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 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.
- Let people know what the approximate wait time is
- Let people know what position they’re
- Offer a ‘wait in silence’ service
- Offer a
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.
- 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.
- Provide the option to
4 - Poor Social Media Engagement
- 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.
- 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 existing claims queue.
- 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
After sleeping on my couch for five weeks due to a ruined, wet
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.
- 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
- If you 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
- 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?