Feedback from brokers still flags insurer service as being ‘on its knees’ due to difficulties with homeworking – will the lifting of work from home guidance this week see brokers benefit from improved service?

By Editor Katie Scott

Following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, the service provided by insurers has come under intense scrutiny from the general public, the FCA and its test case, as well as by the broking community.

Katie Scott_bw_path

Katie Scott

Back in December 2020, for example, Insurance Times’ December issue told the story of brokers based in the north of England that were unimpressed with insurer service amid the UK’s tiered lockdown restrictions.

They described the service they were receiving from insurer partners as “disappointing” and “worrying”, in part because insurers seemed to be struggling with homeworking practicalities, they reported.

This theme was still ringing true when speaking to brokers at our BrokerFest 2021 conference in October last year.

Although still citing homeworking as a key driver for poor insurer service, brokers additionally thought insurers were displaying an over-reliance on technology, meaning that getting access to and speaking with underwriters directly was like attempting to find a needle in a haystack through convoluted phone processes.

One solution that cropped up during panel discussions was brokers looking to team up with MGAs rather than insurers, due to them being more nimble and often on the hunt for volume, meaning they are more driven to cater to brokers’ needs.

Now in January 2022, brokers are still reporting “absolutely dreadful” insurer service.

This week, for example, I caught up with JM Glendinning group managing director Jake Fox, who told me: “Insurer service is such a huge challenge for all of us at the moment – that’s from underwriting service, to day-to-day account management service, to claims handling, across the board.

“It wouldn’t be difficult to improve insurers’ service at the moment because insurer service is on its knees. Insurer service is absolutely dreadful at the moment.”

Fox added that JM Glendinning’s experience here isn’t unique – he feels that many brokers within the market are facing the same problems with bad insurer service.

Homeworking technicalities

I flagged this sentiment to Mike Crane, managing director of LV= Broker, during a lunch meeting this week, looking to get an insurer’s perspective on brokers’ feedback.

He told me that at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, LV= struggled with implementing an effective telephony service. It also had to initially juggle laptop allocation to ensure all frontline staff were suitably equipped for homeworking, resorting to re-issuing laptops from other departments while more were being ordered.

However, he emphasised that these initial hurdles were ironed out during the early stages of the pandemic, with LV=’s Net Promoter Score subsequently improving. He noted that the majority of insurance firms are now well versed in homeworking technicalities.

Despite Crane’s positive feedback, the consistency with which we are reporting on poor insurer service as experienced by brokers is extremely concerning, especially as the driving force behind this trend still appears to be centred around managing homeworking regimes.

Granted, many firms were getting to grips with the ‘new normal’ and battling fluctuating lockdown rules in 2020 and early 2021, so some leniency is permissible here – after all, we haven’t had to batten down the hatches for a global pandemic before.

However, we are now in 2022 and although it would be unfair to tar all insurers with the same brush, brokers should surely be able to expect insurer partners to have successful home working practices implemented by now?

The reported troubles around arranging and managing homeworking also speaks to the lack of flexible working options that were available in the industry pre-pandemic. Clearly homeworking was not the traditional ‘done thing’ in insurance.

Insurance Times will be keeping a close eye on this trend in the coming weeks and months to see whether a swerve in insurer service occurs – it will be interesting to see what trajectory brokers experience following the lifting of work from home guidance this week too.

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