We’ll be making a point in this blog of reviewing documents or brands that make claims to be simple. Look for the ‘simple claims’ category.

Next up is Friends Life, who sent my elderly father-in-law a booklet called ‘Simplifying Our Business’. Friends Life have several different limited companies managing their various financial products, because they were formed out of a merger. Now they want to consolidate these companies into a single entity.

Cover of Friends Life booklet Page from Friends Life booklet

The brochure outlines the complex process of consultation and court hearings, and it’s my guess that without specialist knowledge, most readers would not have a hope of understanding what’s going on. It’s not about the language – as the quote below shows, it’s pretty clear. It’s that most customers will lack… I nearly wrote ‘the will to live after just one page’, which is true… a mental schema within which to see what any of this has to do with them.

Luckily, there’s a nice clear contents list at the beginning that points us to a heading ‘What the proposals mean to you’ (on page 11, half way through).

‘There will be no changes to your policy terms and conditions, policy number, features, benefits or premiums.

The investment strategy relevant to your policy will not be altered.

You will continue to see the same branding on literature we send to you.

When you call us you will speak to the same team of people on the same phone number as you do now, and the level of service you receive will not be affected.’

(The italics are mine.)

So who is the audience for this document? Well, some people, whether by habit or through bitter experience, will want to check on every move made by their financial services provider. Others might feel happy that they’ve been included, but not read it. It might even reinforce their trust for the brand – simple explanations inevitably omit detail and are less open. So for most customers it is the fact of communication that is important, not the content. It is what is sometimes called a ‘phatic’ communication, like the grunt the listening party in a phone conversation makes to indicate they are still there.

The website has a good FAQ section, which includes the following:

If there is no impact on me, why are you writing to me? We are required by the Financial Services and Markets Act (2000) to notify policyholders of the Scheme.’

Nuff said.

Added 5 November 2012: Please click on the Comments link below and read the useful response by Peter Foster, Corporate Affairs & Brand Director at Friends Life.