"Putting people on hold for 45 minutes to an hour is not acceptable"

Broker says communication with insurers poor in most cases

"Putting people on hold for 45 minutes to an hour is not acceptable"


By Terry Gangcuangco

Crème Insurance director Mark Mallard (pictured) believes every phone call should be picked up in less than five minutes – not three quarters of an hour or more, as has been his experience with certain insurers in recent days.

“We’ve struggled with our insurance partners” was Mallard’s straightforward pronouncement when he recently sat down with Insurance Business.

While the broking boss loves working in the industry, recent frustrations include the less-than-stellar performance of most providers when it comes to communicating with brokers or customers following the deluge of claims in New Zealand as a result of this year’s weather events.

He told Insurance Business: “Communication’s been poor for most cases. Phone systems and other things probably need to be modernised and upgraded, because putting people on hold for 45 minutes to an hour is not acceptable in this modern world. We need to incorporate more things like callbacks.”

Mallard’s sentiment echoes those of others, with one other brokerage chief executive previously suggesting insurers should install a ‘fixer’, or a dedicated person who would essentially be in charge of getting things sorted for partners and clients amid patience-testing bottlenecks.

The one-hour wait isn’t an exaggeration, either, as Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman Karen Stevens had pointed this out before in an interview with Insurance Business.

“To make an enquiry before COVID, you could do it immediately and you just got through,” Stevens said in June. “Now you can wait over an hour to get somebody to talk to you, and you might not get the answer you want.

“So, as with everything now, getting somebody to talk to you is quite [challenging]. I think people are getting frustrated about it.”  

Left with no choice

In Mallard’s case, he’s finding himself left with no choice but to endure the long wait.  

He told Insurance Business: “How else do you get hold of them? You’ve sent an email days ago and you haven’t had a reply... You need to get hold of somebody. You’ve got a 45-minute to an hour wait. That’s not acceptable to me – for me, for a client, for anybody.

“There are more modern systems where every phone call should be answered, in my book, in under five minutes.”

This is how Crème Insurance operates, according to Mallard, citing a system it has in place to make sure those trying to reach the brokerage are not having to wait as long.

Meanwhile, referring to the current situation with insurers, Mallard said: “You’re probably down closer to half an hour right now, but most of the claims go to different people for half an hour. During the floods we were seeing [wait times of] over an hour, hour and a half.”

For now, Mallard’s camp is doing its best to look after clients despite the challenging environment.

“Looking after clients is our number one, two, three, four priority,” Mallard said. “It’s been that way for the last 12 years in my business, and it will continue to be that way for the next 12 years. As long as you keep on looking after clients, you’ll be fine.

“When someone calls us up after a car accident, our question is always, ‘Are you OK?’ And we get some interesting comments like, ‘My spouse has not even asked me that – they’ve only checked on how the car is – you’re the guy who’s fixing the car and all you’ve asked me about is me’. Because we can’t fix people, so we like to look after them and make sure that they’re alright.

“They might be in hospital, so we have to put on a higher level of service with them because they can’t [do certain things] because they’re injured or whatever else has happened. We deal with people at the most vulnerable times, but we can make their lives a lot easier, and that makes you feel good when you’re looking after people in the harder times.”

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