Customer Service – Why it matters

Complaints handling is one of the eight knowledge requirements for insurance intermediaries under the Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD).

Having strong customer service skills provides a solid foundation for meeting this requirement.

Customers are a crucial factor in an organisation’s ability to generate income so understanding them is vitally important. It allows you to be prepared when things do go wrong – including when a complaint is made.

What does good customer service look like?

Customer service is an ongoing process; not something to be forgotten about after the point of sale. Good customer service develops stronger relationships with customers, builds loyalty and hopefully results in a higher retention rate.

Customer service is not just delivered in person – emails, telephone calls and social media are all areas of interaction where customer service is delivered. None of these areas should be overlooked.

Think about emails.

They’re a cost-effective, quick, convenient method of communication. You can reply to customer queries and solve a potential problem within minutes.

But they can also be costly.

Sending an email in haste can result in the following:

  • Typing the wrong email address/copying in the wrong person
  • Sending the wrong information or something that could be misinterpreted
  • Spelling mistakes/grammatical errors

Firing off a quick email can seem unimportant but can easily make you look unprofessional and cause embarrassment for you and your firm. It’s easy to get things wrong, so pause and think before you interact with customers, whether by email, in person or over the telephone.

Customer service is more than being nice – it is about acting professionally and remembering that, when interacting with customers, you are representing your organisation.

Complaints and customer service are closely linked. Complaints are an inevitable part of customer relations – they happen to all organisations at some point.

Complaints handling is linked to the responsibility to Treat Customers Fairly (TCF). Outcome Six covers complaints:

‘Consumers do not face unreasonable post-sale barriers imposed by firms to change product, switch provider, submit a claim or make a complaint.’

It is important that all staff are aware of what they need to do in the event of a complaint. This involves recognising a complaint, knowing what to do when one is received and undertaking adequate training.

Customer service may be seen as a ‘softer skill’ but remember that customers are the lifeblood of an organisation and it is the simple interactions that can make a big difference. By developing these skills, the potential for problems is reduced. Responding positively to queries, communicating professionally and remembering that you represent your organisation should become second-nature.

It is also worth considering that another regulatory change is on the horizon, with the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SM&CR) coming into effect for insurance intermediaries from 9 December 2019. The new regime aims to improve conduct across the industry at all levels.

The Individual Conduct Rules clearly state that ‘you must pay due regard to the interests of customers and treat them fairly’ and all staff must be trained on how the Conduct Rules apply to them. This requirement emphasises the importance of customer interactions, so developing strong skills in this area cannot be a bad thing.

For users of the Aviva Development Zone, our Course of the Month is ‘Customer Service – Introduction' which is part of a mini-pathway on complaints handling that also explores the regulatory aspects of the process.

About the author

Lisa joined RWA in 2014 as an e-Learning Assistant, designing training material for the Aviva Development Zone learning platform.

Her role as Professional Standards Manager involves the creation and review of e-learning content as well as providing proofreading, copywriting and standards support across the business.

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