What's Below the Surface
Why our customer conversations are so important
Did you know the United States developed the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, called the Nautilus, in 1954? You can thank me the next time you’re the Quizzo team hero because of this little tidbit of information.
As a naval field engineer in the US Navy, I spent a good part of nine years on some of Nautilus’ successors and I learned a lot. Some of the things you learn in military service makes for interesting trivia.
But most of it is quite important; even life-altering. One of those life-altering things is the focus on your ultimate purpose – service to country. You learn that it’s not all about you.
No matter what your individual role or rank – each of us had a common purpose and served with that in mind. I have certainly never forgotten that and I guess that’s why today I am such a stickler about service to clients. Having spent most of the last three decades in the commercial insurance industry, I see serving customers as my ultimate purpose now.
As business leaders, our attention is often split among objectives – maximizing profits, building brands, leading people, meeting goals, to name a few. Serving customers has certainly always been one of them. Today, however, service to customers not only requires more attention, it needs to be lifted to a whole new interactive level. Connecting and engaging with our customers is more important to our success than ever before.
The US Navy’s submarine fleet and crews are sometimes referred to as “The Silent Service.”
Many of us, having spent decades in the industry, are quick to boast about our underwriting knowledge. We should take a cue from the Silent Service moniker and be equally quick to take a step back and listen. Let our customers do more of the boasting, talking about their business and explaining what they are trying to accomplish. After all, we are not living the day-to-day challenges they face. We may be very familiar with their industries, but we are not living with it up close and personal. Every. Single. Day.
Frequently, it is our customers who catch the first glimpse of an emerging risk. In our business, successful service to clients rests on thoroughly understanding their risks so we can find ways to help manage their risks. Serving customers requires continuous learning about them. And the only way we can do that is by finding more opportunities to have a conversation with our clients, seek their feedback, and ask questions. And listen.
What we gather from our customers is as important to them as it is to us. If we can listen to what our customers are saying and find out what’s below the surface, we can improve the product and their experience. It’s a win-win. We gain more loyal customers; they get the insurance products and risk management services they really need and want; ones that help them achieve their goals. Our increased engagement helps us all be better prepared for today’s tough risks and tomorrow’s emerging risks.
Blips on the Radar
Several areas of business risk have dominated our customer conversations recently raising their significance to us and of course, clearly highlighting some of our clients more pressing risk management issues and needs:
• Supply Chain: Businesses’ interdependence always posed some contingent risks. While even the smallest disruption can quickly reverberate into a complex production shutdown, the 2011 Thailand floods and Japanese earthquake and tsunami showed how significantly supply chains could be impacted around the world. We already help our clients manage some of the risks posed in the supply chain by taking aggressive property loss prevention steps to minimize damages that can result from natural catastrophe events. And we’re not shy to help our clients take a look at their vendors’ quality assurance practices to make sure their supplies, ingredients, spare parts – no matter where in the world they’re sourced -- are of high quality. This helps clients avoid production shutdowns or pose a risk of contaminating their products.
• Globalization: What an opportunity to sell our goods and services around the world! And conversely, what a challenge to manage risk in all parts of the world. With some 195 sovereign countries and states, it’s a complex, regulatory state of affairs for multinational companies. How can we help? Fortunately, given XL Catlin’s geographic reach, we can issue policies in more than 160 of those countries. My team and I are able to help companies throughout the US, Canada and Latin America address not only their insurance coverage needs but the compliance and regulatory requirements that go along with operating in various countries. Through our Global Programs Center of Excellence, we work to assure that we are providing clients not only the right insurance coverage but exceptional service to deal with their regulatory, tax and other compliance issues and help them achieve their global expansion plans. For instance, of the global programs we currently lead; approximately one third already have one or more policies in Asia and/or Latin America. We believe that this number will quickly increase as more large corporate and middle market companies look to generate revenue in new and emerging markets.
• Cyber risks: If you were going to pick a word to describe 2014, it might be “Breach.” Last year will be remembered for some very big data breaches at high profile companies and in 2015 it seems that criminal cyber activity is not slowing down. Even the United States’ Internal Revenue Service (IRS) fell victim, with identity thieves stealing personal tax information from more than 100,000 US taxpayers from an IRS website. Hackers also infiltrated US government personnel records. According to a Trend Micro paper, of all Latin American countries, most spammed messages come from Brazil (38%) and the majority of malicious URLS (58%) are hosted in Brazil. Companies in countries throughout the Americas are taking cyber security and reputation risk management more seriously than ever before. As a result, insurers are looking to help address these concerns with the right insurance coverage. Today’s insurance policies address the costs associated with a breach – customer notification costs, data recovery and other 1st party costs. But there’s a growing concern about the risks cyber breaches poses to everything from product liability to supply chain disruption. By listening to our brokers and clients’ concerns and experience, insurers like XL Catlin to design the next generation of cyber coverages.
Our clients have been open to sharing their thoughts and ideas and we have reciprocated with ours. While we do not have all the answers to the issues keeping our customers up at night, we are committed to finding them through open discussion and continued collaboration.
That’s how we are going to be fully engaged, arrive at and deliver the best possible solutions and address our clients’ most complex risks. By living our ultimate purpose, our common goal—service.
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Joe Tocco is Chief Executive North America Business Group, Insurance. He has worked in the insurance industry nearly three times as long as he served in the Navy. He feels fortunate to have taken these two career paths, which have allowed him to work with talented people to solve big problems. He can be reached at Joseph.Tocco@xlcatlin.com