Words matter: Communicating in ways our Clients can understand

At Sun Life, we’ve learned that the way information is communicated to people can be a major motivator. It can also be a significant obstacle. If information is too long, confusing or presented in a way that makes decision-making difficult, it can prevent people from building their knowledge and taking action. Too often in the financial system, consumers face overly-complex information and documents.

Since 2016, we have made clear, plain language a priority. We believe clear communication empowers our Clients. It can boost their confidence and trust. And it can help better engage them in managing their financial affairs, so they take positive financial actions.  

Plain language is also an essential part of accessibility. Everyone benefits from plain language communication, but for some audiences, it’s absolutely essential. This includes people who have difficulty reading either numbers or words, or those who have little to no experience in the financial marketplace. Clients may also be working in their second language. People who are under stress or time pressure also benefit from clearer, more simplified communication that requires little effort to understand.

As part of our global plain language effort, we:

  • Provide plain-language training to employees, along with resources such as before-and-after examples that show clearer ways of writing
  • Use a plain-language analysis tool that measures the readability of our materials and flags poor writing
  • Rewrite Client letters, forms and materials to ensure plain language

3,033 pieces of Client content have been rewritten in plain language across our global operations since 2017.

Learn more about our efforts to create a better Client experience.

Robert Bartman's headshot Robert Bartman's headshot

Robert Bartman
AVP, Client Advocacy 

“Insurance and financial guidance are confusing, frustrating and overwhelming for many people. We wanted to change that for anyone interacting with Sun Life. We now use plain language and clear communication in all our Client communications and materials. To be effective, information must be understandable."

Client communication example

What was...

Dear Mr./Ms. Client,

I would like to acknowledge receipt of your email. I was sorry to learn of the circumstances which led you to reach out to us.

Sun Life Financial takes the approach to make our business units responsible for attempting to resolve complaints at the front line before they get escalated within Sun Life Financial. In that regard, each business area has a specific escalation process that is intended to escalate dissatisfied members through particular levels. The Ombudsman’s Office will not decline to review a complaint, however, we will redirect complaints that have not been fully reviewed and responded to by the business area, back to that level. The business unit escalation process is not considered complete until a final position has been provided referring you to the Ombudsman’s Office.

The Ombudsman’s Office does not evaluate medical evidence. Therefore, the Ombudsman’s Office is not able to decide if one meets the test of disability in a plan or not based on the medical evidence and cannot direct the Disability Claims Department to approve your claim. In some cases, there may be external recourse available outside of Sun Life Financial, to which the Ombudsman’s Office would refer the complaint after its review if necessary.

In keeping with the Sun Life Escalation Process, I have redirected your below concerns to the appropriate individuals within our <xxx> Department for review and response. Typically, most investigations are completed within 30 days of receiving a complaint and all supporting information. If this deadline cannot be met, you will be contacted to let you know why the extra time is necessary and when you can expect a response. Your patience is appreciated.

Sincerely,

<name>

Manager, Ombudsman’s Office

Is now...

Hi <Client first name>

Thanks for letting us know about x. I’m sorry we haven’t been able to resolve this for you.

We’ll dig into what’s happened and I’ll be in touch with an update by end of day on <two business days>.

In the meantime, my contact information is below, and I’m here if you need me.

<name>

Client Advocate

Name.Lastname@sunlife.com

1-877-786-5433 extension 341-1234