When marketing and sales forget who the customer is

Fedja HvastijaSales

Has an insurance company ever actively tried to lose you as a customer? I used to wonder whether I was just unlucky as a customer or my job conditioned me to lose my temper in situations that are considered normal in my environment. I am writing this article while pondering these questions and I hope I will find some perspective on the subject in the comments.

It began with paying insurance premiums year after year. I have insured everything I could at a foreign insurance company – one of those that bundle their products together with banking products. Our housing loan came with an advice to take out a housing policy and a life insurance policy (they may have had some concern about my driving) for me and my wife. Since we were already there, we added car insurance to the list – everyone knows you can get better conditions if the same provider handles all your policies.

We established a nice routine and kept renewing our insurances (those that are not automatically renewed) until it was time to renew our car insurance again a couple of days ago. My wife went to their local office and paid about 420 EUR for the car insurance policy. This seemed strange to me, since we own a run-of-the-mill Alfa Romeo with a diesel engine.

I was a bit curious, so I filled out a form for car insurance on WIZ’s webpage using my phone while having a smoke in the scorching sun on our family balcony. FrodX has been working with WIZ for a while now and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, since some of my coworkers insured their cars there. This was followed by the first surprise. The offered insurance policy was almost 30% cheaper.

I will repeat this, since it’s important. The insurance company where all of my belongings and family members are insured charged me 30% more than WIZ, a company where I had no prior insurance policies.

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They seemed to have forgotten about the spirit of partnership and the discounts that had drawn us to them. This really riled me up, and I immediately started to look for information that could help me cancel my insurance policy, so I could insure my car elsewhere. But this immediacy gave way to other pressing issues, so I forgot about the whole thing for about a week, until our Alfa did the thing Alfas are famous for. It had finally given up on us on our parking lot.

Quickly buying a new car became a top priority. The Alfa was the only family car (try being without a car a couple of days in this scorching summer), and therefore I focused my efforts on finding a new one, so I could get back on track. And then it was time to insure it again. As if I was not exhausted enough from the heat, asking my coworker to pick me up and drive me to work, arranging the car loan with the bank and haggling with the used car salesmen who conveniently forgot to tell me that the car was in an accident … Now I had to deal with car insurance, and I recently had a bad experience with it.

Then I thought OK, I’ll let it be. It might have been a mistake, I haven’t asked them to explain themselves yet. Since my wife is on maternity leave and has more time to handle phones, I asked her to call them again. I specifically mentioned the following: »do mention that we were surprised that they were 25% more expensive than Wiz since we insured all of our stuff there«. This was quite nice and diplomatic phrasing for a Skype chat.

She was unable to reach anyone on the phone at their office, so she had to send an email. She sent a nicely phrased inquiry and waited for an answer. She waited for a while, and then a little while longer … They don’t seem to be very responsive, she said. We were in a hurry and she was getting nervous and then … deliverance. The insurance company was returning the call. She was relieved to describe our problem to the representative from the Kranj branch: We want to insure our new car with comprehensive cover and we already have policies for two immovable properties (one is our apartment, and the other is the Italian lady on the parking lot). She also mentioned that she had sent an email inquiry, but hadn’t received an answer yet. As soon as she mentioned an email inquiry, the insurance company employee who must have been a “sales representative” or a “customer service representative” answered: »Oh, someone else will handle it then.“, and quickly ended the conversation. Can you believe that?

I went to the MOT to insure my car the same evening and since they offer insurance by different providers, I asked the nice lady at the counter to prepare a couple of offers for car insurance, but leave my current insurance company out.

The next day, after I already told the story about Slovenian customer service to all my coworkers and some of my friends, I got another call from the insurance company. This time it was from their call center and they wanted to know whether we were satisfied with our insurance policy, but mostly whether we were offered some inconsequential seasonal discount and whether we would like to transfer our health insurance to their company. I gave them an honest opinion of their work and why I have no intention of taking out additional insurance policies. Has this information reached anyone? Has anyone apologized? Not yet.

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I keep thinking about the entire thing. Insurance companies spend huge amounts of money for advertising and fight for every new customer. This is the hardest part in insurance, since we tend to stick with one insurance company where we keep renewing our policies without any hassle or thinking about going to the competition. How did this insurance company manage to lose a customer that relied on them for every major policy and renewed them regularly without any damage claims? They had only one job – do not make me too angry. Is this just the way they do business and have no idea what’s going on in the field?

Who is to blame? The lady in the branch or her boss? Seems that the sales commission is not an important part of their salaries. Any independent insurance agent can tell you that gaining a long term customer by being as nice as possible and providing the best discounts possible is the most important thing in their job. None of them would risk losing a customer just because of a single commission. Could HR take the blame, since they obviously do not provide proper training for the sales representatives in the branches, recipients of email inquiries and call center managers? Maybe none of them cares. Maybe there is no one responsible for the bottom line in the Slovenian branch of this international corporation.

I think that such business practices mostly show big mistakes of the marketing department. If the marketing department only focuses on using the advertising budget, who is going to ensure customer satisfaction? Who will evaluate customer satisfaction and ensure an optimal customer journey? The sales department apparently won’t. When the call center recognizes a big mistake which caused the loss of the customer, who will establish contact with the customer and try to figure out what went wrong? These tasks should be relegated to the marketing department if they are the ones who handle measurable business growth and manage the yearly loss of customers.

We like to complain about digital marketing and advertising and keep forgetting this crucial, physical component of marketing – the customer-focused culture at all levels of the company. This is customer care in its most basic form – every representative of the company should be a brand ambassador and establish a genuine relationship with the customers – or offend them and lose them.

The customer-focused culture at all levels of the company is too easily forgotten. Click To Tweet

Could this have happened in your company? Would you even recognize the problem, since no company representative in this story had any sense of responsibility for solving customer issues? Or am I just overreacting and this is just business as usual in Slovenia?

 

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About the Author

Fedja Hvastija

Fedja joined FrodX as a digital marketing strategist after working for an international company where he specialised in global B2B marketing. His experience make him an expert in the fields of conversion optimization, marketing analytics, and sales processes. Whether our clients need an out-of-the-box perspective or a structured and logical campaign flow he delivers both with the end consumers and our clients’ success in mind.