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Edition 296 – Customers…or Numbers

I received an email from AMP, the life insurance behemoth, recently suggesting that I check my details as my premiums had changed. I’ve learned in the past that when a life insurer sends correspondence, make sure you follow it up straight away.

As is the case these days, I logged online to their portal, to be presented with a labyrinth of options. Once I’d figured out where I needed to be, I drilled down into their correspondence listing, clicked on two recent updates, only to be presented with a “Failed to PDF document” message. Thinking it was something I did, I tried again. Same error message. Wondering if it was my own PDF reader, I logged out, back in again and tried again. You guessed it, the same error message.

Running short of time, I set an enquiry via email – which was finally replied to 10 days later. The response from AMP was that we didn’t send you anything on those days, so nothing to worry about, “we hope this clarifies your enquiry”. In other words, it took them 10 days to tell me not to bother.

Puzzled at their response, I logged back into their online portal, clicked on my email enquiry and there was evidence why this company has a plummeting share price. One email query had eight people involved in the process. It’s like there was a flick-passing of my enquiry from pillar to post before finally someone took ownership of the issue.

What is it with these large corporates? Over the past three years, I’ve paid over $60 000 in premiums for various life, keyman and income protection insurance policies. Maybe that’s small beer to some people. It’s not to me.

For $60 000, you’d expect a responsive service that actually answers your query. You’d also expect that when you log into your online portal, you could call up the correspondence history in date order. Alas, even a date sort option doesn’t actually sort the correspondence by date. Go figure!

The lesson for small and family businesses here is that as they grow, they tend to look for ways to manage their growth. Some of those ways involve moving services online, sending call centres offshore and automating some functions. Whilst some of that may work for the company, it counts for nothing if your customer starts to feel like a number.

In business, the customer is the reason for your existence. Customers are ultimately humans. They have lives and engage with businesses on the basis those businesses will improve their condition. The more you push business online (marketed as a benefit to the customer but, actually, a cost saving to the business), the more you’re likely to encourage a disengagement from your business. Should that happen, doesn’t that mean that rather than a growth strategy, you’re onto a contraction strategy?

This Week’s Tip

If you make it too hard for customers to deal with you, they’ll simply walk and find another option.