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Case Study: Terrible Customer Experience With My Insurer (+ Recommendations)

Case Study: Terrible Customer Experience With My Insurer (+ Recommendations)
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Case Study: Terrible Customer Experience With My Insurer (+ Recommendations)

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.

1 - No Update on Wait Time / Place in Queue / Call Back Service

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.

Recommendations:

  • Let people know what the approximate wait time is
  • Let people know what position they’re in in the queue
  • Offer a ‘wait in silence’ service
  • Offer a call back service

2 - No “Sorry For The Wait”

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.

Recommendations:

  • Add some humanity to calls
  • Acknowledge the other person’s time has been wasted and extend a simple apology on behalf of the company. People will understand as long as it’s coming from a genuine place.
  • Say "sorry for the wait"!

3 - Trying to Upsell Customers While Having a Bad Experience

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.

Recommendations:

  • Provide the option to turn of music/ads while on hold, particularly when the wait time is long

4 - Poor Social Media Engagement

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.

Recommendations:

  • Don’t have a social presence if you’re not going to use it
  • Don’t respond with generic answers that don’t acknowledge the human being behind the Twitter handle or address the person’s questions or concerns

5 - Expectations Set But Not Met

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.

Recommendations:

  • Don’t set expectations that can’t be met
  • Set realistic expectations and add a contingency buffer to that

6 - Untargeted Communication

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.

Recommendations:

  • Align communication with the queue the caller is in
  • How about an online app to check on the status of your existing claim and leave comments/questions for review?

7 - Excess taken out of settlement without prior notice

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.

Recommendations:

  • Don’t just remove an excess from an insurance payment without previously advising the customer
  • Don’t blindly point to the insurance policy as a form of defense for this path of action
  • Invoice customers for the excess instead of take it out of payments which have been made for a purpose
  • If you have to remove excess from a payment, advise the customer beforehand so that they can better plan and manage their cashflow

8 - Contractors too busy to engage during busy periods

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.

Recommendations:

  • In the event that preferred vendors are not available, customers should be permitted to engage their own independent contractors or buy replacement goods up to a certain pre-defined value, especially where time is of the essence and goods stand to perish if not tended to immediately, as was the case with the degeneration of my carpeting.

9 - Communication poor between my insurer and their subcontractor resulting in numerous call backs and follow-ups

  1. The insurer’s sub-contractor had advised me to call the insurer on a Saturday to speak to a client manager. I then waited 30 minutes to get through to the insurer on this occasion and was informed that client managers don’t work on weekends.
  2. I was told to call the insurer by a representative to speak to a client manager at 8am on a weekday. Upon calling, I was informed that client managers don’t start their day until 8:30am upon calling.
  3. On one occasion I was told by an insurance advisor that “we were under the impression that it had all been fixed” despite no work having been performed.

Recommendations:

  • Improve communication between the insurer and sub-contractors (a shared dashboard perhaps?)
  • Ensure all employees of both parties understand when people are available in order to avoid unnecessary customer wait time and further frustration

10 - No Accountability, Ownership or Monitoring

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.

Recommendations:

  • One point of contact
  • Monitoring in place (single dashboard between the insurer and its subcontractors perhaps?)
  • Clear communication lines. If being transferred or told to spend time calling other parties, ensure I am being referred to the right people.

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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Steve Glaveski

Steve Glaveski is the co-founder of Collective Campus, author of Time Rich, Employee to Entrepreneur and host of the Future Squared podcast. He’s a chronic autodidact, and he’s into everything from 80s metal and high-intensity workouts to attempting to surf and do standup comedy.

Ask me a question!