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40 years in insurance and 20 years specialising in conduct and customer service. Find out more about me. 

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The janitor who helped put a man on the moon

16th November 2020

The janitor who helped put a man on the moon

Do you know what the purpose of your job is? I mean really know? Not just that you are there to answer the phones or produce management information.

Itís a tricky question for many.

We each usually have a job description and go through an annual review process where performance is measured and objectives set. Personally, I find the whole process unnecessarily tedious and itís one of the reasons I left my job in the corporate world and set up my own business. I get the need for processes (I love a good process!), but many performance review processes are just so complex they drift away from what really matters - whether the individual contributes to the purpose of the company.

I now have a very clear vision of what benefits my business offers customers and how I help that happen. I know the purpose of my business and my role.

A great example of this is the story of the janitor who worked at NASA and was asked by the president (John F Kennedy) what he did. He replied ďIím helping put a man on the moon

There are many areas and services within insurance, so letís think about what someone working in the complaints team at an insurance company could feel their purpose is.

What's the purpose of your complaints team.

Letís start by considering what the purpose of the insurer is, without mentioning the need to make money and profit. I would suggest something like ďhelping customers deal with disruption and lossĒ. So, if you work for an insurer and you are asked what you do Ė you could say ďI help people deal with disruption and loss.Ē In the current climate we know this is important for the wider population, so you could expand this out to ďsupporting a strong economy by helping consumers and businesses recover from disruption and lossĒ.

It sounds good doesnít it?

By turning back to the person who works in the complaints team, they can see how they contribute to that purpose. They are part of a regulated process that makes sure their employer is following the rules and allowed to trade. They also resolve situations where customers may not have got the service they need to deal with an unexpected loss. They will also be looking at systems/trends to see if there could be something blocking that purpose for other customers. Once your staff know the purpose of the business itís much easier to then think about how they contribute.

In terms of culture, purpose is the starting point for me. 

I always ask clients what their purpose is. If it's not simple then I encourage them to reflect on what they really do - and if their business didnít exist what would their customers have lost.

The business and staff all need to understand the high level purpose of the business and then they can start to recognise what they do that contributes to that purpose.

My business purpose is ďworking to make the world a kinder place by supporting insurance firms committed to treating customers fairlyĒ. I love this because I donít see my key role as helping clients be compliant (although obviously I do!) but instead I want to help them develop culture, knowledge, processes and products that supports their fair treatment of customers.

This is really what I am about and I hope it makes sense to you.

Author: Sally Pearce (Conduct Matters Ltd)


Sally Pearce started Conduct Matters in 2014 after 35 years working in the insurance industry. She was originally an underwriter, but since 2000 has worked in dispute resolution and helping Insurance firms understand how to treat their customers fairly. Her experience includes working for the Financial Ombudsman, in the Lloydís market and dealing with regulators. Sally is ACII, a qualified mediator and yoga teacher. She is also available for public speaking.


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