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A question of culture

The problems of breaking out of a current worldview were exemplified in a series of comments on a Good Returns article recently. Two industry stalwarts had proposed a new approach to commission.

Monday, March 11th 2019, 9:11AM

by Russell Hutchinson

Russell Hutchinson

An award-winning adviser mused about how that might be applied to renewal commissions – and if servicing commission should move with the client if they change advisers. He got a roasting in the comments – some rough handling from those that like their debate. But the interesting thing was the language.

“Poacher” was used, and so was the word “Gamekeeper”.

I won’t re-hash the arguments, I want to focus on the language.

Gamekeeper is intended to be a good term, and poacher a bad one.

We, meaning the insurance industry, know this because it is our culture. I know what is meant by these words, and almost automatically agree… after all, I have probably used the metaphor of poacher and game-keeper myself in the past. So, I have no particular problem with the comments. Except… it becomes so easy.

We may also talk about hunters and farmers – and sometimes it is good to use such metaphors. But perhaps they have they become overly used.

Have we become blind to meaning, context, and the perspective of customers? It is just like the issue of client ‘ownership’. We know what that means. No one knows better than advisers just how difficult it is to build trust with clients, and how easily they can be lost. No one means it badly, it just sounds so bad.

So, I searched up some examples of different names for clients. Any industry that refers to customers as anything other than valued clients is in trouble.

You can find them yourself, but a big airline that referred to passengers as “cattle” quickly discover that they have a major problem with customer service that runs deeper than just a label.

Or the investment banker that called clients “muppets” – now there’s a problem.

Or the car dealerships that refer to clients as “grapes” or “bunnies” or “squirrels” – well I wouldn’t want to buy a car there, would you?

Okay, perhaps, in passing, in a context where we wanted to talk protectively about clients, maybe, all good. But when commenting on an issue identified in the conduct and culture review. Maybe not.

Language counts, and I want mine to count in the conduct and culture debate. For example – when we come to talking about commissions, licence conditions, or service models.

Tags: communication insurance Opinion Russell Hutchinson

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