Kelly Ward, Chief Sales & Distribution Officer at AXA Partners UK&I and Chris Jolley, Trading Director at Atlanta Group, discuss how insurance providers and brokers can build successful and long-lasting partnerships.
As the insurance market continues to be ever-changing, it’s more important than ever for insurers and their partners to work collaboratively to meet consumer needs and provide solutions to their problems. However, what does this entail?
“Great partnerships are built on shared values, communication, and collaboration” comments Kelly Ward at AXA Partners UK&I, which has maintained a long-standing relationship with Atlanta Group, made up of Autonet, Carole Nash and Swinton.
“Partnerships always work best when there is a common belief between the parties and finding those similarities will strengthen the relationship,” says Ward. In AXA Partners and Atlanta Groups’ case, he says “both businesses operate with a customer-centric approach. We work individually and collaboratively to quickly adapt to consumers’ ever-changing needs, pre-empting their problems to offer convenient, forward-thinking solutions-focussed services.”
Chris Jolley, Trading Director at Atlanta Group agrees: “Success doesn’t happen overnight and there is a lot of planning, adapting, and testing that needs to take place before a product or service is ready for market. It can be an evolution, butknowing that you are starting from a good base with shared goals and ways-of-working, strengthens this process. You want to know that the partner you’re working with is agile and open minded and it is imperative to maintain clear and consistent communication.”
Adapting to customers’ changing circumstances is also key to staying ahead of the game: “Throughout our partnership, we continuously evaluate the needs of our customers and update the services we offer to ensure that there is added value and tangible benefits for our customers over time,” adds Ward. This means both partners must understand how they can work together to provide solutions to the problems their customers face, while simultaneously making their lives easier.
Ward continues: “We have dedicated account managers who work closely with Atlanta daily to address these changing needs. These managers are engaged with Atlanta on all levels, from advising on product offering, brand acquisition and commercial discussions, in order to find the best financial solutions.”
When it comes to establishing expectations with partners, including what success looks like for both parties, “creating an extended team is key,” comments Ward. “Regular communication, not just through structured meetings, is vital to add value and really nurture the relationship. We credit picking up the phone and understanding our partners at Atlanta on a personal and business level, as one of the reasons we have been able to create a successful cultural fit, moving away from a client relationship, to both parties feeling like they are part of the same team.”
Jolley continues: “When both teams feel they are working as one, that’s when the partnership goes from strength to strength.”
This understandably requires a great deal of trust from both sides – Ward adds: “trust is an important mechanic to strengthen our collective capabilities and in turn leads to increased success.”
Unfortunately, it can’t always be plain sailing and “it’s important that both parties are able to make the partnership work when challenges do arise” comments Ward. “A recent example of this is resilience through Covid, however there will always be a change in customer need or market challenge that we need to react quickly to.” Jolley adds “to stay successful during challenging times, both partners need to ensure that not one side of the partnership is affected more than the other. To do this both teams must provide support and be empathetic towards each other’s issues.”
A big part of collaboration according to Ward “is continued mutual learning and the sharing of skill sets”. Jolley continues: “A great example of this is the implementation of eRescue for Atlanta, where AXA Partners developed an easy-to-use online tool that allows our customers to request roadside assistance using their mobile devices, in the event of a breakdown. AXA Partners’ commitment to digital innovation made us feel confident that we could provide and communicate a unique digital solution for our customers.”
Both Ward and Jolley attribute a great deal of their success to mutual training sessions between the two brands. Ward goes on to say, “we work closely with Atlanta’s customer contact centres to ensure tailored product training is delivered, meaning our customers get the best experience possible.”
It all comes down to successful partnerships being based on “trust, communication and a natural cultural fit” comments Jolley. When looking for a potential partner, Ward adds “you must trust each other and communicate with as much transparency as possible.”