A plain language insurance policy is a matter of trust

The bedrock beneath a rewrite of ten AA Insurance personal policies is summed up by a single word.

Trust.

AA Insurance knows that people are more likely to trust something they can understand, so plain language was a perfect fit for New Zealand’s most trusted insurance company.

AA Insurance has been voted the Reader’s Digest Most Trusted General Insurance Brand for 10 consecutive years. The company scored high customer satisfaction through the latest Canstar Blue rating, with five-star ratings across most categories including communications, and quality of service. In the latest Consumer customer satisfaction survey, AA Insurance received the highest rating for mass market brands, having more ‘very satisfied’ customers than most other providers.

AA Insurance wanted to make sure people buying insurance knew exactly what they’re signing up for. No fine print. No grey areas — just honest, well-organised information that kept legal rigour while being absolutely clear and transparent.

Reworking these core personal insurance policies to make them easier to understand was one piece of AA Insurance’s larger year-long project to transform customer experience.

For AA Insurance, trust means doing the right things for the right reason — in the right way. It means connecting your strategy, actions, and communication.

Traditional policies and contracts baffle one in three of us

Money research company Canstar found in 2019 that nearly one-third of Kiwis didn’t understand their car insurance policy. And the most common complaints to the Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman (IFSO) are about misunderstanding a policy or contract. AA Insurance took notice.

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We understood most people found insurance language and communications difficult to understand — it wasn’t of value. So, we did something about it.

AA Insurance acted by:

  • making policies easier to read and understand
  • adding interactive digital policy documents, with pop-up plain language definitions
  • making policies easier to navigate   
  • giving easier access to all policy documents either online or in person
  • making sure digital documents worked just as well on phones, tablets, and PCs
  • designing new products with vulnerable customers in mind.

Covid-19 also brought about new ways of working for AA Insurance’s people — both working from home and quickly switching to different areas with the most demand. This meant staff needed to quickly understand new information to be able to communicate clearly with all customers. Three-quarters of staff are in customer-facing roles.

Every aspect of plain language ticked off for quality mark

Write helped put clear communication at the heart of the 10 new policies by assessing each one against all 28 elements of the WriteMark — the quality mark for clear communication. The WriteMark gives independent proof that the writing and presentation meet the highest standard of plain language.

The original policy documents already met 16 of the 28 criteria. Work was still needed on structure, headings, sentences, and layout. The goal was to make it easy for a non-expert to read it once and understand it, and to help them find what they needed later on if they wanted to make a claim.

AA Insurance accepted the challenge to regroup and reorder some of the content from a reader’s point of view. They changed generic headings into headings that gave readers key information in one bite. They also shortened and rewrote some sentences and used familiar everyday words as much as possible.

Breaking long exclusions into bullet points and making sure all the design elements were clear and accessible also transformed the reader’s experience.

Collaboration was the key to unlock the meaning

Working together to get the WriteMark on all ten policies was sometimes surprising for AA Insurance. They told us:

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While this was a fast turnaround, we were able to work through these documents swiftly, using a collaborative approach, and allowing for lots of consultation and discussion. It was so useful to have Write’s perspective on words we all understood — this is how the customer will see it. It was more exciting than threatening and very collaborative. The openness to conversation was a surprise.

But what about the challenges? The most difficult part of the process for AA Insurance was making sure the new language still held the right meaning for the legal team. This piece of work took the most time and conversation. Again, trust was a key plank. Everyone understood that the meaning was the job of the legal team, but the team trusted Write to use the right words to communicate that meaning.

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Write helped us remove the ‘grey areas’ and ensure our policies held honest, well-organised information. Nothing was insurmountable.

Call Center
Call Center

Calls fall when policies are clear

Since the new plain language policies were launched, the number of customers calling to ask questions after reading the policy online has dropped. So has the number of escalation calls from frontline staff to technical support staff.

Frontline staff have said it’s much easier explaining information to customers and so much easier to find the right information at the right time. They’ve said they don’t have to flip around through the whole document and can just read out clear wording to answer a question.

Staff and customers have also said having more informative and descriptive headings means they can find and understand information more quickly.

Technical operations staff have also noticed a significant drop in the number of product-related questions since the documents were rewritten in plain language.

Leading the way: clarity ahead of compliance

Upcoming law changes in New Zealand will soon mean all consumers can expect to understand any insurance policy and contract they are signing. The onus will also be on insurers to ask the right questions and make sure their policies are fair.

Clarity that comes from compliance is good. Clarity that comes from care is even better.

This can help combat a traditional lack of trust from consumers and provide certainty when times are uncertain.

Trust celebrated time and time again

The work AA Insurance has done to build and keep trust with its customers is plain to see. Write is proud to be a partner in helping make sure all the words reflect that.

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At AA Insurance we understand that trust is an emotion that fuels decisions, whether we are conscious of it or not. It’s that intangible quality that signals reliability and integrity. Whether it’s a product or service, trust is what reassures us that we are making the right choice. Cost, quality and desirability are all important factors for consumers. Yet it’s vital for a brand to stay true to its promise.

Get in touch to discuss your projects

Plain language can transform your the way your customers view your brand.

Contact us to discuss your ideas by completing and submitting our project planner,
calling 0800 497 483, or emailing enquiries@write.co.nz.

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