Published on July 18, 2009
KARL HAVARD x x x x x x http://karlhavard.blogspot.com Andrew Moss Chief Executive Head Ofﬁce Aviva plc St Helen's 1 Undershaft London EC3P 3DQ Dear Andrew, I feel I may not be the only person to have experienced frustrations at the various communication/ customer service channels Aviva offers to its customers, so I’d like to bring something to your attention. My hope being, that you (positioned at the top of the UK organisation) can bring about some much needed changes, that will help improve the customer experience and reduce your “churn rate”. My family and I would probably be considered to be good customers of yours as we currently (emphasising that this present day position may not be a future one) hold two car insurance policies; two life assurance policies; home and contents insurance. You really are receiving a fair deal of money from us and this totals approximately £300 a month. Anyway, one of my car policies was up for renewal. I thought about visiting comparethemarket.com, confused.com or moneysupermarkets.com, (maybe there is space in the market for perplexed.com?). But then I also thought, “What’s the point. I may save a few pounds a month, but the hassle of changing doesn’t make it worth it.” Most probably something you factor into your renewal increases - will people bother, probably not. I decided to stick with the renewal...but, I did need to change the direct debit details on this policy and my other car insurance policy. Probably akin to the time and effort it takes to cancel a direct debit in my own online banking account. Login, select payments, direct debits, select speciﬁc debit instruction and press cancel; all in all 2 minutes work. So, imagine my surprise, frustration, amazement, dumbfoundedness and yes even a tinge of anger when I was put through a series of adrenalin fueled customer experiences. Here’s what happened. There are three :- Experience 1: • Monday Morning 13th July 2009. The car insurance policy in question was up for renewal on 19th July. I had a few minutes spare and thought this was an opportune time to make a call to Aviva and change the direct debit instructions. • I called the number on the renewal document 0800 0683661 and was presented with an automated answer system asking me to press a few numbers to get to the right place; which is expected these days, so I oblige. • Next up is a lady speaking to me (recorded) asking me to say my policy number out loud. This is novel I thought to myself so I read out my policy number. Now, whether it is my accent, my speech is mumbled or your speech recognition technology suffers from a hearing impediment, but for whatever reason it took several attempts for my policy number to be ﬁnally recognised. “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that” was beginning to grate on my nerves.
• Then, we repeated the same merry, hard of hearing dance as I repeated my surname at least ﬁve times. Havard - two syllables - one have the other hard. At this point, I had a moment of self awareness and was so glad I was making this call from my ofﬁce with no one in ear shot. Imagine if I had been commuting on the train?! Funny for those around me, but not so for yours truly. • Pleased at my solitary location and the fact I had ﬁnally succeeded in being “logged in” to your system, I was put through to your Indian call centre. I check the time spent on the phone at this point and it was just over six minutes. • Guess what happened next? • That’s right - I was asked for my policy number and name; and then had to conﬁrm a few security questions (as expected) we wouldn’t want any fraudster to have reached this point to then be able to do whatever fraudsters do. • The chap at the call center then asked, “How can I help you?” (We’re now 10 minutes in) “I’d like to change my direct debit details please; for this policy and my other car insurance policy.” • “Do you know when your home insurance is up for renewal?” came the question. At this point I wondered if I was beginning to imagine things. DId I actually say what I thought I said? Was I speaking in such an odd way that no one could understand me? Anyway, this question came out of the blue….so I answered it. “I don’t know, but the policy is with you.” This came over loud and clear. • We then started to discuss bank details, thankfully. Having done so, I was asked if I would like to manage my policies online. “That would be bloody marvelous.” I thought. “Save all this hassle.” So the login details were emailed to me. I must point out at this juncture, I have been in the digital marketing industry since the late 90’s, I’m a real adopter of such technology and understand what makes for a good quality online consumer experience. Sufﬁce to say, when the time came, your online portal didn’t disappoint. It accurately reﬂected my perception of your brand. More on that later. • Now, nearly 15 minutes into the call, the chap from India, who had a rather English name such as Tom, Dick or it might even have been Harry, I forget, informed me that I would need to hold for 2 minutes while he contacted the accounts department. A point of note, your hold music is awful, sounds like cheap library music. May I suggest some subliminal hypnotherapy music with birds tweeting and the sound of waterfalls in the background...anything that has a calming effect. • After a couple of minutes Fred (I think that was his name) came back to say I needed to hold a little while longer as the accounts department were busy. I thought “I’m not giving up now...I’m on the home straight!” I was prepared to hold out for the desired result. • After 5 more minutes of hold music the line went dead. • At this