Operations Corner: Differentiating in a Sea of Sameness
By Kristine Westall, COO, BMS Intermediaries, Inc.

The past few years have been challenging for the insurance industry as it tries to grow in spite of economic, regulatory and business challenges. Change is constant. Operationally firms must support increased profitability and regulation while reducing costs. Improved technology and operational excellence accelerate differentiation, but what about customer service?

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The more companies integrate efficient technology platforms the easier it is to distance themselves from the customer. Introspective analysis in a bubble results in over-engineered solutions to problems that the customer may not have even dreamt about, and thus may not need or want. Aligning interests with the customer creates more relevant products and a trusting partnership. At BMS (a risk and capital advisor), we have adopted a few strategies to institutionalize the mantra of listening carefully to our customers.

Client Advisory Board
A sampling of CEOs from our client companies meet with our executive committee once or twice a year to share their insight and remind us about what's important. The agenda is geared toward listening and learning, not showcasing our own capabilities. The forum is highly interactive, all are engaged and there is an additional benefit in that our clients also learn new things. During our normal course of business, our goal is to operate as an extension of a client's business; in this situation they are true advocates for us.

BMS Bear Hug
Reinsurance is a relationship driven business. When learning about a new client, or a prospective client, we like to introduce them to the BMS Bear Hug (the label was coined from a chapter in Louis Gerstner's Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?, recommended by a client). We weave together capability highlights with strategic questions while introducing the entire team involved in the account across claims, contracts, analytics, risk and capital advisors. This practice enables us to create dynamic services & solutions specific to the needs of a particular client versus the off-the-shelf variety provided to all clients. Clients see that people from all aspects of our company are invested in their business. Our team members are fully engaged and we even have fun along the way.

It's not easy to differentiate in a sea of sameness but listening to customers and regularly acting as an extension of their business creates a position from which to successfully seize opportunities when they arise. More importantly, the customer’s objectives truly become our objectives. The concept is not new; it's just been pushed into the background as technology & innovation consume time and attention. However, until we successfully determine our clients’ business needs neither technology nor innovation on their behalf are likely to be realized to the full potential.

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