Like the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which holds that differences in physical properties will even out over time, dissatisfaction with brokers' client service skills could likely dissolve.
The law follows the property of entropy developed by French physicist Sadi Carnot and German physicist and mathematician Rudolf Clausius. A clean and simple example is that the ice in a glass of iced water, if left untouched at room temperature for a period of an hour or so, will melt.
Risk & Insurance® staff recently interviewed executives at various insurance brokerages to gauge their reaction to the notion--expressed by some risk managers contacted during research for the annual Power BrokerTM project--that customer service in the brokering community is something less than it ought to be.
The brokerage executives we talked to might not have the names of Carnot and Clausius perched on the tips of their tongues, but they are engaging in measures to address the flux that they are seeing.
One of those is the early warning system that was described by Don Bailey, the CEO of Willis North America. Recognizing that risk management is getting more attention from boardrooms, Willis has developed a check list for accounts that Willis has had for at least 10 years and that could be at risk of being lost to competitors.
A change in the CFO's position, an adverse renewal, or an extended open claim are just three of the signs Bailey says executives and brokers at Willis are being trained to be on the lookout for as indications that a client may need more than a box of chocolates at Christmas time to keep them happy.
Another was described by Warren Mula, the Chicago-based head of Aon's brokerage unit, who says his company is using the Net Promoter Score system developed by Bain & Company to survey clients on their level of satisfaction with Aon's services. The NPS, which is now in use in various industries, has its supporters and its detractors, but Mula says Aon is hoping to expand its use of the tool to as many of its customers as possible in 2008.
"At the end of the day service is a culture and you don't legislate culture--you set minimum standards and you provide tools and processes and you monitor," Mula says.
There are also changes afoot at Marsh, where managing director Alexandra Littlejohn says the company was hoping to deliver in the first quarter of 2008 electronic platforms that will streamline the renewal process for clients; given the enormous burden of paperwork that increased regulatory scrutiny has placed on brokers and their customers.
"We are taking as much of an approach as we possibly can to simplify through standardization some of the required exposure documents that we need to pass on to the underwriters," Littlejohn says.
The point of all of this is that brokerage executives aren't dummies.
They may not call it the second law of thermodynamics, but that's what it is. As the state of brokering ebbs and flows just like any other physical interaction on planet earth, brokers who want to give great service to their clients are changing to do just that.
They may not be changing fast enough for some, but that's the planet we're on. If you know of a better planet, we'd like to know about it.
April 1, 2008
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