Insurance is broken.

Charlotte Wild
May 17, 2019 · 5 min read

Unfortunately, back in March, this happened…

An ill-timed meeting with a McDonalds delivery truck saw my beloved car end up a bit battered and bruised. The driver was very shaken up, hugely apologetic and took full responsibility *tips hat to McDonalds*. Here started my experience as the victim of a car accident, just trying to get my car back on the road, with a wing mirror that didn’t bash against the door as I drove.

Simple enough, I hear you presume. I’m insured, right? Right. I have a comprehensive policy and bought from a reputable company? Right. The other driver admitted liability and accepted responsibility? Right. Job done then…right? Wrong.

For fear of getting strongly worded emails from people with legal letters after their name, I’m going to refer to the various organisations involved as characters from Thomas the Tank Engine (as inspired by my friend’s little boy).

First things first, call my insurance company — they shall be known as Thomas — and inform them of the accident. I was met with the usual painstaking “Press 1 for existing claims, press 2 for new claims” but eventually found myself talking to someone who was suitably sympathetic and took all the details of the accident. All well and good. At the end of the call, she then asks me if I would like them to carry on the claim for me, or my insurer. Wait…what? Aren’t you my insurer? No…apparently not.

She’s from a different company — we’ll call them Percy — who are employed by Thomas to take the details of new claims. I then have to make a split second decision whether to have Thomas or Percy look after my claim, without knowing anything about the difference between them. Thinking Thomas has had my money for the last year so they can do the leg work, I opt for him. Fine she says, and the call is swiftly ended and I get an automated “see ya, and good luck with that” email as conclusion.

Ten minutes later, I take a call from someone wanting to talk about my accident. He’s from yet another company — this one can be Gordon. Gordon tells me that Thomas has told him about my accident and he’s here to sort it all out. Phew, thank goodness for Gordon. But first he needs all the details because Thomas didn’t tell him that bit. Nice one, Thomas. Ok…here goes, for the 3rd time.

Gordon tells me he’ll be my only point of contact throughout the whole claim and reassures me I won’t need to chase other companies. Gordon is a liar. What he meant is that he’ll be my one point of contact for anything they are responsible for — which is actually very little. Anything else, I’m on my own, battling on-hold messages telling me how important my call is. Hmmm.

My point is that, within an hour of the crash, I’d already had contact with three different companies and still wasn’t completely sure who was doing what, if anything. And this is theme for the remainder of my experience, with CX fails scattered all over it.

The final list of players got to;

Thomas, who I bought my policy from
Percy, who took the details of the new claim
Gordon, who was my one point of contact (but wasn’t)
Henry, a firm of solicitors handling any legal claims
Douglas, who arranged the repairs and organised the hire car
Toby, who supplied the hire car
Edward, who completed the repairs to my car
and James, who apparently I am actually insured with

I have 4 pages of phone numbers, reference numbers, names and notes to myself about what each company are and aren’t doing.

Now, I completely understand that in an industry such as this there are going to be many specialist players in the mix, all bringing something different to the table. But when no one organisation takes ownership and says “You are my customer. We will do the leg work, we will coordinate everyone and you will pay us for the privilege”, the experience becomes one that is frustrating, confusing and exhausting.

The list of epic CX fails grew as I went through the 8-week journey to get my car returned to me. For example;

  • Thomas failed to get written confirmation of the other driver accepting liability. After 1.5hrs on hold I manage to speak to an actual human.

“Oh no, we can’t do that…you need to speak to your insurance company”. Repeat of earlier confusion. “Well, that’s definitely you because I gave you money.” “ No, that doesn’t mean we insure you.” “It doesn’t?” “No, but I can give you a number to call”. Guess what? That was the wrong number…and I’m at a loss as to what I’ve paid Thomas for throughout all of this. Why isn’t Thomas phoning them? Why am I?

  • I was given 5 different dates for completion of my repairs and each one came and went without any contact from Edward or Douglas. Rearranging my professional and personal life each time to then be told the car wasn’t ready after all was irritating to say the least. When the last one came in, I was told I had 24 hours to return the hire car or I’d be liable for the costs of the car from the whole 8-week period. Nice touch.
  • Thomas insists on digital policy documents, charging for paper documents. However, Thomas’ online portal to access the policy documents has been down for over 6 weeks. Try speaking to someone without your policy number to hand…“computer says no…”

Putting my user researcher hat on, I dread to think how my clients would react if we proposed this service design model and, god forbid, attempted to get it through any sort of GDS Service Assessment. And for good reason — it’s broken. For any customers with access needs, the experience would be fraught with challenges that would no doubt see some people just give up.

I could go on but life is too short for that. Yes, I could be just another frustrated customer but I’m also a customer who’s not willing to accept it and will gladly jump ship as soon as there is an alternative worth considering.

The tides are turning for organisations that give their customers this level of frustration. In a world where consumers are voting with their feet, leaving organisations that are making experiences painful and, in some cases, opting to pay more in return for a easier life it seems only a matter of time until the same happens to the insurance industry.

Banking had (has?) very similar challenges. Consumers just accepted that’s how it was. But then Monzo happened. And Revolut. And Starling Bank. And suddenly, it’s not acceptable. Suddenly, it’s possible to enjoy engaging with financial organisations again.

Perhaps, Tom Blomfield, once you’re done with banking, you could take a look at insurance…

Charlotte Wild

Written by

User researcher, co-founder of Cogworx, film fanatic, listener, and secret (not secret) gadget geek

More From Medium

Also tagged User Experience

Also tagged User Experience

Also tagged User Research

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade