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20 January 2021

The Workforce of the Future – Part 1

by User Not Found
Brightside Group’s operational response to Covid-19 in March 2020 was implemented by Brightside COO Richard Beaven and his team. In a matter of a days, the south west based broker needed to reconfigure its 500-strong team to home working, preparing them to deal with enquiries from hundreds of customers each day, customers from all walks of life who needed Brightside’s help across the whole raft of insurance issues, from renewals to new business, claims and administration. Richard himself was confined to base in South London.

In a series of reflections, Richard talks about the lessons learnt from the move to remote working, and what it means for the future of customer facing brands such as Brightside. Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll post a series of interviews with Richard onto Linked in. Each blog tackles a specific issue thrown up by the pandemic, and gives his view on the implications of the past twelve month for the future of the workplace.

How has the workplace changed post-COVID, and what’s likely to be permanent?

Customer demand of insurance providers has changed out of all recognition and the workplace has had to respond to its customer base. The key change is that fewer customers want to see us or phone us, which will accelerate a move to doing business digitally at a speed none of us could have predicted a year ago. Digital business has also crossed the age divide. Young people already live in a digital environment, but other age groups have had to adapt to the digital world, whether 18 or 80. It’s become almost impossible to get through on the phone to utilities, banks and local authorities even if you wanted to, unless it’s via digital channels, so if customers haven’t adapted to it, they will face increasing problems managing their everyday lives.

Customers have also found that going online avoids the need to phone a call centre with all the negativity that implies. A lot of research into customer behaviours and call centres has debunked the myth that a great call centre experience creates loyal customers, at best they are neutral about their experience with the main reason being that customers don’t really like call centres.

Often it is because they are forced to use them as there is no easier alternative. Thus, workplaces will change to with a reduced reliance on telephony as the primary channel and increase digital operating and more automation. Insurance providers will see smaller numbers of people answering phones but those that do this job will be more highly skilled, better paid and use a range of channels to deliver for the customer (emails, SMS, web chat and voice).

They will be niche brokers resolving the insurance needs for customer with particular problems and finding a place for those customers to go. with a task to translate data, find new markets, place specialised risks and build sector expertise. It’s a great opportunity for people with an interest in that skilled environment. To serve customers well, brokers need to access markets via MGA’s and insurers, they need to find new ways to communicate with brokers.

The wholly digital business is still some way off however. When Monzo launched as a digital bank it didn’t need a call centre and offered only online chat and customer self-service. However, Monzo did require human intervention – presumably responding to customers that not everyone is willing to go online, especially for complex issues such as fraud, or dealing with bereavement. I believe that there will be an ongoing need for a telephony channel especially in niche broking. Many of our customers have not found the cover they need via the standard digital channel offerings.

Digitisation will see Brightside grow the top line but with a margin improvement, we will not need to grow our headcount at the same rate as the past. We estimate that a 15-20% productivity gain should be achievable through a range of digitisation efforts.

Next up: What are the main challenges of combining an office-based and remote workforce?

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