Laying claim to great customer service

As a leading loss adjusting and claims management company, customer service is vital to Cunningham Lindsey’s operations. You could argue that it is doubly important as they have two sets of customers: the insurance companies that instruct them, and the insurers’ end customers who are making the claim.

A customer-based approach

Cunningham Lindsey’s global operations are extensive, with around 7,000 staff in 60 countries dealing with some 230,000 customers a year.  In the UK, they have 1,600 staff working out of 19 offices.  Rather than direct claims through a central call centre, they take a customer-based case management approach, with each claim being directed as quickly as possible to the local office that will be dealing with it.

“Our aim is simple,” says Andrew Jeremy, Learning and Development Manager at Cunningham Lindsey.  “To protect our clients’ reputations by meeting the service standards that they have promised to their customers.  Customer service is at the heart of what we do.”

The claims that Cunningham Lindsey deal with are typically complex and frequently high value.  They often relate to traumatic events such as floods, fires and burglaries. 

“Emotions can be running high”

“We have to recognise that the customers involved are inevitably caught up in difficult and distressing situations,” Andrew observes.  “Emotions can be running high.  We’re often dealing with them in their hour of need and there’s an expectation that things will happen quickly.  So for our loss adjusters and case management teams, it’s important to be sensitive to the individual and to build rapport and trust.  It’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all scenario.”

Because effective customer service is so important to Cunningham Lindsey, they decided to set up a professional qualifications system – and chose The Institute of Customer Service’s qualification.

“We had a history of investing in technical qualifications such as for insurance, surveying or engineering,” Andrew explains.  “But we realised we needed to look at something for customer service too.  We considered setting up our own internal scheme, and looked at various external providers – but kept coming back to The Institute as a leading customer service entity.  There were also synergies with our own continuous improvement programme, iCare.”

They started the Institute of Customer Service’s programme in 2010, deliberately keeping it small in the early days and growing it over time.  This year they have 30 participants on the scheme, with three internal assessors.

The central feature of the programme is the ‘reflective learning logs’ that participants keep, in which they make notes about the cases they are working on, the issues that have arisen and how they dealt with them.  They complete these logs via the Institute’s online portal.

Practical and evidence-based

“What we like about the programme is that it’s very practical,” says Andrew.  “It’s all based on actual real-time work.  There are key standards that you have to meet and provide the evidence for.  The reflective learning logs are a great way for practitioners to step back and think about their work.  The learning comes from the reflection.” 

The qualification takes anywhere from six to nine months to complete.  But the firm is not prescriptive about this.  They let individuals progress at their own rate, particularly as they have to balance the course with their own day-to-day workloads.  This approach has paid off – so far, they have had a 100% achievement rate.

Customer service ratings: going up!

And what of the impact of the programme on actual customer service results?  The outcome has been very positive so far.  One of the key measures in the insurance industry is the ‘Net Promoter Score’, which is a rating of whether a customer would recommend that their insurer appoint Cunningham Lindsey to handle claims in the future.  A score can range from anywhere between -100 to +100.  Anything over +50 is regarded as showing great customer service – and in the last six months, Cunningham Lindsey’s score has risen by ten points from +42 to +52.

“We’re very pleased with the increase in our Net Promoter Score.  It’s a sign that the professional qualification programme is really paying off,” Andrew says.

Another key measure for the firm is their staff survey.  The most recent survey showed that 95% of staff understood the importance of good customer service and over 85% say they would go the extra mile for customers. 

A further positive sign is the number of nominations made by insurance brokers for Cunningham Lindsey to be assigned to their clients’ claims.  This has increased significantly over the last year.

Shifting the culture

But there are also signs of improvement that can’t easily be measured.

“Sometimes you can just feel the enthusiasm coming out,” observes Andrew.  “Listening in to calls and just talking to people who are doing the qualification, you can see and feel the difference that it’s made.”

He gives the example of a case where a customer was desperate for a specific make and model of replacement part to be used, which was on sale in their local DIY store – but they didn’t have the funds at the time to buy it.  The case manager took the initiative and offered to use their own credit card to purchase it for them. 

“I would certainly recommend the professional qualification programme,” Andrew says.  “It creates competence, gives confidence and helps shift the culture.  It also gives longevity to the customer service commitment – it’s not just a one-off tick-in-the-box exercise.  We’ve always had great support from The Institute too.”

All in all, it’s helped Cunningham Lindsey strengthen their claim to great customer service.