Tuesday 23 March 2010

The insensitivity of process versus sanity - Shame on you Churchill and T-Mobile!

I want everyone to read this and feel as appalled as I was by the insensitivity of two major global brands, namely Churchill Insurance (owned by RBS Group) and T-Mobile.

The story is partly personal as it involves an ex-work colleague of my Wife who tragically lost his whole family in a road-traffic accident days before Christmas while they were en-route to deliver Christmas presents. The deaths affected the whole community where they lived and worked and though I did not know them personally I swear I hugged my own children a little tighter the night I heard of the tragedy.

Anyway, it seems such empathy and humanity does not exist at either Churchill OR T-Mobile, well, not initially anyway, as they forced poor Ian Owen to go through a nightmare of insensitive, customer-unfriendly process in an attempt to recover THEIR losses in respect of his late wife's car insurance policy premiums AND mobile phone contract.

The insensitivity was compounded by T-Mobile 'suggesting' that he could "transfer the mobile phone contract to that of a younger family member". Now STOP! Just for a moment and pause..... 

Imagine being asked that question by someone in a call centre and having to explain with some kind of dignity that that isn't an option because their is no longer a younger family member to transfer the contract to!

See the full article here: http://bit.ly/ddafxP

Anyway, since then, and only through the intervention of the national press, have both firms seen sense and offered Ian their apologies and promised a 'full investigation of the case'. I don't think its cynical at all to suggest that this is too little too late and frankly just not good enough. It is also not the first time (this year in particular) I have heard similar stories relating to the insensitivity of insurance companies and other service providers when handling the 'Death' process - the only people who seem genuinely good at this are, alas, Funeral directors.

But what could they have done better apart from the basics of handling a customer with respect, understanding and showing empathy at an extremely disturbing and traumatic time? I think we will all agree that even the small amount of effort required to do that would have probably been welcomed but what more could have been done? 

Could a better understanding of the customer have helped? A more complete view of the customer and their information? Undoubtedly! 

Could their internal processes have provided better guidance to the agent in terms of how to handle this situation? Yes! BUT there should also be significant enough scope in the design of the customer-facing process to allow the agent to 'step-outside' of the scripted environment AND apply appropriate levels of language, common-sense, and empathy in keeping with the situation they are dealing with rather than 'cross-selling' an alternative solution outcome that benefits the business - which is, in essence, what they were doing by suggesting he transfer the tariff.

Could the ability to manage a 'social' profile of the customer with aggregated information from additional sources (Facebook, Bebo, News Feeds) have helped? I think this capability may have provided useful insight in terms of how to handle this situation. I understand the need for an Insurance company to see a death certificate BUT I think information from other sources aggregated to the customer's file that would have allowed them to assume he was telling the truth and treat him with a degree of sensitivity rather than having to prove (twice) that his family had been killed.

It comes as no real shock to me that at the core of these businesses there is seemingly still the attitude that the customer represents no more than an Account Number. This is despite their 'customer-friendly' images - take Churchill's nodding dog as an example. Nearly 20 full years have elapsed since the inception of CRM and still the major brands are getting it very badly wrong and yet today we speak about Social CRM (something of which I am an advocate). The fact though remains that unless firms truly get the basic CRM bit right everything else they do will be built on pillars of sand.

So Churchill, question for you, "Are you a shower of incompetent, unfeeling wankers?"

"Oh Yes!"


  1. This is so fun! What a great idea. Also I love how authentic you seem to be. Your style and passion for blogging is contagious. Thank you for sharing your life!

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  2. the intensity is so high for insensitivity of process vs sanity
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