The Insurance Financial Services Ombudsman (IFSO) revealed last year that customer complaints in the industry indicated that many people did not understand the policy or contract they were signing – and seasoned Bridges Insurance broker Kristin Bridges believes that it’s “up to us as an industry to [make things] right.”
Bridges (pictured), who has almost a decade of insurance experience, fell into the industry like most insurance professionals. She started her career as an account assistant at Bridges Insurance and eventually gravitated towards domestic and commercial broking.
With around seven years of experience in a sales-based role, she has seen the market expand and has faced numerous challenges as a broker – including misinformation about insurance.
“Since I first joined the industry, there has been a growth in the number of underwriting agencies in the marketplace,” Bridges said. “It’s been great to see them expand and achieve, as well as having an alternative option as a broker when the old faithfuls can’t offer a solution!”
“I think the biggest problem is simply client resistance to wanting to increase their insurance overheads. Often, clients will take the minimum cover available to reduce costs, and, as a broker, I try to emphasise why this might end up being penny wise and pound foolish in the long run if the worst happens.”
She noted that Kiwis are still underinsured, which may be due to the typical “she’ll be right” attitude that leads to “a somewhat lackadaisical approach towards insurance.”
“From my experience, many New Zealanders, in general, are just uninformed about insurance and what it covers – and it’s down to us as an industry to put that right,” she said. “It can be tempting as an advisor to tell people what policies they should have without explaining in-depth. After all, it’s our job, and we know best.”
“However, it’s important to take the time to explain our reasoning to the client and discuss the real-world application of how a policy will respond at claim time. I think being able to see how holding a particular policy could improve an outcome in a poor situation makes it more likely that a client will take up the cover.”
Bridges emphasised the importance of relating to the customer, in addition to ensuring that they fully understand the product that they want to take out.
“You can know a product inside and out and quote policy wordings until you’re blue in the face, but if you can’t relate to your customer, you’re never going to be successful,” she said. “I always try to put myself in the customer’s shoes and explain the insurance covers I recommend to them in a way that relates to their world and experience. You can find common ground with most people if you try hard enough.”
She also advised the industry to embrace technology to serve clients better, noting that the broking sector is still old school.
“I’d love to see a more concerted move towards digitising the way we work and sell insurance. In our office, we have switched to digital invoicing via an online portal system, and it’s been well received by our clients. I think that customers today expect a level of technology to permeate most business transactions, and I know that as a consumer myself, I gravitate towards products that are modern, digitised and easy to navigate,” Bridges concluded.