August 21, 2008

From Computer to Customer

Are you aware that you've had two claims in the past two years?

When this is the start of a phone call from your insurance agent, you know the conversation is going to go downhill.

Well, of course, I'm aware.  I'm the one who filed them.  I'm also aware that these were for two different addresses (my old house and my new home), that one of them was for hail damage from a storm that affected almost 10% of Indianapolis, and that my only other claim came in 1996 and involved a payout of less than $1000.

Well, we just wanted to bring your claim history to your attention.

And that was all she said.  But the unspoken possibilities hung in the air and seemed vaguely threatening:  "One more claim and you could by cut off.  You're in danger of having your premiums raised.  We don't see you as a desirable risk anymore.  Etc."

When challenged about the vague implications of this nonsensical "customer service" call, the agent merely said corporate underwriting had asked them to contact me and appraise me of my claim history.

So here's the deal.  A computer program snagged my two recent claims and flagged them for attention.  An automatic alert was generated by corporate underwriting and sent to the agent. And wanting to do a little CYA, the agent felt compelled to call me and have this generic conversation.  An assistant made the call without any regard for the more detailed and nuanced understanding of my claim history.  

Anyone with two recent claims would have received the same treatment. And therein lies the problem.  

Computer algorithms that mine data for key characteristics can indeed be helpful tools for managing a member or customer experience.  But drawing on data without any discretion is not service at all.  You can't serve individuals who are truly different if you treat them all the same.


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