How broker feedback is transforming RSA's SME business

Director says, "it's only just the start"

How broker feedback is transforming RSA's SME business


By Mia Wallace

‘It’s not the destination but the journey’, as the saying goes - but at the core of the ongoing strategic evolution of RSA’s SME business is recognition that its “North Star” of being top quartile in the market is not just possible but eminently achievable, with the right plan in place. And the insurer couldn’t ask for a better guide than the one it has in UK SME strategy and implementation director, Luci Bowers (pictured) with her clear vision for what success looks like to the business’s brokers and clients alike.

Stepping into the role in 2021 after 14 years with RSA’s Motability unit represented a steep learning curve in some respects, Bowers said, but also the opportunity to utilise her wealth of experience in leveraging client feedback to create improved outcomes. The mandate Bowers was given invited her to craft the strategy needed for RSA’s SME business to develop a market-leading proposition – and critical to this, was first understanding where it was falling behind.

RSA’s UK SME business - Fixing the “glaringly obvious”

“When I came into the role, it was clear we had some glaringly obvious things to improve,” she said. “Brokers had told us for quite a while that our service wasn’t good enough and we had lots of information that told us what we needed to do. So, my job was to set about putting plans in place to deliver the right levels of change.

“Fast-forward to where we are now – SME had a significant year in 2022. It feels like we set out at the beginning of the year understanding the feedback, understanding what we hadn’t done well enough and where we hadn’t been there when our brokers needed us, but [with the aim] of pulling our socks up and changing that record. So, we spent the year on various improvement projects and investment pieces, trying to do just that.”

Looking back on some of the substantial inroads made across the SME business, she noted that the team has been able to ‘tick off’ every promise it made to its brokers - which includes more online decisions, nine out of 10 cases getting an instant decision, and its phone and digital channels being open to brokers providing strong levels of service.

As somebody passionate about the role of constructive feedback, Bowers recognised the imperative of actually listening to people rather than having a preconceived notion of what success looks like. Last year was all about putting the basics back in place, she said, and driving broker and experience-led change rather than being ruled by specific metrics or targets.

“Looking back at some of what we did last year, we brought 65 additional people into our Glasgow trading centre,” she said. “Our site in Glasgow takes all our queries from our SME brokers, so, if something doesn’t fit online, they speak to our Glasgow team. And that team had been quite hit by resource issues. This was at the time when I think the whole industry was feeling the pinch around recruiting, let alone retaining staff.

“So, we set ourselves the ambitious target of a vast recruitment exercise last year and ended up bringing in our last cohort in January. We’ve got nearly 40% more people in that team and we’ve had quite a bit of feedback from brokers already that they can really feel a marked difference. We’ve had feedback that it does feel different and it’s now easier to do business with RSA - which is the proof in the pudding for us, because that’s the ambition we set for ourselves in 2022.”

Figuring out who RSA wants to be in the market

At the heart of this strategy was a reconsideration of who RSA wanted to be in the market, she said, and the answer is that it wants to be responsive, transparent and accessible. In addition to its extensive recruitment drive, the business did a lot of work on its extranet RSA Online. This entailed enlisting a group of brokers for testing and feedback purposes, to identify weak links in the online trading platform.

“It was really enlightening so we used that feedback to set up a change programme around RSA Online and we released just shy of 150 changes to the system over the course of last year,” Bowers said. “We’ve got another release due in the first quarter of this year of a similar scale. It’s a fairly substantial programme of change and one that we are using 100% broker feedback to inform and validate to make sure those changes are still ringing true.”

Instrumental to making that input as timely as possible was moving away from just annual check-in points to a more real-time approach to feedback. With that in mind, the team established ‘Project Frank’ – which seeks candid, quality, robust insights from a panel of brokers. 

“While we weren’t surprised by the feedback, there was some real clarity in terms of the things we needed to work on,” she said. “What we did as we went through 2022 was put the basics back in place and start to really drive improvements in our service. 2023 is now about how we optimise those improvements, using the broker feedback we learnt to inform that.

“[…] So this year is about how we make it easier for brokers to contact us and about being more responsive so we can handle their queries, their challenge points really effectively. Because it’s not just about speed but also effectiveness and building better relationships. We want brokers to feel that we’re big enough to back them, but we’re human enough to care and take time to know them and understand their business.”

Transforming RSA’s UK SME business – not a once-and-done operation

Her years operating in the customer experience space have qualified Bowers to recognise that no business can afford to rest on its laurels – or to get to the top of the pile and stay there through reputation alone. The expectations set by RSA’s brokers will continue to change, she said, to say nothing of the standards set by the team for itself. What remains a constant is the way the business now thinks about improvement and change.

Transformation doesn’t have to mean big, multi-million pound projects, she said, it can also come through localised iterative changes, and often those are the ones that can make the biggest difference to those who do business with RSA every day. For Bowers and her team, the feedback received has been such a positive indication of how the strategy is improving RSA’s brokers’ experiences that the scope of the initiative has evolved.

“My role in 2021 was 100% focused on the online business,” she said. “But what we’ve recognised through the process of gathering that broker feedback is actually, it’s not just one part of RSA that needs to change, it’s wider. So, we decided at the beginning of the year to centralise my role into a cross-commercial function. And we’re setting up a dedicated strategy delivery team to help map, manage and deliver the change we want to drive.”

The progress made around contact responsiveness and relationship-building across the SME business is now a key area of focus across the wider commercial unit, Bowers said. Her team is currently in the process of creating a groundswell of activity and support to recreate the progress made within SME and leverage that across the business.

That’s not to say that the focus will move away from SME anytime soon, she said, as the team will look to optimise and improve on the progress made last year. There’s widespread acknowledgement across the market that service has improved, but for Bowers, that’s a stepping-stone, not the end goal.

“That’s not it for us,” she said. “We want to be in the top quartile for the insurance broker experience, we want to be market-leading in that space. Success for me is 100% about hearing from our brokers about how we’re doing and what they need us to do, and my personal ambition is to outperform that expectation. Let’s surprise them; let’s delight them. And I think to have turned the [SME] business around the way we have in 12 months has been a great start, but it’s only just the start.”

What are your thoughts on RSA’s changing SME strategy? Please feel free to share your comments below.

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