Almost half (44 per cent) of advisers believe resolving customer problems has become harder while home working, while just 12 per cent of insurers share that view, according to research from The Data Company.
A survey of over 30 organisations across the protection market, including insurers, advisers and networks found 50 per cent of advisers believe home working has had a negative impact on customer service since the start of the pandemic, compared to 94 per cent of insurers who said they had successfully introduced new systems and services to make it easier to service customers.
For those who have introduced new systems and services, only 22 per cent of advisers think they have improved customer satisfaction, compared to 62.5 per cent of insurers.
Only 28 per cent of advisers think insurers’ staff have access to all the systems and tools required, yet 56 per cent of insurers say staff have access to all the systems and tools needed to do their job.
Half of insurers say the mental health, morale and wellbeing of their staff has deteriorated.
More positive data reveals that 72 per cent of advisers agree that ‘New systems and services from insurers to support customer and /or advisers during COVID-19 have been made available to us in the last 9-12 months’, which suggests the 69 per cent of insurers who say ‘the COVID-19 and home working has had a positive impact on our company’s ability to innovate’ are seeing their efforts noted by advisers.
The Data Company board adviser Graham Newitt says: “Insurers have made herculean efforts to get staff working from home efficiently and equip them to serve customers.
“However, to date it has mostly been short-term fixes to get people working and insurers may now need to build a robust and permanent home working operating model that recognises the very different environment compared to the normal office. For example, in the office a claims handler will have a full-sized desk and two or even three screens to view multiple systems at the same time, but at home they may be working on a laptop on their kitchen table. And access to colleagues and managers is much more difficult, making it harder to deal with more complex issues.
“Advisers have been tolerant and, in many cases, remain impressed, but they do expect insurers to return to pre-pandemic levels of service asap.”
The survey also found that 83 per cent of advisers say they have been more lenient with insurers than they would normally and only 33 per cent of advisers believe insurer errors have not increased. Additionally, 44 per cent of advisers say insurers’ staff working from home has reduced their own productivity.
Cura Financial Services managing director Alan Knowles says: “It’s been incredible to see how firms, big and small, over the last year have adapted to having staff work from home. I think we can all say that transitioning to work from home wasn’t easy. It’s been hard, and for many it continues to present challenges, but we need to remain respectful of each other that some things may take longer to sort now. On the other hand, we’ve all become more human and having to stop mid-call to answer a question from one of my kids is now a daily occurrence.
“I believe that advisers and insurers have been understanding with each other. There can be frustrations when things are held up but, with a transparent explanation, clients are generally very understanding of this too. As others have said we are not working from home, we are at home trying to work in the middle of a pandemic. Whether you have kids, pets, doorbells, or are on your own, times are tough, but we are all in this together.”
Zurich Life head of market engagement Peter Hamilton says: “The survey reveals some clear differences in perceptions and as insurers we need to be alert to those. I do think insurers and advisers did an amazing job in transitioning to home working at such speed and staying open for business as we have done. We measure customer satisfaction via the Net Promotor Score (NPS) system and for claims for example, our scores have never been higher than over the last 12 months.
“That said, it’s not always easy. Many will miss the face-to-face interaction and support from colleagues, and eagerly anticipate the day we can fully open offices again. Others relish the greater flexibility, and extra hours in the day the lack of a commute gives them. In a post-lockdown world, I fully expect to see a much more flexible blend of home and office working, which should result in happier teams delivering even better service.”
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