The world is in turmoil. South Africa no longer holds the monopoly on load shedding, and civil unrest is widespread, fuelled by fast-approaching economic depressions and many natural catastrophes. Climate change, whether in its natural cycle or man-made, has triggered an increase in natural disasters globally. South Africa is no exception, having experienced the worst floods since 1978 when KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape provinces were hit with heavy rain, floods and landslides in April 2019, resulting in the deaths of 461 people. In addition, the widespread flooding in many areas in the country between December 2022 and March this year has further negatively impacted insurance companies.
The last few years have been difficult for all players in the insurance industry, including clients, brokers, insurers and reinsurers. Insurers and reinsurers found themselves confronted with claims for events that they had never intended to cover or factored into their rating structures. Clients and brokers found themselves fighting to have claims paid and found their livelihoods under threat. It was a bleak time for all.
As an insurance industry, we need to do our part to foster an environment of care and trust – a partnership philosophy. The relationship is about the ability and the capacity of being a partner to the broker and client, actively working towards the prevention of loss as well as educating clients on how to avoid or mitigate losses. It is about trust, communication and providing sustainable products.
The basis of insurance is a partnership, and the best partnership model is when all parties are treated fairly, and with significant mutual respect for one other.
These relationships are the cornerstone of our business, and this is also where knowledge is shared. Clients often know some of the basics of insurance, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they understand their contracts, policy wording, and most importantly what is covered and what is excluded.
Relationships are made up of three components: trust, commitment and fair interaction between partners — which are developed by eﬀective communication between two or more parties, resulting in high-quality service to the client and tailored product offerings.
Relationship based on trust
The existence of trust is especially important when clients are faced with uncertainty and risks. The core element of a quality relationship is the commitment and trust that each of the parties has in one another. When both commitment and trust are present, they lead directly to cooperative behaviour that will sustain a successful relationship between the insurer, broker and client.
Happy and fairly treated clients are the basis of any successful business, with clients more likely to continue with their product or service to ensure a sustainable business.
Quality customer service is made up of two fundamental components – technical or product quality and functional quality, which is how the service is delivered.
A high degree of interaction is essential for successful service delivery. Moreover, clear communication plays a powerful role in improving customers’ views about quality service. The existence of eﬀective communication between broker and client helps to increase the quality of the service, which in turn has a positive impact on the insurer’s trust-building process.
Reinsurers hold our hands in times of crisis
Our reinsurers hold our hands when catastrophe strikes and thus enable us to survive in tough times. Without reinsurance, we would not have an insurance industry. Reinsurers have access to information and trends worldwide and can guide us down the risk mitigation route as insurers, brokers and clients.
Reinsurers are an integral part of our partnership model, they have huge experience, insight and foresight to offer us in addition to the capacity we require to operate. We need to be cognizant of their views and treat them with the same respect with which our brokers and our clients expect to be treated.
Using digital technology to enhance relationships
Clients are increasingly moving towards engaging and transacting via digital platforms and insurers are also harnessing digital technology to sell online and improve customer experience. Self-service technologies that allow clients to easily get a quote, submit claims and manage their policies are highly valued by clients and their brokers.
According to Digital Innovation in Africa’s Insurance Industry report released by Deloitte, South Africa has the fifth highest penetration on the continent of insurance clients using online-based insurance platforms to do all their transactions. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the demand for digital and remote channels. The number is expected to increase faster in the coming years as many insurers are developing and disrupting the sector with new and customer-oriented innovations.
Technology proved central to building solid relationships during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we don’t want to see technology replacing something that is the backbone of our industry, and that is the interpersonal relationships between our insurers, brokers and clients.
We cannot dispute that virtual meetings have been critical in building and maintaining relationships. Video conferencing platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom allowed us to continue meeting through the pandemic. And today these platforms allow all parties who cannot meet physically to connect virtually in their homes or offices. As an industry, we need to invest more in digital technology to enhance our relationship with all our stakeholders in the business.
The foundation of our business model is based on building strategic business partnerships with our broker partners. We build on that with risk mitigation, prevention, and support, and every one of our activities and relationships is underpinned by the spirit of partnership. As the insurer, we position a protective ecosystem around the client, and in our business model, the broker is at the centre.