Canadian Underwriter

The broker’s challenge in giving decent customer service

March 1, 2018   by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor

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Brokers tend to forget that insurance is often a “grudge purchase,” and that companies selling goods other than insurance tend to provide the best examples of customer service, speakers said Tuesday at the Technology Conference (ICTC).

“We [brokers] quickly forget that we sell a product that the consumer doesn’t necessarily want,” Sherif Gemayel, president of Calgary-based brokerage Sharpe Insurance, said at an ICTC seminar in Toronto. “I don’t know anybody who ever got up in the morning and said, ‘Man, I just can’t wait to shop for insurance today.’ And even with the people in the industry, there is not that excitement to go out and have an interaction.”

Gemayal noted a broker typically interacts with a customer in one or more of the following situations, for example, when the customer:

  • makes a claim
  • shops for a better price than their existing insurance
  • seeks a new policy because the customer bought a house or a car for example.

In contrast, retail purchases frequently involve goods desired by the consumer, and so there is less friction inherent in the sales process.

For example, in communicating with customers by phone or Internet, “retail does it really, really well,” said Janine White, vice president of marketplaces at Kanetix Ltd., during a separate ICTC session called CX: Today’s Reality and the Path Ahead for Insurance. She cited sports clothing maker Lulemon as an example.

“The last time I purchased something by Lululemon, through Apple Pay on the phone, it probably took me six seconds, which is dangerous,” said White. “But would it not be great if we could buy our insurance that way?”

With Amazon, “you almost stop price-shopping a lot things because it’s just so damn convenient,” added White’s co-panelist Adam Mitchell, president of Whitby, Ont.-based Mitchell & Whale Insurance Brokers Ltd.

The session was moderated by Strategy Meets Action partner Mark Breading.

“One of the things I experienced with one insurer is that, going on to the website and doing a little investigation of a product and kind of getting myself stuck, I realized I needed some help and called the contact centre,” Breading said. “They knew exactly where I was [on the website], so I didn’t have to start from scratch and repeat everything.”

It’s critical for brokers to know who is calling them, suggested Steve Wagler, partner and sales director at Josslin Insurance a brokerage in New Hamburg, Ont. “It’s deeply disappointing, from an experience perspective, when you deal with somebody at a business, they know who you are, but from the moment you phone up, they have no idea who you are,” Wagler said. “We have lost customers because of that experience.”

Using its broker management system, Josslin has implemented a “client segmentation process” that includes colour-coded screens for when employees deal with customers. For example, when an employee pulls up a customer file on their screen, and the customer has a commercial policy, that screen might be blue.

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