Service Experience Innovation: Claiming Property Insurance

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This past winter in New England was the coldest and snowiest I had ever experienced. My poor old house felt the same and when the pipes burst and flooded the kitchen and family room I had to take measures to repair the damage and get her ready for the summer. What I faced in order to claim my insurance coverage and receive payment was a much bleaker experience than the winter that preceded it. As a designer of product and service experiences I am keenly aware of the products and services I interact with on a daily basis. I celebrate the great experiences and am dismayed and disappointed with the ones that fail. The process of claiming property insurance to cover the repairs of a mortgaged house must be the single worst service experience of my life. There is an opportunity to make what is already a difficult time less painful by acting in a way that displays empathy for the customer and all that they are going through to renovate their home.

Without going into the details of my experience with my insurance company and mortgage provider let me instead highlight some of the potential attributes of great service experiences that were terribly missing from mine.

Transparency: Don’t make a process a mystery. Be clear about the steps required and help your customer understand those steps.

Consistency: Don’t change the process along the way. Don’t introduce new rules that suggest you don’t want to complete the originally understood process.

Communication: Keep your customer in the loop. Linked to transparency, don’t be afraid to explain what is happening and providing regular updates that can help keep your customer confident that he is doing all he needs to do and you are doing all you can to keep the process going.

Speed: Communicate progress and demonstrate that you are making all efforts to complete the service cycle in a speedy fashion. If there are factors that are delaying you let the customer know that you are doing your best to accelerate the service delivery.

Information: Make sure that all documents required to complete the process are clear and unequivocal and easy to understand. Make it easy to complete and supply documentation and once received be quick to reassure your customer that the documentation is correct and received.

Trust: Don’t treat every customer as if they are a felon trying to work an insurance scam. If your customer is credit-worthy, hasn’t made 20 insurance claims in the previous 5 years, has never been convicted of a crime, has paid every bill you ever sent them… begin by giving them the benefit of the doubt. As intermediaries check the insured’s claim and verify the truth of it increase your display of trust and accelerate the process.

Ease: It is obvious but in this case it is not redundant to shout it out loud… make it easier than it is.

The process through the property insurance claim service experience is a nightmare of hurdles and pitfalls all working to make it hard to receive what is rightfully yours. You’ve paid for insurance throughout your life and now you deserve to receive the benefit of your responsible behavior!

I am sure that there is an opportunity to innovate this service experience to remove all of the issues that currently make it so painful. However, my cynical side says that the insurance and lending industry does not believe that there is profit to be had in improving the process. On optimistic days I believe that someone is going to come along and bring the customer experience revolution to the industry, rocking the boats and ships of old-school companies, and bring a fresh, communicative, transparent, easy and painless quality to the experience. If you are an insurance or mortgage company executive reading this (yeah, right!) then get in touch… I think I can help you with this!

Service Safari @ Continuum

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The Continuum service design team ended our year with a series of short Service Safaris where we set out in small teams, pith helmets in hand, to immerse ourselves as customers in a range of what we perceived to be interesting service businesses. Apart from treating ourselves at the end of the year, the Safaris were intended to inspire by exposing us in a personal way to the qualities of great services.

Our teams investigated a diverse range of services including an innovative new barbershop concept, a tarot reading, a restaurant reservation service, a digitally enhanced private taxi service, and a sneaker customization service. I was part of a four-person team that indulged in the latest of barbershop care. It was a tough assignment but the four of us were up to the challenge of straight-razor shaves, massaging shampoos, layered and buzz cuts, hot face towels, and shoulder massages.