It’s January and, in my case, it’s that time for insurance renewals. I wonder if it’s got any better in the past few years? The next few days will tell. But the first steps say ….well yes and no.

Multitrip travel insurance, sent me one self explanatory email, priced reasonably, I did nothing. Perfect. RH Insurance (specialists in old cars) wrote one letter, I made one very efficient call. See – it can be done well.

I tweeted last week about the renewal letter from Admiral Insurance. It told me to contact myself. It didn’t say what the renewal price was. It did have lots of marketing blurb about “saving time and money”.

And it hit on my “favourite” problem with Admiral – they’ve previously taken payment from my credit card without permission. So several times and on several occasions I have told them they do not have permission to hold my credit card details. Every time they say they have deleted those details. Their letter suggests they still hold them and the phone call confirms it. I tell them again and I tell them not to auto renew.

It could be that the system overrides deletions. It could be that everyone is trained to say they’ve deleted when they haven’t. But whatever the reason – its systematic and must by definition therefore be deliberate lack of action. Others have tweeted of similar admin and payment problems eg http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=842921.

But if you’re not Admiral – don’t get smug, you’re probably just as ordinary! And you probably don’t make a healthy £300m on £2.2bn, increasing profits by 38% on a 22% increase in customers to 3.36m.

Given other current & past experiences with Admiral it’s highly unlikely I’ll renew with them. They cannot fulfil the promise of a multi-car policy – less paperwork (not just less money). There is such an opportunity for one of the big insurance players to get this customer effort thing right just like the smaller players can.

Here are 3 other examples of customer effort  this last year – which will result in 2 “no renewals” for Admiral:

1) My wife’s policy – she’s tried for about a month to get a printed copy of insurance for one of her cars on her policy. The website didn’t work and repeated requests by phone led to the wrong car, the wrong address. She finally got a copy when they sent it in error to my email address as a named driver – something they’re not supposed to do. She curses at the mention of their name.

2) Yesterday we had someone run in the back of my car (oh yes, the one I just sold….happy, not!). We reported the minor claim anyway but the first part of the process was to run through the whole set of details on record, not to take the claim. At best it’s a waste of time, especially since one doesn’t carry the details around. At worst it’s an attempt to negate the insurance. Sorry, but I lost it big style and the word dumb was used many times….. In fairness the agent stayed calm. So the claim call took forever. And the poorly implemented training to ask “how are you today?” doesn’t go well with reporting a claim. I know because they did it again when I had to call again to tell them to call off the accident management company we’d said we didn’t want.

3) And how can I forget the 10 copies of a single letter I received on return from holiday. Each telling me I was being billed £0.00. From the credit card they weren’t supposed to have!  The letters and paperwork are awful.

The point is one cannot have confidence in a company that cant get anything right. So they wont get the renewal business. Lesson 1: Spend on marketing & sales must be matched by spend on service & buying experience.

They didn’t do this on purpose – the systematic reason probably lies with the board not investing in customer support at the appropriate time and rate they invested in sales growth. Lesson 2: Service needs to keep up with rapidly increasing demand or it goes from bad to worse.  Lesson 3: Marketing is the customer experience not the ad or brochure – see http://www.budd.uk.com/blog/is-marketing-dead-yes-at-least-as-we-knew-it/

They’re probably worrying about retention rates by now, even though they insure 10% of the UK car market. And the cost of support is probably spiralling. But profits and growth continue at record levels. So does customer experience matter? Maybe only when large scale competitors can compete on proposition, underwriting/price, sales AND service.

Yet googling Admiral, the founder sounds brilliant, the employee treatment has been fab and the growth is amazing. So here’s my theory: the senior team do care. And they’re probably frustrated as hell and looking for systemic answers but spending money fast on sticking plasters.

Looking back at previous blogs I can see things haven’t improved across the industry or for Admiral. Except for one or two companies. For example I haven’t mentioned LV who do my home insurance – I’ve had no need, all very simple. And I know they’ve invested hard in service.

So maybe its ok for now for Admiral. I didn’t blog on renewals with customer effort last year, but I did the 2 previous years:

http://www.budd.uk.com/blog/how-hard-can-it-be-to-buy-insurance-my-customer-journey/ 14.1.11

http://www.budd.uk.com/blog/ms-money-customer-effort-in-sales-an-example-of-how-the-little-things-make-it-too-hard-to-buy-even-from-the-best-companies/ 13.1.10

And some thoughts on working the customer journeys: http://www.budd.uk.com/blog/identify-the-need-and-follow-the-journey/ 30.5.11

Tomorrow we start work with another of the major insurers – I suspect not dissimilar to Admiral. I wonder how the senior team see customer experience relative to sales and retention?

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