Business direct division trials collecting SME renewal dates from Johannesburg

Zurich's small business direct division has conducted an outbound calling pilot to UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from South Africa.

A source visiting call centres in Johannesburg at the time of the pilot said an outsourcer was conducting outbound calling to UK SMEs on behalf of Zurich.

He said the purpose was to record renewal dates for property, liability and commercial vehicle policies.

A Zurich spokeswoman confirmed that the pilot was conducted in the spring.

She added that the pilot would not lead to a wider roll-out of the concept in South Africa, after Zurich determined there were better ways of reaching SMEs.

She said: "This exercise was not used to target broker customers, but aimed at reaching prospects new to Zurich."

The spokeswoman said the SMEs contacted were neither existing customers of Zurich's small business direct division nor its UK commercial broker division.

The pilot, which ran for a few weeks, was part of a marketing strategy to test both the value of such an exercise, and South Africa as a "location from which to operate such an activity from", the spokeswoman said.

Zurich has sold direct to SMEs through its business direct division for three years.

It targets customers by buying databases of SMEs' contact details.

In June this year, it attracted criticism from brokers after sending letters to SMEs inviting them to renew direct with the insurer. At the time brokers accused Zurich of "directly attacking brokers' business".

Zurich defended the practice, saying that it was simply offering customers choice.