point, totally stunned, I probably did what most people do and there is no explanation for doing this, but we all do it. I pulled the phone away from my ear and looked at it in amazement. • Half an hour of time and cost of the call, wasted. Again...was I imagining things? Did that just happen? Assuring myself that it had, I set about trying to earn a living and thought I’d try the online portal later. Experience 2: Now, being a portal and not a conversation, I thought I’d embellish my description with some imagery. The screen shots were not difﬁcult to obtain, as I was presented several opportunities to capture them. • Wednesday Morning 15th July 2009. A couple of days had passed and I found time to open up the email with the Aviva customer portal login details and proceeded to go through the process. No call needed, no additional cost, just my time. Page 2
• I logged in with my password. So far so good. I could see both policies. I then selected the policy that was due for renewal and found the boxes I needed to change. I made the changes, selected “Continue” and this happened:- • Now, I’m no “techie” but to me that doesn’t look good. Am I still logged into the system? Have any of my changes been saved? • I try again. This happened:- • A slightly better result (no run time errors) but oh dear...I’m back into voice recognition land and the call centre. Please note your “error reference”. Page 3
• Doing my very best to avoid having to use the phone, I try again with a different browser… in fact I try 3 (Explorer, Firefox and Safari). Get no joy at all. The same things happen, and none of my changes are saved. • To my absolute wonderment, when closing down my web browser, sitting very quietly at the top left of my screen is a small window. “What’s this?” I think to myself. I open the window out, and oh deep joy...I’m presented with an “independent” customer survey form, presented by “ServiceTick. • Having completed the tick boxes, can you guess the scores? I complete the second part with extreme honesty. Experience 3: • Friday Afternoon 17th July 2009. I have no other option than to call your customer service number again. But hey, Friday (today) has been a good day. I’ve had stimulating conversation with clients of my own and some quality time with my family. So I make the call….there’s no way it will be as bad as before...will it?! • Automated answer machine; press the right buttons. • OK...hear comes slightly deaf voice recognition computer. We do our dance and she still is just as annoying. “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that.” Listen you stupid woman!!! • Not feeling as chipper as I did when I picked up the phone, I ﬁnally get to speak with a human being. This time it is a lady. • Surprisingly, she already knows my policy number and name. “That’s better than before.” I think to myself, only to ﬁnd that we still need to conﬁrm the policy number, my name, my address, my date of birth, my home insurance, how many cars (that was a new one). Page 4
• At this point I stop her, and tell her about my prior experiences. Now it’s a shame I couldn’t see her face to read her expression, but there was an elongated silence, which I broke by asking if she was still there…..she was. • We got to the direct debit changes. She then said I need to be put on hold for 2 minutes (Is “2 minutes” your verbal policy?), again I stop her and say that it was exactly at this point I was kept on hold listening to horrible music and after 5 minutes the line went dead. • She reassured me this would not happen again, and said it would only be a couple of minutes. • 20mins and 34 seconds later (as you can see I timed this one) she came back to apologise for the delay and that accounts were really busy. The changes still had not been made. • I asked how long she thought she had kept me waiting...she didn’t answer. I told her, and also said this was absolutely atrocious. No response. • 20 mins and 34 seconds is a long time. Many wise decisions can be made. I had made one. • I told the lady not to worry about the direct debit, but that I would not be renewing my policy so please cancel. She went silent again….I asked if she was still there and she was. • I then asked how I could cancel my other policy. She said there would be a charge of £39. Something I had probably paid several times over already in phone calls and my time. • I believe she set about the non renewal of my policy, however, when I asked how I would be notiﬁed about the conﬁrmation of cancellation….guess what happened? • The line went dead. To let you know, I have cancelled my direct debit for the renewal policy, but not yet for the policy which is active. I’m not convinced the lady at the call centre has actually accepted my non renewal. Maybe you can do that on my behalf. Please accept this letter as doing so. The policy number is xxxxx; the active policy is xxxxxxx I am now also looking at other options for life assurance, home and content insurance. Andrew, you run the UK operation. Have you ever experienced any level of customer service such as this? Would you be happy about it? I think not. I do all I can for my own clients, and do my very best to exceed their expectations. Most of the time I achieve this, and sometimes on rare occasions I don’t...but I do go out of my way to rectify any issues that occur. WIll Aviva do the same for me? I thoroughly recommend you try your own systems out; call centre and online and see what you think. The voice recognition thing is technology gone mad. I look forward to your reply. Yours sincerely, Karl Havard As Macaulay Culkin says in your TV adverts “Remember me.” Page 5
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