How Policyholders' Complaints Are Improving Service in Insurance

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Monday, August 31, 2020  / 10:18 AM  /By Ekerete Ola Gam-Ikon  / Header Image Credit: Magzter


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Did someone say "Every disappointment is a blessing in disguise"? How true this has become for the insurance industry in Nigeria where insurers are turning complaints from their customers (policyholders) into opportunities to uphold their image, tinker with their processes and fine tune their strategies. You might wonder why any business would wait for customers to complain before they address the areas that need adjustments or improvement, but with insurance, where the impression is crucial when claims arise, the speed at which the insurer responds to keep the promise made to the customer is what counts. It had always been the winning strategy for insurance business anywhere in the world - prompt claims payment trumps any other thing you will do to win and retain policyholders. Ask the leading insurers what has taken them to the top and kept them there, and they will tell you, it has been their claims payment record. Then ask potential or existing policyholders what they want most from insurers and they will tell you, speedy resolution of claims!


Complaints As Food

Insurers that are committed to growth in the long term do understand that the complaints of their policyholders serve as their food. They eat up complaints. When they have meetings, they serve their executives with policyholders' complaints and they never get tired of hearing those complaints and discussing until they are resolved, and as you do know, complaints do not stop or end.


The painful truth is that when you are in the business of "selling promises" as insurers do, you will appreciate that disappointments are likely to occur in that moment that you are required to fulfill your promise; from human errors to system failure and even sabotage, just name the reasons you can have. However, it is your ability to take quick positive actions when the complaints have reached you, often without the customers knowing how you did it, that will often make the difference. 


Case Study

Quite recently, a frontline insurance company in Nigeria had the following complaint (paraphrased) posted by the Policyholder's Consultant on an online platform I am part of:


"A friend of mine has child education policy with Insurer X. He made payments for a couple of months but could not continue. Total payment made according to him is in excess of N500,000.00 (about $1,300). He is currently very broke and unable to meet his obligations to his family. After months of several reminders about his request to determine the contract and get some payment even on ex gratia knowing that he defaulted in his monthly remittances, he received a call last week stating that he cannot get anything due to policy conditions. Broken and feeling cheated, he has decided to go to the press, the regulator, and probably a law suit to drag Insurer X in the mud. I bring this matter here for advice."


Expectedly, comments and questions followed, and as it turned out, a top Executive of the insurance company, who is part of the platform commented thus, in response (paraphrased):


"Good morning everyone, I was actually surprised to see this. However, considering the kind of business we do, some of these challenges usually comes up and they are usually resolved amicably. We will get across to the Consultant to get the details of the Customer and you can be rest assured he will get justice. We value our customers and they are at the heart of our business. What we have done as a company is to change the narrative of Insurance over the years to which all of you can attest to and we will continue to do that. We are in existence because of our "CUSTOMERS".


A couple of hours later, the Consultant returns with this post (paraphrased):


"Further to my post on Insurer X and my client on his life policies, I am glad to inform the house that I have received a discharge voucher for the sum and wish to personally thank the top Executive whose promise to resolve the matter immediately has been fulfilled.


This has further proved that there is hope and great prospect in our industry. The client is elated and he sends his greetings to the house. Meanwhile, an Officer of Insurer X whom I guess was asked to liaise with me also informed me that there was a miscommunication as the Discharge Voucher was sent the previous week but we did not receive it. I chose to believe her word in this regard, may be something went wrong."


In my follow-up discussion with the Executive of Insurer X, he narrated what transpired internally that created the avoidable mix up and miscommunication, then informed me of the reviews they have done immediately to improve their processes including retraining the people and upgrading the technology enablers that supports their service delivery to customers. He admittedly was appreciative of the opportunity to revalidate the goodwill of his company and reiterated the need for an industry-wide approach to excellent customer service.


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Going the Extra Mile

The simple lesson here is that no matter how strong and renowned you are, in that moment that you are required to respond, be ready to go the extra mile to bring peace and joy to your customer (policyholder). That last mile for insurance is the moment when the customer is elated!


Those insurers that receive complaints and fail to eat them not only starve subsequently but also get the negative stories going on about them in the market. So, why would any insurer not want to eat up the complaints that come to them? The singular reason is LACK OF FUNDS! The argument of whether recapitalization will ease this situation is put to rest when you realize that the total claims owed by such companies may indeed be in billions and who is that investor that will invest billions to acquire the company and battle with the resolution of such claims thereafter.


If the regulator, National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) will also eat up the complaints they have received rather than let them get cold, the insurance industry in Nigeria will find its path to transformation faster especially as we expect better quality of insurers with the additional licences that are awaiting final approval.


If you do not hate customers' complaints but eat them up, you are more likely to succeed and achieve your objectives year on year. It works!


About The Author

Ekerete Olawoye Gam-Ikon, MNIM, CPP, is a management consultant with a specialization in Strategy and Insurance. You can contact him via e:mail and mobile +234-806-648-1111

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