Mark Lisle, compliance manager at Rowanmoor Pensions, says the insurance industry has a long way to go before it has fair customer treatment at its heart...
The extended family has just returned from what has become an annual pilgrimage to the Alps, for a spot of skiing, snowboarding, or partaking of vin chaud depending upon their predilection.
However, this visit to La Ferme de Florent in the Haute Savoie was not without incident, and will sadly be remembered as "the year Maisie broke her leg".
My partner's six year old niece was determined to get the hang of skiing after an abortive effort the previous year. Unfortunately, a slip, practising after one lesson, led to the depressing sight of an ambulance being called to the nursery slopes so that the inevitable could be confirmed by the local doctor.
Used as he is to this kind of business, his small surgery was kitted out with an x-ray machine, which must have paid for itself ten times over, as it is all cash on the nail with the French medical fraternity.
Now despite there being a fifteen-strong supporting family cast (no pun intended) to help with everything from entertainment of the injured party (three more under tens to play Wii or watch DVDs with) to translation services (three fluent French speakers) this was still a trying time, mainly for the concerned parents; thoughts turning to the challenge of getting an immobile tot from 5,000 feet up a snowy mountain in France, via Switzerland, to the Somerset Levels, without further undue stress to all parties.
Call me romantic and an idealist, but my first thought was what a great opportunity for their insurance carrier to grab the bull (or in this case Abondance cow) by the horns, and take some of the burden off the family by leaping into proactive action; I could see the marketeers getting the storyboard ready for the TV ad.
Never mind your CGI meerkats, and your moustachioed Tenors, here is a true story of how you can be on hand to help when help is most needed. If you want to add the element of comedy, by all means send Julie Andrews up the Alps in a Rodgers and Hammerstein pastiche, but let's show how we deliver a positive outcome for the consumer.
In keeping with the first and sixth consumer outcomes desired by the FSA in the interests of TCF, our consumers hoped they could be confident that were dealing with a firm where the fair treatment of customers is central to the corporate culture, and that, as consumers, they did not face unreasonable post-sale barriers to submit a claim. I sincerely hoped for this too, on their behalf. The insurance helpline number was called.
They were told they would have to fax a doctor's certificate before the claims assistance would commence. Now, a fax I tell you. Not an email from the iPhone, or BlackBerry, but a fax; 1980's technology in 2010, from atop a mountain, in two feet of snow, in an area of France where little English is spoken. What is the French for fax anyway? As if anyone would fake a child's broken leg to waste an insurance company's time in any circumstances.
Needless to say, without confidence in the "service" reluctantly offered by the insurer, we made our own arrangements. But not everyone would have the means, or the fluent French, or the supporting family, or the local knowledge provided by our gracious (English) hosts to resolve the matter.
TCF outcome No.5 states that consumers should be provided with products that perform as firms have led them to expect, and the associated service is both of an acceptable standard and as consumers have been led to expect. Why else would you take out winter sports insurance if not to have the peace of mind that if you break your leg skiing that the machinery seamlessly whirrs into life to help you? Is there anyone out there who considers the service provided as outlined acceptable?
Well, at least one; the insurer in this case. We clearly have some ground to make up in the desire to be perceived as an industry which has the fair treatment of the customer at its heart.
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