Your Natural Best Friend will certainly know that you are sad. But will your customer service chat bot know?
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.
· The renewal cost to the insurer is a function of the amount of time (read resources) a policy requires in it’s handling, so just how much is this renewal costing them?
· What technology is in place, and how much automation is being leveraged? Do they have a workflow system?
· How paperless is the process? Have they scanned in the surveyor documents to reduce the friction costs of passing this through the organization?
· Have they considered using mobile updates to the customer to keep them informed of progress? My on-line supermarket uses a similar process with fantastic results.But all is not lost – there is a glimmer of hope for UK PLC customer service. I had an email from Kwik-Fit just after my last blog post, who commiserated with me and informed me of their unuique approach to customer service in personal lines (motor only at this point). This company has account managers assigned to customers and this account manager is responsible for the sale, and post-sale service. As a Kwik-fit customer, I would have this person’s name, and direct number. Any changes that I need to make, or any queries at renewal, I can call this person directly. What a refreshing change. A key element to customer service is keeping the customer informed and such direct access into the organization does just that. I challenge my house insurer to take a note out of the customer-service booklet of Kwik-fit. The old adage is that insurance is sold and not bought, inferring that it’s a forced purchase. Whilst that is true, insurers could learn a lot from best practice in the retail industry who know the value of looking after the customer. So for this month, the Onion award goes to my house insurer (who shall remain nameless), and the Orchid Award goes to Kwik-fit. NOTE: This author has no shares or any other links to Kwik-fit!