Insights gained from customer feedback can assist disability insurance companies and producers in developing improved products and services. But is the business asking customers the right questions, at the right time?

Everyone in the industry is a customer at some point. This is so, regardless of occupation, be it employer, producer, employee, claimant, consultant, insurer or reinsurer. Even so, it is safe to say the industry has not led the way in soliciting customer feedback. As a result, the business is missing significant opportunities to improve its products and services, enhance customer service and retain business.

Many group disability insurers do conduct customer satisfaction surveys after installation of a new account, of course. Many also conduct claimant satisfaction and broker/agent surveys.

However, there are additional opportunities to solicit valuable feedback from customers that still go untended.

That can be a harmful oversight, for having a clear understanding of who the customers are is key to growth.

In the group DI delivery chain, for example, there are many potential players in the customer relationship. These include the broker/agent, the employer/purchaser, the employee and the insurer.

As the box on this page illustrates, the relationships between these constituents provide a variety of opportunities, or potential touch points, for interaction and feedback.

The mistake some group disability companies make is not taking advantage of all the customer “interaction opportunities” to solicit feedback. For example, insurers who gather feedback from employers only at the point of policy installation miss ongoing opportunities to check back with their customers. Depending on the number of employees a company has, there could be limited touch points between the insurer and the employer.

Therefore, without proactively gathering ongoing satisfaction feedback, how can an insurer know what to expect at the policy renewal?

And what could insurers learn if they were to conduct satisfaction surveys with employers at the midpoint of the policy renewal and then use that information to determine if they are truly meeting customers needs?

Through these additional interactions, could insurers improve customer retention?

Insurers who do not understand the needs of their producers/agents may also be missing opportunities to improve their closing ratios on new business. For example, do producers understand how the company differs from the competition when it comes to service delivery? Do they understand the insurers administrative requirements for premium remittance and new claim submissions?

Producers also can benefit from gaining customer feedback. Are producers aware of which services they provide that customers value? Is there more they can offer to help expand their relationships with their customers?

Ideally, feedback should assist in maintaining and expanding customer relationships.

This includes gathering feedback from former customers. Understanding why those earlier relationships terminated can offer valuable insights that may prevent future terminations.

Finally, the administration of “post mortem” surveys can provide candid feedback on all aspects of a business relationship from service delivery, product offering and competitive issues. Such surveys provide an opportunity to determine vulnerability of the business to various issues, threats and challenges.

Products and services usually are developed without really soliciting customer feedback. Its understandable, given that business leaders are experts who presumably know what is best for the customers. However, if a firm really wants to know what its customers think, it needs to ask them.

Stacy A. Varney is vice president-marketing and business development at JHA Inc., Portland, Maine. Her e-mail address is svarney@jhaweb.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, February 27, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved. Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.