Five pieces of free advice for customer services departments, hard-won from five months dealing with my buildings insurance company…
1. Make it easy for your customers to talk to you. This is the 21st century. Embrace it. Use email. If you INSIST on using snail mail to conduct your business, build in some way of letting people know that letters have arrived – you could do it via email!
2. One person dealing with an issue helps your customers feel more secure. Insurance claims can be complicated and take a while to sort out. It would help your customers’ blood pressure if they had one person to deal with, rather than having to repeat the same information every time they speak to you. Oh, and sending out letters giving the name of “your personal claims adviser” and sending a different name every time doesn’t help.
3. Keep your customers informed. If they’re contacting you about a building insurance claim, something drastic has happened to their home. That’s their biggest asset and the possession in which they have most invested emotionally as well as financially. They want to know you’re on their side. They want to know what’s happening and they want to understand a process which they might never have had to deal with before. Tell them what’s going on. Don’t make them chase you for information. Don’t assume they know what’s going to happen. Put stuff in writing. There is more information on my insurers’ website about how to buy a toy version of their mascot than there is about what might happen if you need to make a claim.
4. Make it easy for your customers to tell you how they feel. I mentioned the fact that I didn’t know what was going on with my claim when I was on the phone to them a couple of weeks ago – just after I’d had a phone call out of the blue from a “disaster recovery company” confirming that they would be coming to the house the next day to install their equipment. I’ve now had an email request to give the insurers the details of my “complaint” so that they can improve their service in future. Which is nice. Except the email just links to a standard multiple choice form about how satisfied I was (or was not) with the member of staff who dealt with my complaint. It’s not the staff I’m worried about, it’s the process that needs changing. There is nowhere for me to tell them what I’m concerned about. It looks like a tick-box exercise, not a serious attempt to engage with a problem.
5. Communicate Actually all of this boils down to one piece of advice. Communicate with your customers. Put yourself in their shoes. Mentally walk through the process your company asks your customers to go through when they deal with you. What would you like to know at the beginning, middle and end of the process? How would you want to be dealt with while it’s grinding on? Do that. It’s not hard. A nodding dog should be able to do it.