June 22, 2011

They say sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. On the basis that you have to start somewhere, Bankstone News is prepared to give it a try. How opportune, then, that news should reach us this week that insurers may not be particularly well liked by the public at large.

ABI director Otto Thoreson has revealed that “despite the valuable role insurance plays in millions of people’s lives, the public perception of our industry is not high.” Amazingly, he is not alone in sensing this. An ABI survey of 57 insurers (a Heinz, as they say in the business) found that concerns over the industry’s poor reputation were the number one worry.

Nonplussed as to how or why the public could be falling out of love with insurers, Thoreson opted for the ever-popular move of blaming the bankers. The reputation of UK financial services firms was undoubtedly harmed by the banking crisis,” he noted. But “insurers are not banks,” he insisted stridently.

Adamant that insurance firms must tackle public antipathy head-on, Thoreson stressed that “we have a good platform to do this from.” Better even than a platform, Thoreson has formulated a plan. A plan with no fewer than 10 points to it. Normally we’d paraphrase to draw out the silly pompous bits. Hardly necessary with this though:

1) Make our communications simpler and more understandable; good simple language, not words which place a barrier between us and our customers.

2) Make our products simpler and more understandable.

3) Train our people to improve their understanding of our business and how our products and systems work so they can genuinely step into customers’ shoes.

4) Work with FOS to understand better its perspective on how we deal with our customers.

5) Work to design more equivalence and standardisation in product features which make sense.

6) Accept that TCF makes sense.

7) Work with government and regulators to better manage the flow of change. Doing this will ensure we have time to prepare and absorb it without a knock-on impact on service.

8 ) Be quicker to acknowledge when we have got something wrong and put it right – let’s only have cases in front of the FOS where we genuinely believe we are in the right.

9) Make our service relevant and accessible to the type of customer we are servicing. We should not expect them to conform to us.

10) We should start early by continuing to support developing financial capability for consumers – education in our schools, in the workplace and for those approaching retirement.

There you go: simple as that!


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