INSURANCE companies should improve customer service and forge a close relationship with their clients in order to be more competitive and profitable in the long run, according to two international professional independent trainers.
To achieve better relations with their clients, insurers must first understand the customers' needs and deliver what they promise, Manila-based Asian Institute of Management (Philippines) associate professor and independent trainer Antonio Perez said.
“The basic principle in delivering quality service is that one must deliver what one promises. Similarly, a company should know what it promised to deliver to its customers – be it products or services – and to whom the promise was made.
“Otherwise, there will be a mismatch between what the company had earlier agreed to deliver and what the customer expected,'' he said in an interview.
Independent trainer and professor Kim Y. Wolf said since customers were now more discerning and knowledgeable, companies, including insurers, should try to meet their needs and expectations.
Wolf and Perez were in Kuala Lumpur recently to conduct a two-day workshop organised by the General Insurance Association of Malaysia (PIAM) on delivery of quality services. This is the first such workshop held by PIAM in the country.
Wolf said to be customer-centric, insurers should emulate international organisations like British Airways (BA) and Singapore Airlines in allowing their frontline staff to make decisions.
Empowering employees who dealt directly with customers to make decisions would further enhance efficiency and reduce complaints, she added.
Wolf said it was not easy to exercise empowerment as it involved a paradigm shift of the organisational structure and work culture of a company.
“It took BA five years to implement empowerment and companies in Malaysia still have a long way to go.
“But it is never too late as empowerment reduces complaints and this helps to further improve customer service
“According to a chief executive officer of a international company, it takes a long time to build customer relationship but only one bad experience to wipe this out,'' she added.
On the level of customer service in the country's insurance sector, Perez said statistics compiled in an international report indicated that there was a negative correlation between the size of the insurance industry in a particular country and its population.
The smaller the country's population, the bigger the size or market of its insurance business and the higher the demand for customer service and vice-versa, he said.
Perez said judging from this, it appeared that in the South-East Asian region, demand for customer service would be highest in Singapore, followed by Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.
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