When a crisis – or a series of crises – strike a business, there’s often a tendency for management to retreat within. The focus becomes on the interior of the business, sometimes to the exclusion of the outside world. It’s an understandable reaction, but it can end up causing the company to lose focus on what makes their business possible in the first place – the customers.
For Craig Elliott, Casualty Underwriter at Canopius, it’s a tendency to be guarded against. Slipping into it now is only going to present businesses with more problems further down the road, he explains.
“I think now, more than ever, we need to be considering how we can offer a holistic model of customer service to brokers and clients alike,” says Elliott. “There’s lots of elements that lead to an inwards approach, reduced profitability which can lead to uncertainty seen through the likes of changing appetites and shifting underwriting philosophies, but you can’t ever forget the customer.”
The pandemic has taken its toll, notes Elliott, but he stresses it’s also critical to remember that the insurance space was entering a hardening market well before COVID-19 ever hit Australian shores. Accordingly, there’s been trends towards reduced capacity and appetite, as well as an increasing requirement on our customers to provide high quality data on data.
“It is a tough spot for brokers to be in,” says Elliott. “It’s been frustrating to see some markets change their approach, or outright rejecting applications, all the while communicating these changes too late without a clear explanation about what their future appetite might or might not be.”
In turn, Elliott notes, brokers are forced to take this information – or lack thereof – back to clients, leaving them both frustrated and potentially underinsured as a result. It doesn’t reflect well on anyone in the whole process.
Nonetheless, Elliott believes that combating the issue is relatively straightforward. Good communication is the lynchpin that underpins all good customer service – and retaining a focus on that acts as antidote to becoming too inward-focused. Engaging early and engaging often is key.
“I think it’s important to remember that doing a good job and being customer-focused doesn’t mean doing everything,” says Elliott. “Realistically, there are all sorts of reasons we may not be able to accommodate a specific risk – it’s unprofitable, our risk appetite isn’t there or we just don’t think we can do it justice. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you just say “No” and send them on their way.”
Rather, Elliott expands, it’s about listening to the needs of our clients and providing clarity around the reason why you’re saying yes or no. If a client has taken the time to collate and provide information in respect of their business risks, they deserve a clear response with a commentary on that supports the decision made. People want to feel heard.
“Being able to steer people in the right direction is just as important as being able to help them directly,” says Elliott.
Looking ahead, being able to offer better customer service is helping drive Elliott’s plan for Canopius too.
“One big issue I see in the market is companies spending money on building and delivering tech that gets the leads and gathers information for quotes,” says Elliott. “Now obviously that’s great from an efficiency standpoint internally, but the human element often hasn’t caught up with the tech. You still need the human element in there to be able to offer good service.”
Elliot adds: “I think it’s going to be an important consideration over the next few years – and as a relatively new entrant into the space, I think we’re nimble enough to be able to leverage it effectively for our brokers and coverholders.”
Ultimately though, Elliott believes that clients and brokers alike are going to remember which insurers treat them well during this period.
“Insurers who engage early and effectively are going to be the ones who do well in the long-term.”