Manchester Underwriting Management business development and marketing director Richard Webb on why good service is about more than ticking boxes and how experience is key to solving problems

All insurers and brokers in the market claim to offer the best level of service. We can all identify poor service and have our own tales to tell. But how do you define great service? What do you need to provide to offer a customer great service?

There is an obsession with service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee to answer the phone in three rings, an automated acknowledgement within 24 hours, or issue policies in 24 hours. These, however, often miss the point. Is this tick-box approach really the answer to great service? Is great service a detailed SLA or is it about efficiency, knowledge, experience and social skills?

People talk about the dangers of using email to communicate with customers. Yet, we all agree much more can be achieved by speaking to someone directly by phone or face-to-face.

Great service is made up of many parts, but the key that holds it together is communication. In insurance communication is vital. You often hear about complaints in insurance where communication is the cause.

How many brokers have faced claims on their own errors and omissions policy because a client says they did not understand the cover they were buying?

How many brokers get frustrated by underwriters sticking to underwriting guides and having to force their way through to an experienced underwriter who is willing to look at the risk rather than paint by numbers and halving the result?

How many insureds have been upset by an aggressive approach to claims handling and how many brokers have been upset because they were not kept in the loop on the claim?

Experience counts

When problems occur the solution is often to bring in a senior person to resolve the problem who can bring experience, knowledge and people skills to the situation.

This combination of skills enables them to provide a clear and concise explanation to an insured. It allows an experienced underwriter to discuss a risk with a broker in detail. It enables an insurer to meet with an insured and their broker to resolve issues on a claim.

Great service can’t just be about an SLA with targets: as an industry we should do more than tick boxes. But how many of us do provide our customers with staff who have knowledge, people skills, experience but can still handle business in an efficient and timely manner?

Richard Webb heads business development and marketing for specialist underwriting agency Manchester Underwriting Management