I was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of some storm damage a couple of months ago, during which time I had to engage my home insurer to help me undergo the necessary repairs.
Water had seeped into my entire townhouse resulting in damage to carpet, floorboards, a mattress, several electrical devices and walls and parquetry, all of which would have to be replaced or repaired.
What followed was an inside look into what was perhaps a case study in what not to do when it comes to customer experience and why the door is wide open for insurance startups looking to disrupt the space by offering significantly better customer service.
So without further adieu I bring to you all of the pain points on my journey from first call along with recommendations of how to fix it (yes, free customer experience consulting for insurers reading this).
I was very tempted to include the insurer’s name in this article but I’m sure they (and my very smart audience) can work it out.
The first few times I called it was on the back of a recent storm so understandably wait times were long. However, I was given no indication as to just how long or how far I had progressed in the queue. Unlike other companies with more progressed customer service, there was no offer of a call back either.
I had to hear the same "thank you for waiting, your call has progressed in the queue and we'll be with you as soon as possible" in between ads every 30 seconds.
FYI, the longest I waited was 1 hour and 40 minutes.
While a long wait time can be excused, given increased demands on staff post a natural disaster, insult was added to injury on several occasions when not as much as a simple “sorry for the wait” was offered. Often I was greeted by an assistant asking for my claim number in a cold, robotic voice.
On one occasion, I mentioned that I thought it was pretty poor that even the long wait time when I finally got through was not even acknowledged and still got nothing but silence in response.
To further add insult to injury while waiting for more than one hour on several occasions to speak to a consultant, the entire time ads are spun trying to upsell customers different types of insurance. The last thing I was thinking about whilst trying to get through to a human being was buying more insurance services. There’s a right way and wrong way to upsell customers insurance services.
Initially they responded to my tweets on Twitter with generic robotic responses which didn’t actually answer my question or concerns. They have since deleted their responses which actually looks worse.
When I first called my insurer I was told that somebody would be at the property within hours to check and seal the roof to prevent additional damage and to salvage the carpet from ruin by removing the water it had absorbed.
I was assured that “we want to prevent further damage”.
Nobody visited for three days by which point the carpet was absolutely ruined and required replacement.
On one other occasion, I was told that I would receive a call back within two days but had to follow up several days later due to a lack of said call back.
In between ads and being told that I’m an important customer during my 100 minute wait, I was also sold the online ‘claim lodging app’, despite the fact that I was sitting in the existing claims queue.
After sleeping on my couch for five weeks due to a ruined, wet mattress, I was finally given the all clear to have funds forwarded to me to pick up a new mattress. The value of funds? $800. However, rather than advise me up front, the excess of $500 was deducted from this amount before being deposited into my account, leaving me with $300 to spend on replacing an $800 matress.
This was after I had been told that an invoice would be sent to be so that I could pay the excess within a given timeframe.
Of course the excess would have to be paid, but making expectations known again is critically important, particularly when it comes to planning and managing one’s cash-flow.
Customers have paid premiums to their insurance company in order to get support in times of need. Post a storm or disaster of some kind it’s to be expected that an insurance company's preferred vendors and sub-contractors will be busy. But customers have paid premiums to get repairs carried out.
Rather than have one point of contact, I found myself being told by insurance advisors to call a client manager or the sub-contractor and by the sub-contractor to call the insurer, oftentimes getting through to the person I was told to speak to only to be told that I should speak to somebody else. At one stage I felt like a pinball being ricocheted between parts of this minefield that is the progression
Furthermore, there appeared to be no monitoring or follow up in place by the insurer to check in on the status of repairs, leaving it all to me. On one occasion contractors did not turn up on the day I was told they would carry out repairs and I had to follow up...again.
We’re living in an age where experiences like this simply aren’t sustainable.
Customers are in charge, they expect more and they will vote with their feet and they'll tell the world about it via social media.
Optimising customer experience can be the difference between success (eg. UBER) and failure (eg. taxis).
How many of these customer experience mistakes is your company making?
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