Norwich Union: why merely “good” customer service was no longer good enough, and what we did about it

John Willmott (Director of Operational Change at Norwich Union Insurance. Tel: 01603 843542; E‐mail: willmoj@norwich‐

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The purpose of this paper is to explain the strategy and tactics behind Norwich Union Insurance's decision to mount a major initiative to improve the quality of the customer service offered in its customer contact centres from merely “good” to “great”.


The paper explains how the author spearheaded what was in many respects a concerted personal initiative to look at current thinking about how customer service in contact centres could be improved and chose a methodology for improving it by using the practical experience and theoretical input provided by a consultancy, Cape Consulting, which specialises in helping organisations achieve service excellence.


As the author explains, he investigated the writing and thinking of the American service guru Frederick Reichheld who has argued very successfully that there are no half‐measures in impressing customers; that you either impress them very well indeed or not at all, and that you should basically only need to ask one question to a customer: ‘Would you recommend this organisation to a friend?’ This is the decisive question.

Practical implications

The beauty of this paper is that it describes a very practical and major initiative to put new thinking on customer service into practice at Norwich Union. The author reports that the impact of the research at a practical level at one contact centre in Scotland has been very considerable and has given Norwich Union much encouragement to broaden the implementation of the work throughout all its contact centres.


The paper is a pioneering study of work that, to the author's knowledge, has not previously been published, either because the work has not been done before or because the work has been done before but has been kept confidential. However, for practical purposes the work reported in the paper can be regarded as entirely original and so far certainly unique in the financial services sector, and probably unique in the UK business community generally.



Willmott, J. (2005), "Norwich Union: why merely “good” customer service was no longer good enough, and what we did about it", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 37 No. 7, pp. 341-347.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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