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Why SMEs are more demanding than ever

At a glance

  • The growing SME market presents huge opportunities for brokers and insurers
  • However, the insurance industry is also having to adapt to changing customer expectations
  • We discuss what today’s SMEs expect from their insurer, and how our proposition will help you to manage your customers’ risks and meet their expectations

Small and medium-sized firms represent a significant chunk of many brokers’ books of business, and with the SME market expanding, there are obvious opportunities for growth.

There are currently a record 5.4 million private sector businesses in the UK (99.9% of which are SMEs), with 146,000 more businesses in 2015 than there were a year earlier.

However, in order to capitalise on the expanding SME sector, insurers and brokers have to continually adjust their offerings to meet changing customer expectations. The internet has improved transparency of products and pricing, which in turn has inspired much greater competition between providers. The consequence of this is that SME customers are more demanding – not just in terms of price, but also in terms of claims handling and risk management.

“SME customers now expect higher levels of service than ever before,” says Jo Shaw, Head of SME Transformation, Zurich.

Here, we explain how our SME proposition has been designed to respond to changing customer expectations and to help you manage SME risks.


The internet has made it much easier for customers to compare providers’ prices, and to get a clear idea of what they are getting for their money. This has driven increased competition on price.

Jo says: “SME is a highly competitive market, so price is absolutely fundamental to our proposition.

“However, we take a wider view that considers more than just price. So, while there will be certain areas where we will be cheaper than our competitors, there are other areas where the strength of our proposition – in terms of the core products, added value services and our claims service – means that being cheaper is not as important.”

SME customers now expect higher levels of service than ever before,”
Jo Shaw, Head of SME Transformation, Zurich

Our SME proposition also offers pricing flexibility for brokers. Our e-trading platform, ZTrade, allows brokers to manage the default commission per product, and set minimum and maximum commission levels. For more information, take a look at our video on how to manage commission via ZTrade.


A review by the Financial Conduct Authority into SME claims experience found a “gap between the claims service received and SMEs’ expectations.” It noted there was “an overall poor perception by SMEs of the claims experience”, with lack of clarity over the claims process, poor communication and delays in receiving a settlement, among the most common complaints.

Jo says it is easy to understand why smaller businesses have such high expectations in terms of claims handling.

She says: “When a small business suffers a loss, it’s very often a crisis event, and something that makes it very difficult for them to continue trading. For example, if you are a self-employed electrician and somebody steals your van, containing all your tools, you won’t be able to run your business that day, whereas the same loss in a larger firm wouldn’t have such an impact.

“In this scenario, a lot of our competitors would offer a courtesy car, whereas we would offer a replacement van, which would enable that electrician to carry on trading.”

We recently received SME Magazine’s SME Insurer of the Year Award, in recognition of our outstanding claims performance.

Risk management services

Customers now expect insurers to do more than just settle claims promptly. They also expect their insurer to provide new and innovative ways of managing risk, which is why value-added services have grown in importance.

Jo says: “One example would be online reputation. SMEs are now much more aware of the importance of how they are perceived online, and of managing their online reputation. Our SME proposition includes access to reputation.com, an online reputation management service. SMEs also expect expert support in the event of a crisis, which is why we offer a disaster recovery service with First Recovery.”

We have previously discussed the full range of value-added services available through our SME proposition.

Robust cover

One thing that hasn’t changed is customers’ demand for policies that give them peace of mind that they are covered against the full range of business risks.

We now offer 13 products in our SME proposition to brokers through ZTrade, including a range of package products tailored to specific sectors, including Hair and Beauty, Shop, Pub and Restaurant, and Office and Surgery.

Our SME proposition has been developed with our underwriters’ expertise, but also using regular customer feedback. We run a quarterly SME Risk Index, in association with research firm YouGov, which enables us to understand how SMEs’ challenges, concerns and view of risk change over time.

Jason Eatock, Head of Package and E-trading, Zurich says: “The Risk Index is a regular check-in with our SME customers to see how they are thinking and feeling.

“We are seeing some really interesting trends in the SME market, and it’s crucial our proposition addresses them.”

To find out more about our enhanced SME proposition, speak to your usual Zurich contact or log in to ZTrade.

Image © Getty

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