The overall service provided provided by insurers has been rated by brokers as depending largely on the insurer and experience in question.
In Insurance Business
' 2014 Brokers on Insurers Survey
, brokers commonly said that overall service has ‘improved slightly’, ‘only just’, or in many cases, that service remained ‘much the same’.
However, brokers are adamant it is a ‘mixed bag’; often, brokers said that service can ‘differ vastly’ – at least from an individual broker’s perspective – depending on the insurer in question.
Many brokers said that some insurers actually provided much worse service to them this year, describing them as anything from ‘average’ to ‘pathetic’ and even ‘diabolical’.
It came down to individual experiences. On the positive side, brokers argued that competition was driving insurers to compete hard for some new business, and as part of that they were being forced to adapt and upgrade their broker service.
“I think because they are chasing business, service itself has improved to stay ahead of their competitors," one broker said.
However, the unenthusiastic response indicates they can do better. Many broker complaints come down to insurers being less ‘personal’.
“Service has improved in a number of insurers but at the same time the underwriting teams have become less friendly and familiar," one broker said. “Service has worsened over the years with the majority of transactions being electronic. There is little bonding with anyone within an insurers realm," said another.
Indeed, though brokers see the rationale for new technology and systems, they often lament ‘technology taking over from service’, and having less dedicated claims handlers.
“There is more reliance on on-line quoting systems. SME brokers do business online with the eight majors on Sunrise or speak with an underwriting agency if they need a BDM or cover," said one broker.
There is often a perception that centralisation, restructuring, offshoring, and cost-cutting means brokers are doing the ‘heavy lifting’, and insurer teams have a ‘lack of accountability’.
“Centralisation of underwriting and claims functions may have improved response time, but lessened the quality of response and level of understanding of our business and needs," one said. “Time factors combine with people not being experienced in their particular fields that you talk to on the telephone," said another.
However, those insurers who are able to make it work are appreciated. “The more streamlined (function/division based) approach from underwriters seem to be paying off, but only just. We are thriving with our insurer who offers dedicated same-person for same role service.”
BDM service is a key consideration, with many brokers lamenting the lack of BDM power in insurance decisions, the turnover in BDM reps, or the difficulty in seeing a BDM.
“There is a lack of authority if there is a BDM, and claims, underwriting and BDM support has fallen away over the last 12 months in rural areas," one said.
Overall, brokers seemed to feel insurers had edged ahead in terms of overall service this year, with 54% agreeing service levels were better than last year.
For the full Brokers on Insurers Survey results and to find out who won the coveted Insurer of the Year rating, see Insurance Business' latest issue 3.3.