In The Line Of Duty
29 Aug 2019
The suspect sits alone in the interrogation room. He's waiting for the lead detective, the one who always squeezes out a confession.
Moments pass, the detective walks in. She's deliberate, patient. Each action has purpose; every movement thought-through. The entire presentation makes the interviewee feel utterly at ease.
Then BAM! The first strike. But not a fist or a verbal dagger, something much worse: a calm, honest question: “how many units of alcohol do you drink per week?”
The answer is unsure, uneasy, hesitant. “Maybe a Baileys at christmas”, he responds. Then the pause. It's long. The detective swills the answer around in her brain. She's scanning it for sense, for honesty. Is she being lied to?
Yes, something's not right.
She doubles back: “Didn't you say you enjoy a drink at the football?” she asks.
“Um, yeah. Yeah i do.”
It's all in the Line of DutyMaybe the above scene sounds like it was plucked from Line of Duty, but in reality it's a huge part of the day here at LifeSearch. Our amazing team of telephone interviewers (TIs) help customers to complete their medical questionnaires on the road to taking out a protection policy. At times, it does feel like you're a detective - a detective that simply wants to write the truth so justice can be served.
When LifeSearchers go through medical questionnaires, the customers don't see all the notes and compliance checks on our side of the call. It's our job to make that applications are honest, accurate and genuine.
Why do we do that? A common misconception – and something the industry is accused of – is that we're looking for getouts. Reasons to avoid paying a claim.
That couldn't be further from the truth. A TI’s mission is to ensure that a policy does exactly what it's designed to do: pay out when the customer needs it. That's why, before the interview gets going, we remind the customer how truly important it is to disclose all information truthfully and accurately. Untruths, lies and exaggerations could impact or even invalidate a future claim.
We do it at the beginning and again at the end of the call. We then encourage customers to check again that all information is correct. It seems heavy-handed, we get that. But we also get how important the truth is.
My TI storyI worked as a LifeSearch telephone interviewer for seven years, so I'll talk you through the process.
Interview appointments are booked out for 30 minutes apiece. It sounds like a long time but there's a lot to get through when you factor in the detailed quality-check processes along the way.
The opening gambit, our scene with the detective and the suspect, isn't too far off. We'd never accuse a customer of lying to us, or challenge them over a genuine answer, but we're expected to dig a little deeper when things don't add up.
I had a call once where I asked the standard question: “Have you used any illegal or recreational drugs in the last five years?”
The answer I got was “ummmmmmmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmmmmm. Hmmmmmmm. No.”
A bit of a red flag. But I'm not looking to catch anyone out, nor am I about to pass judgement. However, if I don't probe further I'll fail my quality check and the customer will wind up with a policy that doesn't fit, won't suit, and may not pay out.
In that scenario no-one wins.
We work togetherSuch a pregnant pause in our TV show scenario might see the detective up the ante. He or she may become more aggressive, or try some clever word play, or set a cunning trap.
Unfortunately I'm no Steve Arnott.
It's simply my job to deploy a few LifeSearch skills and circle back: “You seemed a bit unsure there, do you want me to re-read that last one?” I'd say.
“Ohhhh,” might say the customer. “You said FIVE years … I thought you said TEN. In that case we're definitely a no.”
Phew, crisis averted.
Best for everyoneFor seven years I took 50 calls a week and I don't believe more than a handful of applicants outright lied. Even when it comes to health and lifestyle, when it can seem easier to stick to those little white lies, the TI's job is to get to the real truth. Not the half-truth you tell your mum.
Our TIs do an amazing job of playing detective, but we're minor-league nurses too. Working this job, you learn about medications and what they're for. So if someone mentions a medication for cholesterol (but you know it treats blood pressure), you have to circle back and clarify.
Ninety-nine times in one hundred, the customer got mixed up. But without the follow-up, an application will go off to the insurer with an innocent mistake. The impact of an untruthful application could be shattering.
When you lose a loved one, your world is in bits. One of the few small comforts at such a dark moment is that you at least have protection in place to mitigate any financial loss for you and the family. If that comfort blanket is whipped away like an old rug, the shockwaves will rumble on.
It's a tough message but cases to unfold where people, for example, smoke and didn't disclose it. Upon their death, exactly the above scenario plays out.
That's why we spend that little bit longer checking and double checking that you have disclosed everything. It's what Steve and Kate would do. And it's what we need to do to ensure the right kind of peace of mind now and then.
Tom's Opening Words
1 Feb 2021
We meet as if on a sunny little island in the middle of a vast sea of trouble and sadness
1 Feb 2021
“It's scary when you lose your hearing. Every time you think is this it?”