate. You may need to set up fund details within your back office software but that really depends on which back office software system you use.
A second reason for not using the service is that figures suggest that as much as one in four valuation requests fail. What is wrong with these systems that there are so many valuation failures? Why can’t they get it right?
Well I have another secret to share with you. The main reason for requests failing is human error. If a wrong policy number has been entered and stored into your back office software then when you request the valuation, it will fail. Given the length of policy numbers and often the alpha/numeric combination it is can be no surprise that many policy numbers will be incorrect.
To reduce the number of incorrect policy numbers that may be held in your back office software, request a bulk data download from your provider’s extranet sites. This need not take too long. For example, with the service on our extranet you could have your file in a couple of hours. Unfortunately, it may take you a little longer to upload it into your back office software and you may require a bit of systems help from your software provider. However, the benefits of having access to the accurate information should not be underestimated.
Alternatively, I am aware some advisers use the bulk data download files from each provider as a look up table to check the policy number in the event of a failed valuation request.
So with a little bit of pain both to get through the registration process, as well as ensuring that you enter the correct policy number, you can benefit from valuations from providers at the click of a mouse button. This should make some considerable time savings when it comes to client reviews.
Of course, a third reason for not using contract enquiry could be that you already receive great customer service from every provider and for every product.! With the high levels of service you already receive, why bother? If this is the case then I’m sorry for wasting your time with this article.
Until the next time, have a fantastic Christmas and a very prosperous 2007.
Peter Brutin is sales technology manager at Standard Life.
The views expressed are those of the author and not those of the company he represents.IFAonline
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