The insurer has been steadily climbing the Five Star Rating Report rankings for both personal and commercial lines. Insurance Times finds out what is behind this trajectory

Zurich Insurance’s head of personal lines Phil Ost and head of mid-market Sam Thomas believe the underwriter has used broker feedback published within successive Insurance Times’ Five Star Rating Reports to enhance its broker relationships.

Across both commercial and personal lines, Zurich has been seeing steady progress in its broker service ratings. For example, in this year’s Five Star Rating Report: Commercial Lines, published in March 2022, Zurich obtained a four star rating from brokers, compared to three stars in 2021.

As for Insurance Times’ Five Star Rating Report: Personal Lines 2022, published this February, Zurich improved 2021’s four star ranking to receive top marks from brokers this year, gaining the coveted five star accolade.

The feedback gleaned from these reports has been pivotal in helping Zurich to improve its broker service – in particular, Zurich has looked to get closer to its broker partners, deliver the products they need and interact in the way intermediaries prefer.

“The recent survey has provided a fantastic insight and allows us to continue to build on the services we provide to brokers and their clients,” says Thomas.

“We cannot rest on our laurels and we will not, but the awards provide us with an indication of what we are doing right and what requires further work.”

She explains that Zurich’s mid-market operation has looked to build its etrading and traditional broking facilities in recent years – both routes are designed to offer speedy responses for brokers.

“It really has been all about listening,” says Thomas. “We have worked hard to ensure we are listening to what matters to brokers.”

Communication touchpoints

One area Zurich has particularly focused on recently is creating a more frictionless response process for broker queries.

This has seen the insurer create systems that enable brokers to communicate with the company in the way they prefer - be it by telephone, live chat or via its etrading platform.

As a result of this work, query turnaround times have reduced by 50% and underwriters typically receive broker enquires within two hours of submission.

As for Zurich’s etrading platform, Thomas says the work has concentrated on how the insurer can further smooth out processes.

“We are using artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure that we support our brokers in the right places, where they have said they could use additional support,” Thomas explains. “We can complete the majority of referrals on the platform within 30 minutes.”

Communication is key - Thomas notes that Zurich typically handles a total of 350,000 phone calls, live chats and platform referrals a year, but it aims to increase this capacity in the year to come.

The insurer plans to deliver service level agreements (SLA) within 24 hours. As at March 2022, 70% of its SLAs are completed within this time period, however Zurich wants to increase this figure to 100% this year.

“The breadth and depth of our regional relationships remains so important,” adds Thomas. “Our aim this year is to get closer to our brokers and understand how we can better support them.”

Documentation detail

For Ost, one of Zurich’s key areas of improvement that has been flagged by Insurance Times’ recent Five Star Rating Reports is documentation.

“Documentation is not something that is widely discussed, but it is clear that it matters to brokers and their clients,” he says. “We have worked hard to revise our documentation in recent years and there are numerous examples as to how this has delivered greater benefit and support to brokers.

“For example, when the insurance product information document (IPID) rule was introduced for property risks, many insurers simply created a single IPID to cover contents, building or combined policies.

“We took the decision to produce three - one for each of the policies. While with one IPID, you could provide the clients with a tick box, we sought to make it easier for [both] brokers and clients to understand the documents.”

Ost adds that Zurich has also created a range of interactive PDFs, which aims to help brokers and clients access the information they are seeking more efficiently.

The PDFs contain hyperlinks that direct the reader to specific areas of the document.

“We have sought to reduce the time that brokers and clients take to scroll through lengthy documents, to enable them to access the specific information they require,” Ost explains.

Therefore, the teams with responsibility for document production have the ability to challenge Zurich’s underwriters, to ensure that documents are not only technically correct, but also understandable.

Fairness in claims is key

Ost says that claims is still the area where the insurer has the majority of its direct interactions with policyholders.

“The feedback on claims has been so important,” he adds. “While we have teams that handle the first interaction when a customer reports a claim, we have other teams which will then continue to support the client.

“We have worked to ensure that staff are cross-skilled, so have a good understanding of both disciplines and their requirements.

“All too often, those in our team are the first point of contact with the clients [and] are asked about the process and what will happen with their claims. Therefore, [there is a] need to understand the process.

“At times where we experience surge events - and we have had a number in recent years - the ability of our claims staff to work across the process delivers greater capabilities.”

Ost adds: “When it comes to claims, we understand that fairness is key. Brokers want to know we will do the right thing for their customers.”

What brokers want

Ost notes that Zurich has listened to brokers’ feedback.

“Brokers have clearly said that want quicker decisions and more senior team visibility and we have responded to that.

“Brokers want access to underwriters and we have also looked to build greater access to the claims teams.

“During Covid, we saw some insurers look to retrench, but we have worked hard to ensure that brokers recognised that we have been open for business throughout - and that has been reflected in the feedback from the ratings.

“We have also made it clear [that] we have a willingness to be open to new ideas as to how we can improve the services and products we provide - this has been appreciated by our brokers.”

Thomas adds that for mid-market risks, there has been “a growing demand for technical excellence in the regions”.

She continues: “The ability to provide knowledgeable decisions has been a demand and we have worked to meet those demands.

“Now, 99% of decisions are made locally and we have created an in-house capability of risk engineers that can support brokers when they require specialist advice and surveys.”