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Call centre challenges which insurance companies, large and small, faced during the early weeks of the pandemic are still being felt today. Some have dealt with the situation making sure staff and customers have been valued and listened to, some have really struggled.
“I have spent 11 hours queueing” is a phrase I read on social media recently. This was a public message from a customer to her insurer. Twitter is littered with unhappy insurance customers, trying to make contact with their insurance companies and feeling like they are not getting anywhere. The phrase “round and round in circles” is not uncommon.
I have a flight booked with Air Canada which was due to leave last week and my own travel insurer has been telling people they should not submit a claim until less than seven days before travel. They have also said customers should only submit a claim if they have exhausted all possible avenues with the travel company they booked through. It's worrying not knowing what to do or whether, if you don't do the right thing, the insurer will reject the claim on, what could feel like, a technicality.
The mood of the people seemed understanding of these delays in the first few days. We were all facing an unprecedented situation. People appreciated that insurers needed to set up processes, but even three months on, even the most patient of customers feel like these services have not adjusted to help them at all.
Some insurers are providing helpful advice. It seems to be mostly requests for people to continue to be patient. This means the customers and the front-line staff who are answering the telephones, are bearing the brunt.
It seems to me that many insurers thought this was only going to be an issue for a few weeks. They also felt they could direct many claimants getting refunds for cancelled holidays, from the travel company or from their credit card. These people are now being passed from pillar to post and communications in many cases continue to be unclear.
How can insurers make sure they are keeping their customers in the loop and show understanding for their situations too? How does going entirely online or using chat bots affect people and business? I have heard customers getting angry and insurance teams reaching breaking point.
This is an opportunity for insurers to take a step back from the way they have always been doing things and really look at how they can change. Now, more than ever, insurers must listen to their customers and take advantage of new technology and flexible working to up their game. They could come out of this with a more efficient, customer-centric organisation.
Why not sit down with a blank sheet of paper and a focus group and with the benefit of new technology think about what you can create? Be amazing!
I recently heard a story of a company that had been able to use technology to move its call centres online. The security is a challenge, but think what you could achieve if you could do this, not just now but for business as usual.
It's not just the customers who will benefit. Think how much less stressed your staff will be, if they don't have to travel to the office every day. Also what about all the people you could employ on a part-time/flexible basis? People who may not be able to travel to work for only a few hours could do this easily if they work from home.
There are so many ways to adjust and adapt our ways of working to be better. When dust has settled is the perfect time to reflect and review, so that next time something like this happens, we are all ready.
Author: Sally Pearce (Conduct Matters Ltd)
Sally Pearce started Conduct Matters in 2014 after 35 years working in the insurance industry. She was originally an underwriter, but since 2000 has worked in dispute resolution and helping Insurance firms understand how to treat their customers fairly. Her experience includes working for the Financial Ombudsman, in the Lloyd’s market and dealing with regulators. Sally is ACII, a qualified mediator and yoga teacher. She is also available for public speaking.