I recently took out a new home insurance policy with Swinton, a long established and well recognised UK Insurance company. The process of buying my insurance was straight forward – I popped the relevant details into their on-line quoting system on their web-site, found a competitive quote that suited me, and paid for the policy on-line using credit card. Simple, and effective.
I received an e-mail back confirming my purchase, and was told that my insurance documents would be posted to me within 7 days. Posted? Hmmm. As somebody who lives his life virtually paper free – keeping all my documents electronically – I didn’t care for the thought of receiving a large insurance policy document via the post, a document that I’d then have to scan in to store electronically.
Customer Courtesy Calls
As if by magic, I then received a telephone call from a nice chap from my local Swinton branch – ringing to introduce himself and to make sure I had everything I needed.
This was a very welcome call and I applaud Swinton for taking this route, as in my experience telephone always trumps e-mail for building a relationship.
After introducing himself, the chap from Swinton asked if I had any questions. “Yes. It’s a little inconvenient to have the documents posted to me, do you think you could e-mail them across” I asked.
“No. I’m afraid we can’t” he replied “We only send out printed policies” the man “explained”.
I went on to ask that if he was going to print the document and post it to me, could he not just e-mail me the document instead?
“I’m afraid we don’t have external e-mail” he shared. Rather flabbergasted, and wondering if I’d stumbled into a time paradox which had connected my call to an insurance salesman from the 1970’s, I expressed surprise, and asked him if he had a scanner in the office. I rather suspect this gentleman knew where my line of questioning was leading, and so told me “No, I’m afraid not”.
(As a side note, for any IT companies reading – Swinton Birmingham Kings Heath branch don’t own a scanner nor do they have external e-mail. If I still owned an IT company, I’d be giving them a call to see if I could help modernise their office infrastructure!)
The Sales Call
It’s at this point that, having to my mind rather blustered through the “Is there anything I can help you with?” and failed to help me at all, the true nature of the call started to become apparent.
“Can I take a moment to tell you about our Motor Insurance Policy?” he asked.
“No thank-you”. I replied.
“But I think we could save you money. Can I just get a few details so we can check?”.
“No thank-you. I’m not interested”. I replied.
At this point I realised the call wasn’t a “courtesy” call at all, but a call to upsell me to Swinton’s other services.
What went wrong with this “Customer Service?”
Now, I’ve no problem with being upsold to. If this individual from Swinton had tried to help me with my electronic document issue, or even empathised with me and my situation, I would have happily continued the conversation.
If, unable to e-mail me the file he was about to print, this chap had offered to scan the same document back in and e-mail it to me as an electronic file, I would have gratefully shared all my insurance renewal dates with him – from my motor car to my pet insurance.
Even if the chap had empathised with me, and said he would feed back to his manager and/or Head Office of my frustrations, I would have appreciated the gesture and continued the call.
But he didn’t – and he gave the impression that he wasn’t actually interested in “Customer Service” at all, he wanted to skip straight to “Customer Selling”.
In other words, the call wasn’t about me at all – it was about him.
How it makes the customer feel
Only an hour into my becoming a new customer, my perception of Swinton Insurance had changed from a positive outlook to the view that they are at best, old fashioned, and at worst, unhelpful.
This view was, unfortunately, compounded when I took to Twitter to ask Swinton why they were unable to embrace e-mail.
I never received a response (although I did receive a Re-Tweet from what I can assume is a fellow frustrated Swinton customer). In fact, like many Corporates, it appears Swinton Group don’t “get” Twitter – using it as a loudspeaker to shout about themselves from, rather than seize the opportunity to use it as a platform to encourage engagement with their customers and prospective customers.
Now it might seem I’m unfairly picking upon Swinton here. Unlike Swinton, many Insurance companies would never dream of picking up the telephone to introduce themselves to a new customer at all. But by doing so, Swinton have to understand that they’re opening themselves up to customer feedback and be prepared to actually listen.
- If your company is going to make “Customer Service” telephone calls – be prepared to offer customer service.
- If your company is going to establish a presence on Twitter – be prepared to engage in conversation.
In both instances, I think Swinton have taken an opportunity to serve their customers and based how they offer this “Customer Service” on how they can sell more product instead.
I’d like to suggest to Swinton that the selling part comes after you’ve built trust, not before.
The Lesson for your Business
Is your “Customer Service” actually focused on your customer, or is it, in reality, all about you?
Are your “Customer Service” processes rigid or flexible? If your customers throws you a question that falls outside of the usual “script” are your staff empowered to do something to help, or are they shackled by trying to subdue or eliminate the question and quickly move on?
Ultimately, do your customers feel that your business is there to help them – or pay lip-service to the term “Customer Service”?