Improving broker responsiveness while keeping service costs constant

How Friends First managed to move to from fourth to first in responsiveness, according to an independent survey of brokers – while keeping service costs constant

This case study shows how we helped an insurance company improve the quality of broker conversations to such an extent, that brokers rated them #1 for timeliness & responsiveness

The Broker Ireland (formerly PIBA) awards are the premier survey mechanism used by insurance companies in Ireland to assess the top performers across the industry.  By working with our client staff to listen better to the brokers request, and then make deliverable promises that could fit with the brokers timeline, we massively improved customer satisfaction and perception of timely delivery during a period when the company were struggling to achieve their SLA's.  We did this however, with only a small improvement in actual delivery timeframes.

We did this WITHOUT major technology investment, WITHOUT an increase in operational staff and primarily WITH Friends' own staff on the project team.

Meet Mark & Niamh

Mark and Niamh were the two senior managers in charge of the service operations for the insurance company.  This was not a large company by insurance company standards, with just over 150 front and back office staff.  This company sold solely through brokers but also offered direct support to end customers.  Mark and Niamh saw opportunity to leverage their relatively small size to differentiate through service in a market which was becoming increasingly technology driven.

However

Mark and Niamh knew they had some problems to begin.  As a small company they did not have the investment firepower that some of their larger rivals had, and they were starting without any clear measure of service satisfaction per interaction.

The company had done well to recover since the hard Irish recession of the previous years, but there was still some memory of the pain and difficulty of those years, and some trust needed to be rebuilt with both staff and customers.

Also, the market was beginning to heat up.  Other companies were attracting new investment and the industry was experiencing a focus on market-share-growth that had not been seen since before the recession.

What changed

Within 10 weeks we had 50 staff working together in mixed group learning sessions. 
“We have learned more about how brokers make requests in the last 10 weeks than in the last 3 years” – Underwriter.

We had implemented a post-interaction survey system using Customer Effort Score (CES).  
We used post-call, in-email surveys, and along with careful use of graphics to represent the emotional character of the numeric response.  
The team achieved 40%+ response rates – still at those levels more than 2 years later.

Within 16 weeks we had implemented “promise sheets”, where we let all staff
see the performance of the company across important broker request types in the previous month. 
Staff were using this data to make much more solid and deliverable promises to customers at the first-point-of-contact,
and then getting individual reports monthly to see that their promises were being delivered.

Within 6 months the entire customer service area was working within the new process.  

How we did it…

We put together four key elements which together re-enforced one another to create a coaching culture that delivered results.

We helped team leaders to become much better coaches.  Our approach of “working on the work”, means we always look for real calls or work examples to be the centre of a coaching conversation.  We encourage Team Leaders to ask their staff to look for the commitment that will make a difference for the customer, and then to carefully construct, offer and record that commitment.  Our conversation-for-action call structure provides a standard around which first line managers can develop their coaching skills rapidly.

We tracked the promises that staff gave to brokers.  By tracking the date the delivery was promised and by also giving staff much better data on other departments recent performance, staff felt much more confident in giving firm delivery dates to customers.  We saw staff feeling able to give promises on a much wider variety of requests than beforehand.  The effect was that even though the average delivery timeframe didn’t change much, the brokers perception of reliability improved dramatically.

We measured brokers perceptions by surveying both their perception of the service interaction (call or email), but also by measuring the staff members intuition of what response they thought the broker would give.  These additional “proxy” scores proved invaluable in helping pick out useful calls for individual coaching.

We used tools to track the 1:1 coaching sessions precisely.  We used a system based on the well known GROW system for executive coaching, but adapted for use and tracking in an operational environment.  We have built the GROW.earth system ourselves to allow the coaching conversation to be recorded entirely on paper – we get much more honest and complete data that way.  But importantly, these GROW sheets can be scanned and then reports run, just as if all the data was captured directly on computer.

Results

Eighteen months after the programme was completed we did a review and found the process embedded and working well.  The team leaders now had their own initiatives and targets that they were using the new system to implement. The programme had delivered:

  1. A jump to the top of the table in broker perception of responsiveness
  2. A rock-solid survey method which continued to show improvement in reduced customer effort for interacting with the company
  3. A new culture in place aligned around serving the customer and committed to continual staff improvement in capability
End Note:  Friends First were acquired by Aviva in 2019, Mark still works at the company and is a strong reference for Ennovate.

 

 

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