Meerkats won’t repair reputation of insurance industry - five-point plan to re-build trust and loyalty

Can communications strategies designed to restore the battered image of insurance providers help other unloved service economies like utility, train and budget airline operators?

Social listening was one of the tools suggested to rebuild trust in the insurance sector, offered during Post-magazine’s round-table debate.  The ideas could work for any service firm, with Google’s ‘moments that matter’ concept hard-wired in.

Since the 2008 bank crisis and the mis-selling of add-on insurance products, insurers’ reputations have fared worse than banks.  Only the tobacco sector polls lower, according to Post’s brilliant wash-up article.

Consumers have lost faith in how their money is handled by big corporates.  Surveys from last winter show that less than a third of us trust insurance providers, with trust levels in the UK lower than in any other European country.

The experts around the table, eminent communication directors and James Daley, founder of Fairer Finance, had all the right ideas, and we’ve taken the liberty of shaping their concepts into a five point plan.  The spirit of it works for any service-sector where complaints and thwarted customer experiences are endemic.

  1. Manage consumer expectations.  When insurance claims don’t pay out, the consumer who’s bought the wrong policy will vent to friends and on Facebook.    Most of us buy insurance too fast from a sales rep keen to close the sale.  So find ways to slow down and ensure the customer knows what their policy does not cover.  Manage the experience “in the moment” well.
  2. Simplify and demystify complex products.  Think of the language, the small print, and make it as easy as possible for the customer to buy well.  Use tools to handle the smart-phone or online shopper. Give them a real person to speak to “in the moment”.
  3. Use social media to satisfy complaints well, in the moment.  Complainants will critique moves to shut down their public dialogue. Have a method to handle them off-line that involves contacting and helping them.
  4. Use social listening to see how customers are descrbing you on Twitter and Facebook. With repeated comments, do root cause analysis.
  5. Get leaders to stand up, be more visible and engaged.  If an insurance house wants to distance itself from unfair sales methods, the CEO should say so. 

As in most service economies, there are intermediaries and aggregators, like Compare the Market or  They can distance the insurer from the customer.  The moment the insurer has customer contact – for a sale, claim or complaint – if they can handle that touchpoint with care and satisfy the customer in the moment, new loyalty can begin and that can be for life.

Kay Williamson