Perhaps it’s the dark gray winter skies that are making me curmudgeonly but I’m having one of those weeks, and at the centre of my frustration are the motor insurers in the United Kingdom.
Changing car has resulted in having to change car insurer or pay three times my current premium. I’d happily stay with the current insurer, give or take a few percentage points, but having to pay three times over the odds helps me overcome my inertia to change. I also lost the no claims bonus as I’d canceled policy four weeks before the end of term date – why isn’t the no claims discount follow policy holder not policy? I lost count of the minutes listening to awful muzak is some call centre queue. One call centre company had to pass me on to another section, who was then unavailable and I was told to call back. Remind me who the customer is here?
And of all the insurers I was dealing with, not one offered a customer portal where I could change my details or cancel my policy. That would have put the power back into my hands as the consumer and would have reduced the pressure on their call centres.
All this speaks to a larger trend in the UK. Our new CIO report for UK insurers makes the point that 2011 is all about growth. Terrific for the shareholders but increasingly a poor deal for the consumer.
Is there great customer service out there? I am sure there is. I’ve even heard about it. But for middle-income, middle England buying personal lines insurance, it’s hard to find. The great economic theories espouse that poorly performing business will be punished by customers moving their money for better deals. But in this case, what choice does the consumer have? As insurers chase down growth, and continue to invest in the front office (see our report), existing policy holders are left with inflexible service and often brutal customer experience.
Where might this all end? What are the factors that could change the state of play? These are great questions for which I have no answer. I’ve sat on conference panels with greater minds than mine, and they shake their heads over the state of personal lines. CEO’s bemoan the power of the aggregator and lack of customer loyalty. As a customer, this is my lament for customer service. I hope someone can prove me wrong.