I must admit I learned a helluva lot at Chubb, where I was prior to starting Proclaim. They were a great learning organisation and when I started they also recruited talented people who would fit to values and they would then spend a lot of time and effort training them. All the offices tended to look the same, and there was almost a ‘type’ of person Chubb employed. It was pretty impressive, given the scale.
Chubb also spent a fair amount of energy trying to make sure all employees knew how different Chubb was to the rest of the insurance pack. Much if it revolved around values and education. Chubb knew who they were – they didn’t want to be the biggest – they distinguished themselves by playing in niche areas where they could be market leader. And then they overlaid high levels of service from sharp and dedicated people – a pretty compelling combination.
To some extent Chubb was trying to be aspirational as well- they wanted customers to want to work with them. In fact this got to a point where Chubb would talk about how privileged smaller brokers and agents were to work with Chubb and how they craved the plaque on the wall that demonstrated they were an approved partner.
All that is great if you can pull it off. It does take an outstanding company that can replicate that successful model around the world. A real drive for great people producing great work. The results follow. I was at Chubb for 7 years and over that time the talent pool across the business was diluted in the quest for growth and market share. I saw less of the training company and more of the skill acquirer. Still pockets of brilliance in service, but the differentiation was diminishing.
When I left Chubb in 1999 and saw more insurance companies I was a little taken aback at how each one thought they were so different. The reality is, the easiest thing in the world is to say you are different. To actually be ‘different’ requires a truly unique value proposition. My conclusion from my days at Chubb was that the more pronounced the culture the easier it was to distil a unique selling proposition. When Chubb was sticking to its niches, recruiting young guns who shared company values, and patiently training them, they did seem different. And it flowed into the service.
Interestingly the new Chubb selling proposition post their merger with Ace is undeniably Chubb in nature. Selling the service and fairness aspects of the Chubb brand. So it isn’t a surprise Ace elected to elevate the Chubb brand after the merger, as there is no question that the Chubb brand does stand for something – and it is about the service as well as the peace of mind.
Now I am running a business, I am constantly thinking about our culture and how that flows through to our service. Service has to be our differentiator, as our competitors seek to own things like ‘size’, ‘range of services’, ‘data analysis’ and ‘cost reduction’. Whether they actually achieve some of those selling propositions in their services is a subject for another day, but the point for us is that our competitors pretty much sell that they are a safe bet. We want to focus on what we understand is important to our clients – and that is outstanding service. To do that, we need a completely aligned business – people, values, training, engagement, file loads and operations -all swinging in the same direction so we can give the best service.
Hence our purpose and trademark of ‘going beyond’. This is what we stand for. And this is what we strive for. I talk about a ‘Proclaim standard’. That in each of the areas we work in we strive to demonstrate value by working the file, not merely administering it. Time management and expertise is important, but the key thing is the inner drive of our people – that they care about the work they do, and they find ways to create value in their work.
Although sometimes the job of differentiating between companies is a difficult one – and often comes down to price – I have seen from my Chubb days that superior people providing ‘going beyond’ service can create advocates for the business that help you sell the USP. It works.
How to remain true to your unique selling proposition over a long period of time is the challenge. As you grow and others with more market muscle offer similar services and benefits, or undercut your price, it often seems an option to waiver. You have to look no further than the New Coke as a panicked decision to change path that turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. Sometimes, if you have a great product and great people, it will work itself out, even in the fast changing digital word. Staying the course in an industry that isn’t always a level playing field is tough, but the rewards will come as others come and go. The key is to maintain that culture that promotes and builds on your unique selling proposition.