I’ve lost count of the number of bad experiences I’ve been reading about lately involving insurance firms, and it’s simply not acceptable. Insurance, lest we forget, is a form of compensation for victims – victims of crime, accidents or emergencies. These victims are then left to trust that an insurer will keep their end of the deal if a claim ever becomes necessary. But during these straitened times, insurers have been ready to reinterpret their own policies to deny claims and shirk responsibility.
And, frankly, it’s horrible not to have that confidence. Unlike other standard financial products where we tend to know what we’re getting, insurance is a precautionary product, designed to reimburse only after an unexpected event. Increasingly, it’s turning into more of a gamble that the insurer is, to coin a phrase, “a man of its word”.
We may think this is surprising; not because of the mentality of profit-making insurers per se, but because the social media age makes it far easier to expose bad customer service. Common sense suggests that insurers should be improving their game to avoid bad publicity. But it wouldn’t surprise me if insurers believe that they’ve already weathered the storm. It’s only exposure in national newspapers that seems to trouble them a great deal.
Until now, that is.
The Financial Conduct Authority says it’s now preparing to tackle the insurance sector, which has caught traces of the same disease that has riddled banks. Furthermore, a number of smaller firms are hoping to exploit this tide of disgruntlement by fashioning themselves as customer-centric alternatives to the big name insurers, in the same way that “challenger” Metro Bank has set itself up against traditional high-street banks.
One new home insurer, Together Mutual Insurance, agrees that customers are so sick of dealing with rude and unsympathetic staff that they’ve come to expect much lower levels of service than they are entitled to. Research commissioned by the firm has revealed that 62% of customers expect poor service from financial service providers.
To the firm’s CEO, Ian Cracknell, UK customer service leaves something to be desired.
I think we’ve all had experiences of poor customer services – particularly in the UK where, quite often, you don’t get through to talk to a real person when you phone up with a query or problem that you’ve got.
And if you do speak to a person initially, sometimes they are empathetic and will take some information, but then cannot answer your query because they don’t have the information or expertise to be able to do it, so they pass you on to somebody else and you have to go through the same process again with that person.
Ian Cracknell, CEO, Together Mutual Insurance.
In a bid to turn this impression of the industry around, the firm has released a video with tips on how to get a step ahead in making a quick and painless claim.
Top Tips for a Quick Claim
- Act quickly. Contact the insurer as soon as possible after an event has occurred. Make a note of the person you’re speaking to and the date that you spoke to them.
- Gather evidence. Collect any receipts for property that has been lost or stolen and make a note of the date and time when the incident occurred.
- Obtain a crime number. If you have anything stolen, or lose an item, contact the police as soon as possible and get a crime number.
- Record everything. Make a note of dates and times along the way, and provide this to customer advisers when you speak with them initially.
Unsurprisingly, the firm’s survey also found that companies which provide good customer service enjoyed repeat purchases, renewed contracts, and positive recommendations. It hardly seems like rocket science, but the insurance sector seems to have worked against this in recent years, uniting itself in a Dickensian parsimony instead.
Good luck, Together Mutual. Perhaps this is a cog in the wheel to another revolution.