Brokers have always complained about service standards from insurers, but the complaints have never been louder than at present. These past few years of mergers and rationalisation have wreaked havoc with relations between the two sides, with brokers complaining bitterly about their lost points of contact and the delays in responding to their needs. Even those newly-merged insurers that have bent over backwards to keep their brokers happy have not succeeded totally – which given the inevitable upheaval that merging creates is not really surprising.
Royal & SunAlliance would be the first to admit that it has made some mistakes along the way, and lost goodwill as a result. But it is learning from its mistakes, and from out of that painful process, something rather excellent has emerged.
The Enterprise initiative – two years in the making and launched this week, see opposite – sets new service standards in small commercial business that have had brokers in the Midlands, West and Wales purring with pleasure. Slick and efficient, fast and accurate are the most common descriptions offered by brokers trialling Enterprise.
Amazingly, all this good work is coming out of a call centre, that dreaded modern institution which has driven so many brokers and members of the public to utter distraction. By staffing up with highly trained, enthusiastic and empowered underwriting staff (who no doubt enjoy far higher rewards than their fellow call centre toilers), R&SA has created a service that actually puts brokers first and helps them perform their business properly.
That this is such a breakthrough speaks volumes about the levels of service currently on offer. For a broker to be forced to wait sometimes weeks to get a quote, only to find the documentation has been bodged, may have become the norm in some quarters – but is just not acceptable.
The problem for R&SA now is to ensure its new levels of service excellence are swiftly replicated in every area of the group's operations. Given this requires creating an entire new culture, built on advanced telephony applications, it cannot happen overnight, however much money is thrown at the problem. But it has to be done – the contrast between what is now on offer in the small commercial risks division and parts elsewhere is too glaring for comfort.
Managing broker expectations will be a key part of this process. As in all reform processes, those who have endured years of dissatisfaction become suddenly impatient and demand instant solutions. They will have to be patient, though not too patient: R&SA, and the others that must follow down this new service path, must not keep them waiting a minute longer than they have to. The livelihood of too many brokers is at stake for this not to receive the highest priority.