I would like to congratulate Jeremy Baker on an excellent article (Claims focus, Insurance Times, June 28). He hits the nail on the head when he talks about the time and resources devoted to improving technical knowledge, compared with the time spent on achieving service standards in call centres.

He is also, unfortunately, dead right when he talks about state-of-the-art technology "taking over" from the knowledgeable technician.

The article is set around a claims operation, but that is incidental, as the same shortcomings occur with quotation and processing centres as well.

The young people managing and staffing these operations are usually absolutely first class and well motivated in the direction of service standards and customer satisfaction. Most of their training is in this direction.

Unfortunately, there needs to be something more behind the ability to deal with a customer politely and "efficiently".

The better operations address this by building a technical content into their training programmes and the team members know why they need to ask for certain information and they know the consequences of getting it wrong.

The operations that neglect this do so at their peril.

It happens all too often that an insurer arranges a swift repair job for a customer but, after the repair is complete, the customer "remembers" a string of non-disclosed convictions – too late.

Does the problem lie with the claim handler who did not ask the questions, or was it the quotation operator at inception who was at fault? Either way, the insurer has paid out on a non-claim.

There is an argument that the turn-over of call centre staff is so quick that it is uneconomical to spend time and money on technical training.

My answer to that is that one mistake by an untrained operator could cost the company its training budget for the whole year! It's all about perspectives and risks that we should not take.

Once again, Mr Baker, thank you for a very interesting article and I look forward to your next one.
Roy Rodger FCII
Motor Insurance
Consultancy and Training

Time to show teeth
I would like to add my support to Nick Beere (Letters, Insurance Times, June 14). Value added tax (VAT)… sorry, insurance premium tax (IPT)… is a stealth tax which the general public has fallen for. However, the bigger fool is the insurance industry for not recognising VAT in disguise and not immediately applying for VAT industry status.

While writing, may I also add another "bone to pick". I sit as a magistrate most weeks and invariably fine motorists for driving without insurance. As far as I am aware, the Motor Insurance Bureau receives no benefit from this, although it is industry funded. An industry without teeth, I would say.
Dennis Andrews
Managing director
Sandwell Insurance
West Midlands

Losing the extra weight
I have commented in the past to insurers about the ever-increasing weight of their documentation which, via courier, was costing them very little to send to us in bulk – but a fortune to brokers when sending to individual customers.

Bland excuses about anti-jargon and policyholder-friendly layout/wording was the companies' response, with no change to documentation.

Now the courier service appears to have gone "belly-up", the company's new policy booklets have reduced from A4, 200g in weight, to A5, 86g.

I'd like to believe it's a sign that they do listen to brokers and consider our overheads as well as their own, but unfortunately I think it's more to do with them having to pay Royal Mail prices.
Janet Thurlow
M Thurlow & Co

Tackle all fleet issues
Insurance should never be seen as a substitute for good management. Motor fleet operators in this country have too often failed to take sufficient regard of the safety of their drivers and vehicles. With road accident rates at frighteningly high levels, action is urgently required.

Driver training, while obviously a good place to start, is not enough in itself. I believe we need to see a more informed and enlightened approach that tackles cultural and attitude issues, as well as basic driver proficiency. Brokers and insurers are well placed to provide the encouragement, advice and support – and ideally the financial recognition – that will encourage fleet operators to take these issues fully on board.

To achieve significant accident rate reductions, motor fleet operators need to shift to a more safety-conscious culture. For driver training to work at maximum effectiveness, it needs real support and involvement from the top down. Where this happens, the results can be dramatic. Fleet accident rates have been shown to come down by as much as 50% following a well supported programme of driver training.

As a first step, such a programme entails building drivers' awareness of the importance of observational and road awareness skills (hazard perception). Your physical driving technique might be faultless, but if you fail to draw appropriate conclusions from what you observe, you could easily put yourself in a position where collision becomes inevitable.

Second, motor fleet operators should look to work with training firms that employ full-time staff, which is vital in building long-term relationships and achieving consistency of approach – without this consistency, evaluation criteria become almost meaningless.

And third, 95% of us believe we are either safe or very safe drivers; so improving safety is as much about changing attitudes as improving driving techniques. It's about helping people to look at driving in a new way – focusing and building on the skills they already have, and encouraging them to develop new ones.

Recent statistics suggest that there are still more than four million fleet vehicles in the UK whose drivers have never received any specialist training. The main reason for this is that the fleet managers of all but the largest companies tend, necessarily, to be non-specialists.

Smaller companies may reasonably feel they simply don't have the time to spend on conceiving and executing a dedicated fleet safety policy. However, the fatality and accident figures make grim reading. Driving a fleet vehicle for a living is actually the third most dangerous occupation practised by UK residents, just behind being a North Sea fisherman and a coal miner.

It is surely high time all motor fleet operators looked to the safety of their drivers and their vehicles. Morally, legally and financially, they'll be putting themselves in an altogether stronger position by doing so; and all of us in the business of insurance and risk management should be playing our part in helping to bring this about.
David Abbott
General manager
Active Risk Management (ARM)
Rarrigini & Rosso Group