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Customer-Focused Insurance: An Oxymoron?

Is there a Customer Service Issue?

Buddha Bar.jpg

The terms “customer-centricity” and “customer-focused” are systematically sprinkled across corporate PowerPoint presentations, mission statements, brochures, and web sites. However, you rarely witness an insurance company “walking the talk” and truly delivering a superior customer experience.

What are the TOP 5 typical customer reactions when dealing with insurers at the buy and, ultimate moment of truth, claims interaction stages?

> Overly lengthy paper-based application forms. Has the industry heard of apps!?

> Convoluted, confusing, and lengthy policy wordings.

> Product-pushing instead of matching customer profiles and lifestyle needs to products and services.

> Too much focus on single-product instead of whole-customer profitability.

> Declinature or delays in claims handling.

A Truly Amazing Customer Experience

Let me share with you the best customer experience I have ever witnessed. I was having dinner with Brian Reilly, my successor as CEO of Zurich Insurance Middle East, at the Buddha Bar in Dubai. We were both blown away with how he was treated that hot and humid August 2013 evening.

We had just been seated at the dinner table, after a short stop at the bar earlier where a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc vanished shortly after we started catching up on the happenings in our personal lives. As the appetizers were being served, the waiter spilled sauce on Brian’s shirt.

The restaurant manager arrived within less than two minutes. He greeted us, apologized for the incident, and offered Brian a replacement shirt. He promised that Brian’s stained shirt will be dry-cleaned and brought back within forty five minutes.

We hesitated at first as we figured it could take a couple of hours but were confidently assured that forty five minutes is all it takes; “You’ll have your shirt back in time for dessert sir.”

We enjoyed dinner and drinks and continued to talk shop. We kept an eye on the clock. Guess what? The shirt was brought back around forty minutes later.

I told this story to many people, wrote about it in The Insurance Management Playbook, and am now blogging about it as it was a truly amazing customer experience. The thoughtfulness of the Buddha Bar management to have shirt replacement and cleaning services was great in and of itself.

To actually deliver on the promise, on time and with a smile, was just mindboggling.

How to Improve Customer Service in the Insurance Industry with a few Simple Steps?

In the Playbook I examine how we in the insurance business compare to the great folks at the Buddha Bar and, more importantly, provide guidance on how we can change to deliver a customer experience that is as good as the one I witnessed, if not better. Here are the main takeaways:

> Set the tone from the top when building a customer-centric organization.

> Trust and verify to make sure your teams are laser-focused on the customer.

> Innovate with the customer in mind. Unless your company is as creative as Apple, get customer feedback before launching products.

> Avoid service slippage. It could cost you billions.

> Measure customer satisfaction constantly. Use NPS to gauge customer loyalty.

> Your complaints register should be reviewed at senior levels and prompt corrective action must be taken.

> Focus on customers not just products.

> Put SLAs in place and measure them.

> Continuously improve on IT and operational efficiency.

> Establish an Office of the Customer (OOC) to better understand customers and drive higher retention rates, product density, and better results.

> Call your customer on Valentine’s Day and lead by example.

Call to Action

Have you witnessed a great customer experience moment? Do you have additional tips and guidance on how our industry's customer service standards can improve? Please share!

Next Monday's topic will be about Claims: Your Front Office. Stay tuned.

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