The CII’s Ian Simons looks at a recent CII-commission survey that shows customers, particularly SMEs, rate Chartered firms more highly than non-Chartered ones.
When you see a CII Chartered symbol, what do you think it says about the firm? More importantly, what do you think customers think?
The CII commissioned Critical Research to survey more than 1,100 SMEs in four waves of research since 2012 to understand whether raising professional standards has made an impact on customers’ perceptions of the industry – and particularly how customers of Chartered firms assessed their insurance provider.
Customers of any service judge their satisfaction based on several factors, such as value for money or how well they communicate and answer their needs.
Some of these may be linked to the expertise or professional standing of the company or individual providing the service, and some arguably less so.
Customer satisfaction is inherently hard to measure in insurance because, unlike the purchase of, say, an architect’s or an accountant’s services, unless a claim occurs the full value of the service provided is hard to appreciate.
This means that the drivers of successful customer outcomes in the insurance industry are geared towards the trust and confidence that has been provided along the process itself.
Six key drivers
The survey found that there were six key drivers of satisfaction – whether a claim occurred or not.
To achieve Chartered status, firms have to ensure a proportion of their employees are qualified to a certain standard, and maintain that knowledge through continuous professional development.
If they were the only criteria it might be hard to see how this could affect something such as a customer’s perception of the quality of cover that has been provided.
But as well as qualification and continuous professional development, Chartered insurance firms have embedded values and business practices that align with the CII Code of Ethics, and a development programme for all staff, not just those who are qualified in technical roles.
The study asked 33 questions to find out whether SME customers of Chartered insurance Brokers:
- value insurance more; find insurance easier to access;
- find information more understandable;
- have the cover they need;
- get better service; and
- have more confidence in the industry.
Consistently over the three years of the study, SME customers of Chartered firms rated their outcomes significantly more highly than non-Chartered firms in terms of the cover they provided, the confidence their customers had and their overall satisfaction
Given the complex range of products and providers aimed at discrete markets with varying eligibility and pricing, it’s hardly surprising that some customers struggle to find a product or provider that meets their needs at a price that they are happy with.
The survey sought to understand in customers’ own words how well firms solved this problem for them with questions such as:
- They cater for businesses like mine;
- They make it easy for me to arrange and secure cover; and
- I can find the right information about the insurance I need.
SME customers consistently rated Chartered firms’ (both insurers and brokers) ability to provide access to cover more than 10% higher than non-Chartered firms.
Confidence that ultimately they will be covered in the event of a claim derives from a range of questions such as:
- Do they believe that the company has their best interests at heart?;
- Do they trust the company to do what is right?; and
- Will the firm behave in a professional manner?
Over the three years, SME customers rated their confidence in these outcomes from Chartered firms over 12% higher than non-Chartered firms.
The quality and appropriateness of the cover provided is critical to whether the customer feels that they have obtained a positive outcome, and is driven by questions such as:
- My policy provides suitable cover for me;
- I’m confident my policy provides sufficient cover; and
- The cover provided by my insurance policies meets my needs.
SME customers rated the quality and suitability of Chartered firms’ cover more than 4% higher than that of non-Chartered firms over the four-year study.
All other drivers – value, service and information – were measured either equal or marginally superior for Chartered firms against non-Chartered firms.
To avoid bias, customers were not asked whether they knew if their insurer or broker was Chartered, but they were named and matched to compile the results.
So what does this all mean? If customers of Chartered firms have better outcomes, does this mean that they are more professional?
Most of the customer insight indicates that the drivers relate to ethical behaviour, and this is why the CII undertook a Chartered Review in 2015 to increased focus on the importance of demonstrating evidence of aligned values and behaviour with the CII Code of Ethics.
It also means Chartered Firms can be proud of promoting their Chartered status, in the knowledge that it represents the pinnacle not just of qualification, but also how customer value outcomes.