This is an important book. While its immediate focus is on Poland and the insurance industry, it provides a template that can be extended to many countries and to any industry with a significant service component. It is carefully written and densely referenced by an author who has contributed much to the field, and it bravely takes on the complex subtleties of the topic.
Unlike many monographs that fail to go beyond abstract technical issues, this provides a template that insurers could use to improve their quality of service. While this appears to be the first study devoted to the improvement of insurer service quality in Poland, the basic themes are widely applicable. The monograph also raises questions that invite further valuable research.
The topic is a consequential one, for it sets out a spectrum whose opposite poles could be described as win-win (excellent service quality) or lose-lose (poor service quality). The ultimate aim of the monograph is to provide a set of straightforward operational criteria that would enable insurance providers to improve their quality of service. The importance of attending to these issues is underlined by the somewhat surprising net dissatisfaction of customers with their service (in particular, with the speed and certainty with which claims are processed).
For the customer, better service provides greater peace of mind, but also policies more efficiently tailored to the needs of the insured.
There are two basic issues to be confronted. The former is the measurement of quality of customer service. The latter, which can be addressed only after the former is resolved, is an exploration of the nature of the relationship between better service for the customer and better results for the insurance provider. This monograph is focused primarily on the former issue. That itself raises a number of complex issues.
Przybytniowski illustrates the complexity with two opposing claims: (i) ‘On the other hand, bearing in mind the concept of service quality, it can be stated, based on the literature, that it is a unique and abstract category which is difficult to define and measure…’; and (ii) ‘… it is a myth to say that the quality of voluntary insurance services cannot be measured.’
This conflict is central for the claim that quality of service is critical to customer retention and consequently, to profitability. Yet ‘In management theory, it has been accepted that there is no direct possibility of measuring quality, especially the quality of the service, as there is no objective unit of its measurement…’
It may be that quality of service is characterized by a cluster of properties, from subjective (treating customers with dignity and respect) to objective (efficiently settling claims).
Yet it is plausible that there is no single formal definition of ‘quality of service’. More generally, Hilary Putnam (‘The Analytic and the Synthetic,’ Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 3 (1962) p. 358f.) has argued compellingly that even simple words like ‘cat’ do not have an adequate formal definition. (We call something a cat if it sufficiently resembles other cats in critical properties, but those properties may change as we learn more about cats.)
It may be that there is no single set of properties that necessarily apply to all and only high qualities of service. Instead, there may be a number of similar measures of quality of service, measures that may change as new products or new modes of interaction are developed.
The author’s template enables the analysis of the individual components of quality of service, enabling companies to intelligently prioritize investments.
In addition to considerations of customer service quality, the monograph implicitly points out steps that insurance companies could take to enhance profitability. ‘…the longer customers remain with a particular insurance company the less likely they are to resign from the services of the insurer, even if they consider the credibility of the insurance company undermined…’
Kenneth S. Friedman
Regis University, Denver, Colorado, U.S.
|spis-tresci.pdf (172.8 KB)
|spis-tresci.pdf (172.8 KB)