Successful companies put customers at the heart of everything they do—and the insurance sector is no exception. Despite ongoing digitization and disruption, the industry is still a hands-on, personal business.
In the 2022 Canadian Underwriter National Broker survey, sponsored by Sovereign Insurance, 75% of brokers said they spend a meaningful amount of time working directly with customers in a producer capacity (i.e. advising on and selling policies).
When asked which factors present a strong challenge to their business, client-related issues were among the top. Nearly half of respondents (48%) indicated “navigating clients through market disruption” is a challenge,” followed by “maintaining client loyalty” (42%), and “service demands of customers (40%).” At the same time, competition in the industry is intensifying: 59% of brokers are worried about the growth of direct-to-consumer sales models, for example.
Given these challenges, brokers must continually find ways to better serve their clients. Here’s a look at the customer service practices brokers are finding beneficial and how they can better serve the ever-evolving needs of clients.
Timely, Ongoing Communication
Strong communication is crucial to getting new clients and keeping them. In the National Broker survey, respondents were asked how beneficial certain practices have been for converting prospects into customers over the past 24 months. The vast majority indicated “rapidly responding to enquiries” was beneficial (89%), followed by “responding to enquiries outside of business hours” (56%).
Of course, it makes sense that being responsive is key in those initial stages. However, once clients are onboarded, brokers shouldn’t wait for policy-renewal time to get back in touch. It’s important to communicate regularly with clients, stay on top of emerging risks to their businesses, and inform clients of new solutions. In the survey, 72% of brokers indicated they find it beneficial to inform clients of emerging risks and exposures, and 70% find it beneficial to inform clients of relevant new products.
In today’s digital world, personalization makes a difference. Based on the survey findings, brokers appear to be investing in better understanding their clients so they can offer more tailored, personalized services. When asked how beneficial the following practices have been for serving their clients, 87% of brokers said they are educating themselves more about the customer’s situation. This was followed by: “personally assisting in the claims process (69%); “referring your customers to information and other resources” (59%); and “personally offering after-hours service,” i.e. they can contact you directly, (49%).
However, there may be a disconnect between brokers’ and clients’ perceptions. For example, while the majority of brokers find it beneficial to personally assist in the claims process, a previous survey indicates there is room for improvement. In Canadian Underwriter’s Trusted Advisor 2021 survey, only 36% of respondents—commercial clients of brokers—said they were satisfied or very satisfied that their broker “helped me through the claim process to clear up confusion and move things along quickly.” 1
While brokers don’t manage claims themselves, there is an opportunity to help clients navigate complexities throughout the process and help manage expectations. Brokers can walk clients through how to report a claim to their insurance company, guide them through the process, and get in touch after the claims process is finished.
Specialist vs. Generalist
In recent years, many brokers have taken on roles as specialists, focusing on niche markets rather than taking an “all-things-to-all-people” approach. In the survey, 83% of respondents agreed “brokers need to become more specialized to withstand changing technology and sales models.”
In addition, nearly two thirds (64%) of brokers said “developing specialty markets expertise” is beneficial for serving clients well, up from 60% in 2020. And 60% said “developing deep knowledge of a small selection of products” is beneficial.
Overall, the findings indicate that many clients want their broker to have a deeper understanding of their business and industry, as well as their unique risks. Brokers with a dedicated focus on a specialist market, such as construction or auto, will be well positioned to provide deeper insight and knowledge into the sector, as well as niche solutions and services.
1 Canadian Underwriter, Survey shows brokers need to improve claims management services, Oct. 26, 2021.