On Thursday 3rd of January 2012, I watched a program on Heartland TV about one woman’s struggle with her insurance company. It was clear to me that from the tone of the conversation with the CEO of State Insurance (an IAG subsidiary) that the inference was that at the end of the day, the insurer will decide ‘what you will be given’. In this particular case the home of a woman had burned down (not even an earthquake related story) and under her full replacement policy she had been in a long extended and difficult struggle with State Insurance (over a year) in an attempt to get them to honour her insurance contract. The TV cameo was interesting to watch and not surprising in light of events we have experienced in Canterbury.
That story instantly triggered a memory my husband and I had with the same CEO, now nearly two years ago, where she also told us that “you will get what you are given”. Our house was badly damaged in the 2010 earthquake and, after a thorough inspection by EQC, it was deemed a “total rebuild”. Our insurance company thought and continues to assert that a fix up job will do. So we insisted upon having face-to-face meetings with the senior management of State. Then came this condescending remark. Who in their right mind would think you could approach a customer in that way? We were stunned. I was reminded of the outdated ‘Doctor knows best’ approach. I should have held her to account in that meeting for her statement at the time, but in the event it was simply noted and recorded. They need to understand that I am not a ‘patient’, I am your customer.
It was such a telling statement because it reveals so clearly that, when push comes to shove, many big corporations do not operate from a customer centred basis. Not only have they an outdated concept of how they relate to their customers in the modern age, but it is also clear that such a remark would only be made when the insurer has other interests at the core of their business strategies- such as minimising their risk and protecting their bottom line. These are interests that we as customers do not realize when we sign up with the insurer. You may earmark such statements as a ‘slip of the tongue’ and of minor importance, but in reality they reveal the truth about what drives these organizations, particularly when they come from the top of the organization. At the top is where they set their corporate culture. We, the customers, do not and will not decide what we signed up for – ultimately the insurance company will decide- or so they think.
You occasionally hear how helpful they were ‘when the windshield broke’ and how quickly it was replaced. These small gestures make us think that our insurance company is on our side when we need them. It helps to grow some degree of mental goodwill towards them. But those incidents are minor and do not compare with the loss of a home. Nor is the cost inference even comparable. In a situation where hundreds of thousands of high-value claims are generated, their response is quite different and triggers a corporate behaviour of a different sort. I only discovered this hidden attitude when we asked our insurance company to simply do what they agreed to do when we signed our insurance policy with them, in good faith, ‘You will get what we decide to give you!’ was the response. ‘Stuff the facts, stuff the customer, ultimately the insurer unilaterally decides how to resolve matters’ is what they actually believe.
I hope that this personal observation helps you, the reader, to become vigilant. Be prepared for those ‘slips of the tongue’ when it comes to negotiate your overdue settlement! Take careful note of those ‘slips of the tongue’! Don’t be caught out or allow them to belittle you. Stand your ground and insist upon fair treatment.