There is an application process in the life insurance industry called “Telelife”. It’s only offered by a few companies. It was first put in place about 15 years ago by the then Federal Kemper Life. At the time I worked for and we were told to use the process unless the case involved severe impairments.

It consisted of a quick interview by an agent on the phone. At the completion of that interview you were given a quote and then transferred to Kemper’s telelife interview team where they took all the information for an application and preset an exam for you. All total you were on the phone about 25 minutes and I would be remiss if I characterized this process as anything but slamming. Notice that I didn’t say you agreed to move ahead with an application, but you were treated as if you had just told the agent you were 100% on board and begged to get things moving.

It wasn’t a process that I liked for a number of reasons. First and foremost was the assumption that it’s ok to slam a person through a sale. I think any sales process that involves pressure or slamming or tag team closing is offensive. There was also the fact, an important one to me, that there was no chance of customer service/relationship building. There was no trust built. I will say this. As disgusting as the process was, it was smooth and most of the time it worked. I found my way out of that nightmare by specializing in impaired risk life insurance where I was their agent and I didn’t transfer them anywhere. I wrote their application and stayed in touch with them through the application process.

Telelife has never really gone away. Through several insurance company transactions Protective Life ended up owning Kemper and set up telelife through their subsidiary West Coast Life, but it just never worked the same, that is to say, as well. It became cumbersome and started keeping people on the phone for unreasonable amounts of time, 30-45 minutes. Along with the extra time came all of the shortcomings of the old process. The client became disconnected from the agent and customer service was lost. I don’t even know if Protective still uses the process.

Than came Banner Life. In an effort to make small cases more cost effective they built their own telelife unit and encouraged agents to use it. I looked into it and decided that the minimum wage phone folks they were using were not as good as me at field underwriting over the phone. Since most of my business is impaired risk life insurance it also made it very difficult to keep an application that was taken out of my hands connected to the trial quote that would lead the application to the correct outcome. I’ve heard recently that they have made improvements and have their phone interviews down to 20=30 minutes, in my mind still entirely too long to keep someone on the phone.

Now comes Genworth with their telelife unit. They’re new at this and hardly a model of efficiency, but they have added a little persuasion to cave in and use it. This week Genworth announced that if agents don’t use telelife for cases $100,000 face amount and below, they’re still welcome to run the business through Genworth, but the agents won’t get paid. I understand the economics of small cases. What they want to get away from $100,000 cases with $250 annual premiums. Using the traditional agent process it takes 3-4 years to break even on small cases. They claim they can get that ROI down to just 2 years using telelife.

What they don’t get is that in my 13 years of experience with telelife, it doesn’t work with impaired risk cases. They claim to have an automated drill down questionnaire for any impairment that will actually allow them to order less medical records. What they won’t admit is that when I shop a case with labs in hand, they don’t have to order those records either, but they do. Until I hear glowing reports about this newest attempt to make life insurance purchases impersonal, Genworth has just provided me incentive to suggest to clients that $101,000 is a nice round figure to work with.

Bottom line. As much as it is a challenge doing business long distance, my customer will attest to the fact that I offer them great service and don’t waste their time. I’m not about to hand that over to someone who doesn’t know how I do business and has no relationship with my customer. If you have any questions or would like a free telelife experience, call or email me directly. Let’s talk.