‘Listening and learning is the first step – now the more difficult process of improving service levels must begin’

By Yiannis Kotoulas

Speaking to brokers at last week’s (10-11 May 2023) Biba conference in Manchester, there was one overarching answer provided when asked what their biggest current challenge was – insurer service.

This has been a theme of the broker market since the pandemic, with many brokers anecdotally reporting that both access to decision makers and the speed of decisions had diminished as their contacts increasingly worked from home.

Yiannis headshot

For example, Mark Coffer, managing director at Hatfield-based Marrs Insurance Brokers, told Insurance Times: “Service levels from insurers are truly shocking – about as bad as I’ve known them to be – and I’m not sure why.

“Have they got rid of the good ones and replaced them with spotty Herberts? Or are there now so many meetings about GDPR, gender equality, compliance and everything else that there’s no time to do any insurance?

“I can’t get hold of anybody on the phones – you’ll wait 25 minutes for someone to pick up and then they won’t be able to answer your questions.”

In Insurance TimesFive Star Rating Report: Commercial and Personal Lines 2022/23, many surveyed commercial lines brokers reported that their expectations around service levels were not being met.

Other brokers, however, reported that they were impressed by insurers’ ability to maintain a high level of service despite a challenging market.

In the report, which ranked the top insurers by underwriting experience, quality of cover, policy documentation and relationship management based on around 600 brokers’ feedback, the overall average service score for insurers reached 3.76 – a substantial rise from the market average of 3.59 from the previous year’s report.

Listening and learning

Despite much talk in the market aimed at poor service from insurers, the results of Insurance Times’ research seem to demonstrate that various aspects of service have improved year-on-year.

Does this mean, then, that insurer service requires no improvement? Not quite.

The overarching message from insurers at the Biba conference was that they were listening and learning to brokers’ concerns about service levels with plans to grow further.

Speaking to Insurance Times, Tokio Marine development underwriter Ian Bush explained that while he believed the insurer’s service levels were “really good”, it would “not stand still” on providing better service levels.

Zurich’s head of distribution Michelle Taylor, on the other hand, explained: “We’re happy to be held accountable because we know that our service is good and bad and we’re happy to put plans in place to improve it.

“We want to do better and we’re happy to be transparent about that – we collect loads of data on our service metrics so we can say ‘these are our current metrics’ and then put an action plan in place to help brokers that want to work with us.”

Alex Hardy, RSA’s sales and distribution director for commercial lines, added: “What we’re trying to do is make sure that we get our core service for our core market absolutely spot on for everybody – so we’re doing that now and are looking to expand our approach to earn the right to start to support brokers in different ways.”

These insurers uniformly noted that while they believed that their service levels were currently at a good level for brokers, improvements needed to be made based on the feedback they had been receiving.

An acceptance from insurers that service levels must be improved should be welcomed by the broker market.

However, words and commitments must transmit into action.

Listening and learning is the first step – now the more difficult process of improving service levels must begin.

Thankfully, with demand from brokers and willingness from insurers, this should be easy enough to achieve. Right?