I’m teaching a series of customer experience workshops for an insurance company. We were looking for an example to bring it all together. So, being a good partner, I went out and got rear-ended. Now I have a great story. (Note to my insurance company: it really wasn’t deliberate!)
Poor Customer Service Hurts
After the accident the other driver and I pulled to a side street. I called the claims number at State Farm, where I’ve been a customer for over 25 years. When an agent answered I told her I was at the accident site, and asked “What should I do?”
She replied, “You can either file a claim with us, or with the other driver’s insurance company. It’s up to you.” Even when I told her that the other driver’s insurance card was expired, she remained noncommittal, repeating that it was my decision. I then asked her if I should file a police report, and she said again, “It’s up to you either way.” So I hung up in frustration.
Eventually I got the other driver’s current insurance card and contacted her carrier Geico. I filed the claim, and then asked this agent “Should I have filed a police report?” The answer was exactly the same, “It’s your choice.”
This is not good. Your customer experience is all about emotions. And after just being in an accident, but finding nobody to give me advice, my emotions weren’t very positive.
More Options, More Problems?
I understand why this happens. Just giving options reduces risk. We don’t want responsibility for a poor outcome. And it feels good to give options. So companies abdicate their advisor role, pushing all the thinking to their customer. But options are only good if your customers have the knowledge to make good decisions.
This isn’t just insurance companies. Doctors give options and you have to choose. Consultants give choices without providing clear context. Retailers offer competing products but don’t help you decide between them. It’s easy to create options. But options without advice puts more pressure on your customers, who don’t know what you know.
State Farm’s strategy to support me whether I file with them or the other company is good. But their implementation is frustrating – particularly when at the scene of an accident. Thinking is bad. Especially in times of stress.
State Farm and Geico handle dozens – probably hundreds – of automobile accidents each day. We have one every 5-10 years. So dumping all the decision-making on the policy holder is silly.
This could have been so much better with just a little context. Imagine if the agent had said, “Most of the time, our customers find it’s easier to work directly with the other driver’s insurance company. However, I’ll be happy to file the claim for you if you prefer.” That small change, and now I know what to do. I probably call the other agency, but I know State Farm has my back.
Similarly, she could have answered my police report question with, “A police report usually isn’t needed for a rear-end collision, since it’s almost always the other driver’s fault. But if it eases your mind, there’s no harm in filing a report.”
Leading customer experience companies design choices. Amazon allows its Prime customers to use its free two-day shipping, but adds in an incentive if I choose ground. They offer choices, but give customers the information they need to decide. My bank offers five different business credit cards, but my banker recommends which is best for my needs.
Decisions make up much of your experience. Do you use your accumulated knowledge to guide your customers? Or do you abdicate your responsibilities and make them think?
By the way, both my daughter Becca and I are fine – no injuries. But we did lose our bumper stickers.