“I would totally recommend Circle to anyone else who is looking to carry out a B2B research project. The team are brilliant and offer very clever insights, as well as being really easy to work with”
Part of the Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group, JLT Specialty provides insurance broking and risk management services across the globe. As a specialist insurance broker it focusses on sectors where it can make the greatest difference to clients – working hard to understand the challenges they face and using insight, intelligence and imagination to provide expert advice and robust – often unique – solutions. With over 900 employees and revenues of more than £240m in 2012, it places more than £2bn of premium into the insurance market every year.
In an environment where other brokers have access to the same insurance products, personal relationships are a critical differentiator. JLT can only thrive if their clients see them a trusted advisor. Recognising this, they engaged Circle to carry out a complete audit of client relationship health with the aim of:
- Identifying what really matters to clients
- Determining how JLT Specialty performs in each of these areas
- Identifying what JLT Specialty does best and areas for improvement
- Gauging client loyalty and understanding how to boost this further
JLT Specialty’s management wanted the research to really get under the skin of what made clients tick and provide a tool to enhance business performance, not simply a set of customer satisfaction statistics. It was essential that the research could be used as the basis for a set of clearly defined and measurable actions which would enable JLT Specialty to maintain and improve its customer service levels.
This global research project was run firstly in the UK and the survey platform was then extended to carry out a similar exercise with JLT’s Asia and Australia divisions, whose management teams saw the benefit of the activity which had been carried out in the UK.
Step one was to engage with key stakeholders within the business – primarily Account Managers who hold client relationships. Any actions derived from the project would require their involvement, so it was essential they were on board from day one. It was also important to establish their views on client relationships and on what they believe matters most to these clients so that these beliefs could be tested.
The next stage was to develop an online client survey, asking intelligent questions that quickly got to the heart of the matter. The survey invitation was preceded with a communication from the relevant Account Manager to ‘warm up’ respondents, and was carried out using our sophisticated online platform. This includes features which optimise the respondent experience and therefore response rates, e.g. mobile optimisation and auto-saving so the survey can be completed in multiple sittings on multiple devices.
The survey covered a wide range of questions exploring areas such as JLT’s performance in different respects, levels of customer loyalty and of course JLT’s Net Promoter Score (NPS). To ensure that questions explored the most pertinent aspects of client service, they were developed from initial engagements with the account team, our longstanding knowledge of JLT and our extensive expertise in B2B customer satisfaction research. They also reflected learnings from previous qualitative research we conducted for JLT into ‘what matters most’ for clients.
On completion of the survey, we used a statistical technique known as Regression Analysis, which looks for correlations between overall satisfaction and unusually high satisfaction in relation to specific aspects of the relationship. This technique identifies what really drives client satisfaction, and it usually challenges the received wisdom about what matters most.
Key Findings and Lessons
Our analysis of the survey findings led us to develop several outputs for JLT, including:
- A detailed review of client health including a comparison with norms in a B2B environment made using Circle’s deep pool of B2B benchmarking data. This was presented to senior management and then to the separate business divisions
- A map showing how the relative importance of different relationship aspects compared against JLT’s performance. This clearly outlined areas for focus and areas to promote
- A ‘blueprint’ of the ideal client experience which can be used to guide all decisions
Research of course is only a means to an end, not an end in itself – we design research studies with action in mind. In this case, at a strategic level we identified what truly drives client satisfaction, enabling JLT to focus on elements of the relationship that have the greatest impact. Then at a more tactical level, we identified opportunities for cross-selling, uncovered a means of generating more referrals, gathered client testimonials and a series of marketing ‘proof points’. In addition, by asking clients to waive their anonymity and by auto-flagging areas of concern directly to Account Managers, we also gave JLT’s account team a powerful way to engage proactively with these clients and address the issues before they became critical.
Marketing Manager Jo Poucher explains further:
“The survey showed us that our clients were true advocates for us and would be very willing to refer us to industry colleagues, but that we needed to formalise this process more. If you’re not a sales person, as our Account Managers aren’t, it’s actually quite difficult to ask for recommendations – so we implemented a huge wave of referral training which is now being put into action. It will take time to determine the longer term benefit of this activity, as the sales cycle is quite long in this industry, but we would expect it to result in a number of new clients for JLT.
Another key thing we discovered was that clients were not always aware of our wider services. It depends on a client’s industry and the type of insurance they buy, but there are many instances where other services would be relevant for our existing clients, and this includes our employee benefit offering as well. The reality is though that people are naturally comfortable talking about the areas they know well, so tend not to think about having those conversations – and as a result, our Head of Sales will now be concentrating heavily on a cross-selling programme over the coming months.”
From JLT’s perspective, another powerful benefit of the research was the ability to determine not only what their clients place value on, but also which aspects of service they were especially good at and which areas needed improvement, as Jo continues:
“Each of the five business divisions – construction, real estate, energy and marine, risk practice and financial risks – took part in an interactive feedback session with Circle, which was very useful. The Circle team have a lot of insight and knowledge, and it was the ideal opportunity for the divisional teams to pick their brains and ask questions like ‘How do we compare to other B2B companies?’, ‘Have you seen xyz before and what does it mean?’ and ‘What can we do about it?'”
Giving the divisional heads this detailed level of feedback and insight not only let them see the value of the research and what it could mean for their client relationships, it also helped Jo to gain buy in for future waves.
It was clear from the response that JLT’s clients were more than happy to assist in the research programme, with over 50% completing the survey and half of those being happy to waive anonymity. The ability to gather testimonial quotes from the free text fields in the survey was also a huge benefit for the business at a wider level.
“We now have a raft of really good feedback about JLT” confirms Jo. “We can include the survey results in new business pitches and weave certain elements into our marketing messages – so the research programme has definitely provided additional tools to help us communicate our strengths, as well as enhancing relationships with existing clients.”
The entire programme will now be repeated in 2013, giving JLT the opportunity to not only get an updated view of client opinion, but also to determine how the actions from the 2012 survey have made a difference to their clients already. Jo concludes:
“The whole project was a very positive message for JLT, a real ‘good news’ story. We’re a specialist service provider and we align ourselves to our client’s industries, as well as taking time to get to know their businesses. It’s good to know that they value this and believe that we do it well.
I would totally recommend Circle to anyone else who is looking to carry out a B2B research project. The team are brilliant and offer very clever insights, as well as being really easy to work with – which also makes the whole process very smooth. With any project of this type, choosing the right provider in the first place is key, so having the relationship in place already was a major benefit.
We really trusted Circle that they would do a good job. This is something you build up with a service provider over the long term and the importance of that is often underestimated. We rely on their expertise and the fact that they know what they are talking about, and that they’ve got the experience of doing it and the knowledge of our industry. When it comes to analysing the survey results and determining how to use them for the benefit of the business, that’s what makes the real difference.”
Read more about our approach to business-to-business (B2B) customer satisfaction research.