When vendors become customers – My real world experience

As an insurance technology Sales Executive, I spend a majority of my days talking with carriers regarding the challenges they face with creating a meaningful customer experience for their policyholders, while at the same time focusing on growth and improving efficiency. This is especially true for the typical mid-tier property and casualty carriers who face the unique challenges of trying to protect their customers from the smaller regional carriers nipping at their heels trying to gain market share, and the top tier carriers who easily outspend them on technology, marketing, advertising, and customer service. While this type of conversation is pretty typical, I was never able to fully internalize just how important providing a winning customer experience was until something happened. Something that had never happened to me before. I found myself in a situation where I was the customer and my experience was, shall we say, less than optimal.

Here’s what happened

Let’s rewind back to the winter of 2014-2015 when the Boston area was hit with one of the most severe winters in history. We had it all; snow, ice, more snow, more ice, AND bone chilling temperatures. It was a daunting winter, even for a snow fan like myself. My wife and I had been living in our home for the last 4 years and never had any real problems. Everything was fairly new and harsh winters never gave us any real problems. That all changed when one morning I was sitting in my office and noticed a water mark on my ceiling. It was small and I figured it was nothing, but I decided to investigate further and explore the attic and those areas that one usually does not pay much attention to.

What I found was disheartening; several fresh water spots and frozen icicles in the attic. In a panic, being that this was the first time I have ever experienced anything wrong with my home, I called my carrier and got the claims process started. That first experience with them was fantastic. I was told all the necessary information I needed and when I should expect a call from the adjuster. I felt better. They calmed me down.

That’s when it all changed

My great experience with them was a single occurrence. Following the visit from the independent adjuster, I could not get any information from the carrier, I had no idea where my claim was at or when I would get an answer. I had to always initiate the communication and it took calling into my carrier several times for an update. Now granted, I understand the winter was horrendous and there were other people in far worse shape than us, but when an ice damn is invading your home, is a simple update too much to expect? I wanted something to show that I was not forgotten. I felt like I was in limbo not knowing exactly how the process was going to move forward. This started to wear on us. I remember one day sitting in my office talking to my wife saying, “How hard is it to send an automated notification letting me know that my carrier is working on it, I mean I just want a little bit of love from them.” As you can imagine, my wife found this to be amusing, but at that point it hit me… I was having a not so great customer experience. Not only did I have to deal with my problems, I now had to deal with the internal problems of the carrier.

Fast forward about two months later, I randomly receive a check from my carrier. I was never informed that a check was being cut and there was no indication what the check was even for. I had to call my carrier and leave a message, wait for a call back, have them leave me a message, call them back (repeat several more times). Over a week later we were finally able to connect with them to get an answer on what the check was for. Once again, another not so great customer experience that could have been completely avoided with some simple communication.

As you may have guessed, my insurance carrier is a mid-tier player who has always treated me well and never gave me any issues. Well, truth be told, my only interaction with them was when I paid my premium each month. But at the time I needed them, I now have a better appreciation for the importance of great customer engagement. Something as simple as an automated email with claim information just letting the policyholder know where things are at can be the difference between a loyal customer who will rave to their family and friends, and social media about their carrier experience, versus a customer who would be open to shop their business to other carriers who provide a higher level of service to their policyholders. Moreover, that same customer may even be willing to spend a few dollars more to be shown the tiniest bit of love during what they perceive to be a stressful life experience.