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Bringing experience to bear

At a glance

  • To provide a better service to our brokers, each of Zurich’s offices now has a Service Delivery Manager to oversee improvements.

If you start with a frank and honest appraisal of any situation, then delivering improvements becomes a whole lot easier. This is exactly what Nichola Thomson is doing.

As Zurich’s Head of Operations for Commercial Brokers, Nichola is tasked with getting under the skin of how the division operates and then delivering improvements that will make it easier for you to do business with Zurich on a daily basis.

In addition to an honest eye and a straight-talking personality, Nichola also brings a kaleidoscope of experience to her role and this all round appreciation of the issues involved is proving particularly useful.

Nichola has completed successful postings in roles that have combined sales, distribution, marketing, planning, strategy and operational delivery functions. She says: “I have been in my current role for just over 12 months, and the experience I have of what brokers need on a day-to-day basis is proving very valuable in terms of delivering operational improvements.”

Service Delivery Managers boost consistency

Giving her view of the current situation, she adds: “I think that brokers feel service from insurers is generally poor. We can’t pretend we are an exception and there is room for improvement. We know this, and we are working very hard to examine the pinch points and to then make changes that will help us in areas such as acknowledging quotation requests quickly, and making underwriters accessible and available to discuss individual risks.”

Some changes have already been put into place, and each of Zurich’s offices now has a Service Delivery Manager to oversee improvements. These individuals are not responsible for a particular business segment, but instead have a remit that includes all of the operations within an individual branch that a broker sees and feels. This helps to create a consistent level of service across the board and to ensure that issues from all areas of the business get the focus and priority they need.

Having a Service Delivery Manager in each location means the manager can get a feeling for the particular issues in their own branch. The Service Delivery Managers meet regularly with local brokers and discuss their issues in depth; this adds a level of local knowledge that may have been missing previously.

To help get a handle on where improvements would have the biggest impact, an independent company also conducted research and hundreds of brokers were contacted.

Working on quantifiable improvements

This research has been tied into work around individual metrics such as strike rates, quote rates and response rates. The time taken to service mid-term adjustments, respond to individual contacts and issues around contract certainty have also been factored in.

“The focus is simply on improving the key things that matter to brokers,” says Nichola, “and we are moving forward. By the end of this year, I hope that the changes will be flowing through and that brokers will really see the difference we have made and recognise an improvement in how we work for them.”

Part of the challenge is that across its commercial portfolio, Zurich deals with around 3,000 individual brokerages. Nichola says: “There is no doubt that understanding the needs of all of these brokers is a real challenge, and from the very largest global broker to the smaller broker servicing a local community it is essential for us to deliver what they need to do business with us conveniently and effectively. We also want to make it easier for all of our brokers to access our internal expertise and to deliver an insurance proposition that adds value to the policies we provide.”

This is particularly important at a time when there is such a competitive rate environment and brokers and their clients are looking for more than just a well-priced premium. Nichola says: “We are trying to differentiate ourselves in a market that needs to carry weight. I think this is important not just for the present, but also to stand us in good stead for the future.”

Change always takes a little time to settle in and deliver benefits, but in appraising the situation so frankly and bringing such a broad base of experience to bear on the situation, Nichola is already making her presence felt as Zurich’s Head of Operations for Commercial Brokers.

She concludes: “’Having a desire to improve service and knowing what needs to be done is all well and good, but it means nothing unless you can then deliver a programme of change that brokers can ‘feel’ on a daily basis. I’m using all my experience to ensure that the improvements we make lead to simple outcomes, such as improved underwriter visibility, better defined underwriting appetite, consistent service levels and clear documentation. By mid year, I’ll be able to articulate exactly what this means for you and when it will happen.”

Image © Getty

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