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Categories:Advisers,Other

Help us improve provider service levels

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The service standards of providers have always been a key ingredient of the advice process. Sloppy levels of service from investment, pensions, mortgage or protection providers, or platforms, can be costly to the client whilst the adviser often shoulders the blame.

With the advent of the retail distribution review and adviser- charging, the importance of decent client service has never been greater. Transparency of charging means poor provider service levels will hit the client’s pocket directly due to the extra time and cost to advisers in dealing with unsatisfactory behaviour.

Also, as products become more similar in their features and benefits, reliable and consistent service levels are increasingly likely to be the key differentiator when dealing with providers.

With this in mind, Money Marketing is launching a service monitor, with the help of our readers, which will track service standards across the industry and hopefully help drive forward improvements by holding poor performers to account. The Money Marketing Service Monitor has now launched and any advisers or paraplanners wanting to get involved can sign up at www.mmserviceratings.co.uk.

Advisers will be asked to download a web-based application which they can then easily access in their office or on the move. After transacting any client business, you will be asked to rate the service standards you experience. The process should only take a matter of seconds.

By harnessing this feedback, we will be able to create an ongoing benchmark of service standards to both inform the adviser community and put the pressure on providers to either keep their standards high or improve them.

Any advisers or paraplanners involved will have the chance to win monthly prizes, including an iPad 2, plus more substantial quarterly prizes.

More important, anyone who joins the monitor will get access to the data which will become a useful tool in informing their advice decisions and for provider due diligence. The commercial and regulatory pressures being applied on traditional life and pension providers, wrap platforms, asset managers and mortgage lenders are immense and likely to get stronger.

We hope the Money Marketing Service Monitor will become a constant reminder of the importance of investing in client servicing and help drive forward improvements in standards across the industry. But we need your help to make it work.

Paul McMillan is editor of Money Marketing- follow him on twitter here

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Readers' comments (5)

  • A worthy project, though the principal obstacle to it making any significant impact is the widely varying levels of service experienced by different IFA's with the same provider. And, when all else is said and done, providers are interested in you only if you're already placing significant volumes of business with them.

    With annuities, for example, Prudential, as far as we're concerned, is virtually an automatic Don't bother asking them to quote, for the simple reason that by the time they've received all the money, the guarantee period on the quote has long since expired. Without exception, their rates have always changed and, surprise, surprise, they've changed for the worse. This leads me to suspect very strongly that when Prudential quotes, it does so in the knowledge that it almost certainly won't have to honour the rate on which it's based its winning quote and that what it offers by the time it's too late to go back to square one is the real rate. I raised this with our Prudential broker consultant a couple of years ago and, of course, he assured me that Prudential has taken steps to address this (so I'm very probably not the only intermediary to have raised it), but it was just the usual twaddle that broker consultants tell you because they know it's what you want to hear. It's like the other great lie that he (like all other broker consultants) is here to help if you have any admin/service problems. In the wake of a succession of about four cases on which we were experiencing exactly such problems, he mysteriously disappeared, never to be heard of again and not replaced by anyone else. I can imagine his plea to his sales manager: All I get from this guy at Harvest is grief over Prudential's ghastly admin. Can you take them off my roster?

    As for L&G, they get the money in, do nothing with it and then deny all knowledge of having received it, so we don't ask them to quote on annuity business either.

    Standard Life and AXA, although they do actually have broker consultants in the Bristol area, refuse to send one to see us, quite evidently because we're not considered worthy of attention (or probably more trouble than we're likely to be worth), so we have to deal with somebody over the phone.

    As for all the other providers (with the notable exception of Skandia), we never hear from any of them. Call me Old School, but if I'm going to be tempted to recommend a particular company's products, then I require at least something in the way of face to face interaction. But that's just me.

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  • Well the above is one of the problems I had when I was a BDM for a life company, a lot of advisers wanted someone to pop round. There was never any need for it as I was office based available to deal with problems/queries/business through business hours, had my own accounts that I looked after and worked on to get more business. Some people resisted this for some reason but over time they began to understand that it was a better way for them and for the companies involved. I was rarely in a meeting or driving on motorways therefore was there when needed, didn't need to get someone to do work for me and sort it myself by the time it was needed (rather than waiting till I got home and using my spare time writing reports to send over) It _only_ got stupid when a F2F guy started running the department and thought we were all call centre staff when half the guys were ex IFA's themselves (and most now are again after he run the department into the ground).

    Anyway, back to service levels, this is a great idea, it will help companies to see what is their weakest point, the perception of their service offering.

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  • Julian makes some very valid observations about one particular Company. I have always felt this company was run in a similar way to Bancassurers.

    So many mixed thoughts about this as Julian points out it is all down to experience. I would however like to point out that those companies that have their call centres in the UK with staff who are able to take ownership and help IFA's will gain the highest ratings.

    Sadly many organisations are all about call flow rather than helping out.

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  • get all my annuity quotes online from prudential, totally fabby service

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  • Not wanting to defend provider service which is in many cases dreadful, however in defense of the broker consultant, they are in a sales role. I have been a sucessful broker consutlant for a number of years and would make the following points. In some roles, the BC is specifcally prohibited from getting involved with admin. There is no point getting involved in admin if the comany in question doesn't have much potential to provide you with new business. Most BC's are paid solely on new business. However, for my best accounts, I ensure that every single case they have goes through as smoothly as possible and this means that they can continue using my firm with confidence. If I was given an account where there seemed to be very little potential for new business and a bunch of legacy issues to deal with, I would very quickly pass them onto the call centre.

    With regard to providing face to face contact, this is pretty expensive and with the minimal profits/margins available on business nowadays, in order to justify sending somebody into see an account, the potential for new business needs to be there, otherwise it is a pointless excerise.

    A pretty similar approach to IFA's segmenting client banks and providing a lower level of service to the chap on £20K per annum because there isn't much chance that he is going to bring decent income into the business.

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