After more than a year of wrangling with our insurance company about water damage in our kitchen we’ve finally given it up as a bad job and thrown ourselves on the mercy of the Financial Ombudsman Service. Anyone with a gripe about a financial service provider can go to them for adjudication, although we’ve had a letter saying that they will look at our issue within the next six months, so we may not be looking at a speedy resolution.
What’s driving your business – customers or processes?
The last straw with the insurers was their response to our final letter of complaint about what had happened. They were mystified that we didn’t feel they’d done everything possible – despite the fact that 12 months on from lodging the claim our kitchen looks like this:
They went through each point of our complaint and showed us that at almost each stage their actions were absolutely in line with company expectations, and in the few areas where they had fallen short teams would be given feedback on how to improve. Our actual experience of what it’s like to deal with them was outweighed by their confidence that the systems they had set up had worked as intended. There was such a total failure to see the situation from their customers’ perspective that it would have been funny – except it leaves me still hoovering brick dust off the stairs.
The customer defection capital of the West
The focus on internal business process rather than the actual experience of real live customers must be the very definition of bad customer service. Complaints, though difficult to hear, should be valuable in showing where systems are failing. They’re not personal assaults to be fended off at all costs.
Insurance companies – like any other businesses – should think about the cost of customer churn to their bottom line. The Institute of Loss Adjusters has a piece on its website describing the UK as the customer defection capital of the West – and suggests that insurance companies in the UK are worse than their European or US counterparts for the rate at which customers decide to move on. They should bear in mind that it costs more to recruit a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. Good customer service is how you hold on to customers who are otherwise willing and able to take their business elsewhere.