I am writing in response to the article "Insurers axe jobs" (27 June, Insurance Times), but specifically in response to comments attributed to Simon Machell of Norwich Union. He is quoted as saying that "internal research found that smaller claims offices, typically with 40 to 50 staff produced lower standards of customer services than larger centres". An interesting proposition, but founded on whose research one wonders.

My experience and involvement in claims operations both in the UK and Australasia, would suggest the contrary view. Large centralised claims centres tend to engender a culture remote from the customer, and largely driven by productivity and efficiency rather than customer care and service. How often do we see and hear of complaints where customers are passed from operator to operator, and are lucky if they can manage to speak to the same person on more than one occasion - ownership of the claim gets lost in the production line environment.

Where smaller claims units are co-located in the front office with underwriting and customer services, the standard of customer care is greatly enhanced because of the end-to-end customer focus.

In an industry which is roundly, and in many situations justifiably criticised for its lack of customer care, big is not always beautiful - it's often just expedient.

Alan Beal


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