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Buyers name top partners, valued traits

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Buyers name top partners, valued traits

The votes are in, and risk managers and other insurance buyers have picked the service providers they value most.

The insurers, brokers and third-party administrators honored in the 2011 Business Insurance Buyers Choice Awards earned the recognition by being identified by buyers as the companies they would recommend to peers as exemplifying service and expertise attributes they value most.

The inaugural Buyers Choice Awards replace our previous Readers Choice honors. The changes in approach, which include employing an independent market research firm to survey buyers, are intended to bring maximum transparency to the process and put the program's focus on what buyers value most in their industry partners.

Buyers were asked to rank seven key service and seven key expertise attributes in evaluating insurers, brokers and TPAs. Business Insurance compiled the lists of key attributes by studying other industry surveys and querying risk managers for suggestions on what they consider key attributes for assessing brokers, insurers and TPAs.

Once buyers ranked the key attributes, they were asked to name the companies they'd most recommend to peers for each, yielding the Buyers Choice honorees.

The honor recognizes insurers, brokers and TPAs selected most often by midsize companies—those with less than $1 billion in annual revenue—and by large buyers—those with $1 billion or more in revenue—as tops in the service and expertise attributes buyers deemed most important.

Profiles of the honorees, including the awards each won, can be viewed here.

In identifying the Buyers Choice honorees, buyers shed light on what they consider important in expertise and service, showing differences in what's valued most by companies of different sizes.

Buyers across all sizes of companies cited possessing and leveraging deep knowledge of their industry/individual risk profile as the most important expertise attribute for insurers. But among insurers' service attributes, buyers with $500 million or more in annual revenue found providing good value for premium paid the most important attribute, while those under $500 million most valued reliable customer service and responsiveness in their insurers.

Buyers with more than $3 billion in annual revenue identified providing timely claims payments as their second most important insurer service attribute, followed by demonstrating reliable customer service and responsiveness.

Buyers with $500 million to $3 billion in revenue chose reliable customer service and responsiveness as their second most important insurer service attribute, however, ranking providing timely claim payments third. Buyers with less than $500 million in revenue cited providing good value for premiums paid as their second choice, with timely claims payment third.

The largest buyers cited maintaining a consistent approach to coverage lines and capacity as the second most important insurer expertise attribute and demonstrating timely innovation to meet emerging or evolving risks third.

Buyers in the middle of the size spectrum also selected a consistent approach to lines and capacity as their second most valued insurer expertise attribute, but cited assigning an appropriate level of underwriting talent in the third slot. Meanwhile, those buyers with less than $500 million in revenue identified assigning an appropriate level of underwriting talent as the second most important attribute of insurer expertise, slotting a consistent approach to lines and capacity third.

Buyers agreed across the size spectrum on the most important attributes for brokers—selecting demonstrating trust, integrity and reliability as the most important service attribute and effectively exploring and negotiating to secure the best pricing and terms of coverage as the most valued expertise attribute.

Despite the agreement among buyers of all sizes on the top broker service and expertise attributes, though, there was significant variety elsewhere in their ranking.

The largest buyers ranked facilitating timely, informed renewal discussions as the second most important broker service attribute and providing effective oversight to the many services clients have in place with other service providers third. The remainder of buyers shared the largest buyers' sentiment about the second most important attribute, but those in the middle of the spectrum selected offering in-person customer service and responsiveness as the third most important broker service attribute, while those below $500 million in revenue selected offering international services and coordination as their third most highly valued broker service attribute.

The largest buyers cited providing customized problem-solving and solution identification as the second most important broker expertise attribute. Possessing and leveraging deep knowledge of industry/individual risk profile was ranked the third most important broker expertise attribute by the largest buyers, but second by the remainder of the group.

Buyers in the middle of the revenue spectrum valued offering insured and self-insured solutions as their third most important broker expertise attribute, with smaller buyers choosing effectively representing client interests in claims handling.

The attributes buyers most value in TPAs also showed differences by company size.

Among service attributes, the largest buyers—those with annual revenue greater than $3 billion—identified using cutting-edge technology and reporting for real-time claims information and communication as the most valued service attribute in their TPA partners. The remainder of buyers cited demonstrating trust, integrity and reliability as the most valued service attribute in their TPAs.

High-revenue buyers identified demonstrating trust, reliability and integrity as second most important and providing timely and insightful reporting third. Buyers in the middle of the size spectrum identified communicating effectively on key customer concerns and issues as the TPA service attribute they valued second most, and timely and insightful reporting third. Buyers at the low end of the revenue spectrum, meanwhile, reversed the places of those two attributes, placing timely and insightful reporting second and effective communications third.

Likewise, buyers split by size on the question of TPA expertise attributes. While buyers at the large end of the spectrum identified actively focusing on reducing costs or processing times as the top TPA expertise attribute, those with less than $3 billion in annual revenue weighed-in in favor of TPAs possessing and leveraging deep knowledge of industry/individual risk profiles and claim needs as the most important attribute.

The largest buyers selected assuring compliance with special handling specifications at all levels of service as the second most important TPA expertise attribute, with performing timely reserve calculations third. The remainder of buyers cited effectively coordinating claims management with brokers, insurers, excess insurers and reinsurers as their second most valued TPA expertise attribute, with actively focusing on reducing costs or processing times ranked third.

Additional analysis of the survey, as well as a list of overall winners in each sector, will appear in the Dec. 5 issue of Business Insurance.

View profiles of all the honorees here.