Ukrainian insurance companies master the Mystery shopping method.

20/03/2012 More

Yuri Grigorenko, the magazine “CEO” observer.

Insurance companies try to improve the service quality by checking the work of their employees’ incognito. For this purpose, research companies are involved whose. Representatives visit the departments as ordinary customers.

Improving the service

At once several Ukrainian insurance companies have announced that they investigated the customer service quality with the help of “mystery shoppers”. The first results indicate that it can improve the level of service by 10-30%.

Currently, competitors struggle for every customer is made in the service sphere. To find a new customer is much more difficult than to save the existing one. Therefore, more and more importance is attached to the quality of service: politeness, competence and kind attitude to the person stimulates him to use the service of a company again and again.

The last several years work of the insurance market indicates that the list of insurance products and the level of tariffs of almost all insurance companies are in a certain limited range. That is why there is no choice but to work on improving their service. “None organization can offer the service, if the staff is not prepared for this. At the same time, the method of “trial and error” is getting expensive and, therefore, the method “Mystery Shopping” is a useful and effective tool to indentify weak points and to correct mistakes” – says Paul Fursevich, chairman of the supervisory board of the insurance company, “Zdorovo”.

How does it work?

The technology of the mystery shopping  is identical for companies in all economic sectors. “Mystery Shopper” comes to the office (branch) belonging to the client who ordered this research and assesses the service level together with other necessary aspects (speed of service, the compliance with safety regulations, etc.) using a certain methodology.  The specificity in the study of different economic sectors lies in the sample, approved by the client (a cheaply dressed supposedly potential buyer shouldn’t be “sent” to an expensive automobile sales centre), it also lies in the pattern of the investigated segment and in the depth of knowledge level of the latter, which a “mystery shopper” should demonstrate.

“We have invited professional actors and set the task to analyze our company on a number of criteria, starting with the face of the office, attributes, employees and finishing by presentation skills, work with objections, the quality of identification of the client’s needs, and so on” – says the First Deputy Director of Insurance and the development of IC “Illichivske” Pyzh Nadezhda.

The cost of the service is rather a relative notion because it depends on the research sample (number of covered outlets and involved interviewers, whose fee may be 30-50 UAH.), the depth of analysis (up to 50 questions) and many other factors (the processing of questionnaires, writing of a research report.) We should not forget about the agency commission and also about possible overhead expenses (20-30% of the general project cost).

Interviewed experts name several reasons why they use mystery shopping. “We use this technology, not because it’s trendy, but because it is important for us to know how the company is perceived by an ordinary people. Exactly this tool allows us to look at ourselves by their eyes. Using mystery shoppers, we do not want to punish or to prove guilty our shop assistants. A key task is to show them the weak points in service and to show opportunities for improving them “- explain Alexander Melnychuk, Manager of Public Relations and Communications IG« PZU Ukraine “.

Among the reasons for choosing this method, chairman of the insurance company “Brokbusiness” Vadim Zagrebnoy indicates the necessity to identify the potential opportunities and reserves for a further development of the company. The additional option, which makes the usage of “mystery shopper», is rational tool – a factor of motivation, that is, the encouragement of the best employees.

The last several years work of the insurance market indicates that the list of insurance products and the level of tariffs of almost all insurance companies are in a certain limited range. That is why there is no choice but to work on improving their service.

Due to increased competition in the insurance market and the inability to compete only at the expense of dumping, which is already reached its threshold, the management began to realize that the main weapon in the struggle for customer was the service quality. To rate the latter one, you can use the method of mystery shopping.

The staff of IG “PZU Ukraine” knows that they can be controlled. “We tell our employees about the research. They know that their work is evaluated and later the work on the errors will be carried out and the best employees will be awarded by incentive prizes”- says Mr. Melnychuk.

For various reasons, not all insurance companies use the mystery shopping method. Here the reason can be the culture usage of the research in the industry in general and cost factors. “This marketing service has been already very popular among foreign banks for a long period of time. Ukrainian insurance companies are interested in “mystery shopping” for the first time, “- emphasizes Head quality of assessment department of the marketing agency IRS Group Olesya Krivdenko.

In Russia research agencies already offer not general but special “mystery shopping” methods adapted for the insurance market.”

“Our company plans to continue conducting such purchases. Now we are going to carry out them in regional offices. In future, we want to implement this mechanism on a continuous basis in the same way as we have implemented tracking level of customer’s satisfaction with the process the settling of insured events, “- share plans Ms.Pyzh. Ad hoc research is not enough – it needs to be repeated at least once a quarter.

Self-dependence vs outsourcing

Sometimes it is not possible to conduct a large-scale mystery shopping research without outside help. It requires a considerable staff and specially trained “customers.” It is not always profitable even for large companies which need to assess the service level in many retail outlets (especially when it is a question of coverage of offices in several regions, not saying about the whole country). Actually, that is why this assessment is usually outsourced in the special research agency.

The technology of the mystery shopping is identical for companies in all economic sectors. “Mystery Shopper” comes to the office (branch) belonging to the client who ordered this research and assesses the service level together with other necessary aspects (speed of service, the compliance with safety regulations, etc.) using a certain methodology.

However, in certain cases, such study may also be carried out without outside help. “We also use other methods, but sometimes we resort to the «mystery shopping” tool. “Our guy” who plays an assigned role (the employee, who is not known by sellers of insurance services) comes to the branch of the company. After the meeting a specially developed questionnaire is filled in with the information on the result of the visit.”- report Natalia Yalovenko, head of the training center of the insurance company “Oranta-Life”.

Such researches are conducted on their own by many insurance companies but their results are often subjective.

Hidden check

Insurance companies can inform their employees about the research in the hope that they “will become more professional” automatically, and can conduct it secretly, as it is the “mystery shopping” in order to find the gaps in the existing business processes and service levels.

Even a professional always needs a motivation, which, in particular, is a realization that at any moment the quality of his work can be assessed by independent experts.

Some Ukrainian insurance companies (IC “Illichivske”, IC “Brokbusiness”) preferred to announce it officially. However, not all employees of the IC should be afraid of being subjected to a secret testing. Usually, this concerns those who work with clients first of all, the personal of contact center, those who sell insurance products and those who are engaged in the settlement of losses.

However, some insurance companies have done this without the official press releases. “We do not want to advertise the usage of this technology, as we believe that customers need not to know which tools we use to make the service of a higher quality. It is important for people they are served with a smile, the features of the contract are competently explained to them, the possibilities of insurance are told to them and, of course, a particular attention is paid to them at the stage of the settlement of the insured event, “- says Alexander Melnychuk.

Those who have already had the experience of “mystery buying”, say about the efficiency of their usage in the conditions of Ukrainian insurance market. IC “Illichivske” has conducted “control purchase” of a full value, and it was found out that this methodology can quickly show the level of knowledge of the personnel on the narrow direction, i.e. the product, the insurance program.

According to the conclusions of “mystery shoppers” the working group of the company, consisting of representatives of personnel management, of training and marketing, developed a plan of events which consists of employee training in different directions.

“Based on our experience, the research by the mystery shopping method is best to help to assess the real picture and identify weak points in the service. After having analyzed the received results and after having taken the appropriate measures, the problem points can be eliminated, and prevented in future. This contributes to the improvement of the service quality and to the increase of loyalty customer”- sums up Ms. Krivdenko.

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