Interview with S&G Response Operations Director, Nick Stone, on impact of the Pandemic on policyholder and client behaviours.

Have there been any significant changes in policyholder behaviour that could be a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?

At S&G Response we have certainly seen a difference in policyholder behaviour as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Firstly, we have seen the number of calls during “non-core hours” halve during the first UK Lockdown (April and May 2020), in relation to the 2019 average. These calls were spread more evenly throughout the day, as people worked from home and felt less pressured to make enquiries prior or post their usual working hours.

The variances to call times were more profound during Lockdown 1. As people have become more accustomed to the changes in working patterns, the average for 2020 and the average for Lockdown 2 (November 2020) are very similar, supporting the general assumption that changes to public behaviours were not as pronounced during Lockdown 2. There is still a variance compared with 2019 and a change in patterns, with 2% less calls outside core hours (8pm to 7am). When you change these hours to display 6pm to 9am (shown in figure 2), the variance between 2019 and Lockdown 1 is 10% and 2019 to 2020, nearly 5%.

As demonstrated in figure 3 we have also seen a difference in the speed of notification. The average elapsed time from accident date to notification date has increased from circa 10 days in 2019 to nearer 15 days average in 2020. The greatest increase was a result of Lockdown 1 in April and May when this figure increased to a 20-day average. This implies that with the public staying at home and a lower percentage of them having to travel for work they are potentially not as eager to report damage to their vehicles as quickly. This decreased during Lockdown 2 to circa 13 days and has jumped up again in January 2021 (Lockdown 3). However, it should be noted there is a natural, seasonal rise in January as a result of the Christmas period and people looking to make arrangements after the festive period.

How has the pandemic affected the wants and needs of existing clients?

Aside from the normal business as usual activities our clients expect from us, the greatest change brought about by Covid-19 is the increase in transparency, collaboration and communication that we are seeing amongst our customers. For some reason, discussions around volumes and profitability tended to be the exception, even with certain close partners. It is now the norm to regularly share such trends and insights as everyone looks to attain as much information as possible in order to make future business decisions.

As a result of the global pandemic the metaphorical walls that used to exist between various parts of the market, have been broken down.  Whilst previously, generic labels were placed on different organisations such as “work provider” or “supply chain fulfilment”, it is now apparent that the market is wholly dependent upon each other. No one part can exist without the other; insurers cannot repair cars for example, and repairers cannot underwrite motor policies. What we are seeing is recognition that for the system to remain stable, the various component parts need to remain healthy and stable.

What is our general approach to being flexible to the constantly changing macro environmental factors during the pandemic?

Flexibility and communication are key.  Like most business owners, it feels like our weeks are spent navigating the latest guidance, reviewing impacts and reforecasting.  This is primarily focused on our people and the financials.

During the first Lockdown, we expanded the attendees to our Board to increase the diversity of view and opinion, especially around technology and people. This provided us with a much wider range of views and suggestions, which we have kept in place to help us come to the best possible course of action and solutions for S&G Response as a business and to continue our first class customer journey for policyholders.

What lessons have you learned from the business’ response to Covid-19?

Communication, communication, communication.

Whether that is regular and incisive communication with our people, our customer’s, our supply chain partners, or wider stakeholders, the need for regular dialogue with critical stakeholders has never been more important.

Remote working and our high level of communication has been facilitated through technology during the 2020 and will continue to be utilised through 2021. And yet, if we look backwards, we must consider whether this has unintended consequences? From a business perspective how would the Covid-19 response have been facilitated before this mature internet age with Microsoft Teams, Zoom and broadband? Had the Covid-19 Pandemic occurred during the 1980’s or 1990’s, how would the response have looked with the technology available at that time?  Equally, without the constant real-time news coverage and the ability to collect and analyse large quantities of data like never before, would the pandemic have reached the level of public and political attention that it has?

Even by the year 2002, individual workplace email addresses were not the universal norm and the fax machine was still a common office place tool.  IP phones were not yet invented. It’s hard to imagine a remote working environment being implemented even just 20 years ago but I’m proud to see S&G Response and our people adapt to this so quickly so that we have been able to uphold our standard of service.


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