Surefire ways to lose a customer

Surefire ways to lose a customer

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A recent experience got me thinking about how inconsistent delivery of unheroic stuff is a surefire way to lose customers and erode the value stored in the brand.

The story began when I opened my 2024 car insurance policy. My jaw dropped. After ten years with the same insurer, I’m used to yearly premiums changing depending on various factors, such as whether I made a claim, inflation or if my neighbourhood suddenly became a crime hotspot. But I didn’t expect a 40% hike.

I called them to ask what was going on.

Some background for this story is that I’m super loyal. Once I choose you, it takes a crowbar to prise me away. But the increase was beyond even my boundaries. It was unreasonable and a solid step towards pillaging.

And here’s where the company misstepped. They should have given their customer service people some easy-to-talk-about, solid, sensible sound bites justifying the higher premiums. They didn’t.

It felt like their representatives were left to figure out what to say on the fly. Blah blah, complicated. Yada, yada, yada worker shortages. Something, something, more expensive to fix. Not helped by a slightly condescending, borderline annoyed tone. Still, if I listened to the 10th person that day with the same beef, I’d sound weary and grumpy, too.

At the end of the call, despite our decades long relationship, there wasn’t anything they would do to lower the premium without compromising my coverage. So long and thanks for all the fish; it was time for me to look around for a new insurer.

I’d seen the other insurer’s jaunty, friendly ads and largely ignored them. But now I thought, let’s see what they offer — yes, the long-tail impact of ads is real.

Right from hello, the call was distinctly different. Instead of starting with the transactional, “What can I help you with?” the customer service person asked, “How is your day?”.

Starting with a more general and personal question changed the tone of everything that followed. Creating a space to speak conversationally, peppering friendly chatter about walks on the beach and dinner plans among standard insurance questions.

It never felt rushed or like they were reading a script. They highlighted when they were about to recite ‘legal stuff’. The clear shift to ‘information we have to tell you’ allowed my rep to cover the nitty gritty policy obligations — don’t fib, you’re responsible, etc, while staying in friendly mode.

After nailing down the details, they gave me a very competitive offer. I asked to get back to them in the morning, but my representative was happy to call me, and we agreed on a time.

Bang at 8.30 the following morning, my phone rang. Yesterday’s representative was unwell and had flagged a co-worker to call me. But it wasn’t a problem. I experienced handover heaven with the same friendly style, and we picked up where I’d left off, tweaking a few particulars.

I still wanted to give my current insurer one last chance; 95% sure they wouldn’t budge. But ditching ten years without that courtesy felt wrong. Unsurprisingly, I got no love from my insurer. They could only give me a minimal ‘discount’.

My future insurer and I had chosen a call time to finalise things. But my representative from the morning was stuck in a meeting, so at 12.30 there was a different co-worker on the line. Another seamless handover, and we finalised my policy. I hope they shared the commission because they had me at ‘they asked me to call you’.

No representative roulette in sight. Each person I talked to was equally personable, informed and even cheerful. Good hiring or good training? Likely a bit of both.

Technology makes it relatively simple to hand off, flag, and track what needs doing. So why don’t more organisations do it? Maybe they are. Admittedly I only call customer service sometimes.

So, back to those missed opportunities to mint value stored in the brand.

It’s a head-scratcher because little things that aren’t hard to do — such as returning a call on time, get noticed. The big picture shaping a company’s choices is mostly out of sight. Meanwhile, the more personable, everyday actions stick.

It’s why my old insurer did themselves a huge disservice by not equipping the people in their call centre with proper talking points and some leeway about dealing with unhappy customers.

They treated me like a policy, not a person. And in the process, they lost both.

There are two lessons from this story: If changes negatively impact customers, get your talking points in a row to help prevent value from eroding. And look for everyday areas to boost people’s experience so you can add value.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. My new insurer is Youi

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