Dog at a steering wheelMy car insurance renewal arrived this week, and in (ahem) an “unprecedented” situation, it was good news for me – it’s less than it was last year.

Of course, it should be. The Ontario government has pressured major insurance companies to lower auto rates during the pandemic, and like most drivers, I’ve been on the road a lot less over the past three months of lockdown.

The insurance companies all responded to the government pressure – and public feedback – with varying proposals. Some promised to refund a percentage of the premiums for March through May 2020. My own insurance company promised:

  • A 10% rate reduction for new policies as of April 15, 2020 and renewals as of June 15, 2020, applied automatically.
  • A $100 Auto Insurance Relief Benefit for all policies in effect before May 1, 2020. Again, no action required by policyholders. We’ll get reduced payments if we pay monthly, or a rebate cheque if we pay in full.

This information wasn’t included in the letter; I had to go online to find it out.

So was my reduction a direct response to the pandemic? Did my premium reflect one or both of these promises? If just one, what about the other?

The communication professional in me gave the letter a critical eye, and I couldn’t tell. The letter basically says: Here’s your renewal package. The total premium is this. Your billing plan is monthly. And, “Please contact your Insurance Agent if you have any questions about your insurance coverage and how you may qualify for additional savings.”

Since the answers to my questions weren’t obvious and the math didn’t match, I called to ask. Note: The “Insurance Agent” I was encouraged to call was not named; the number to call was a general toll-free one.

Sandra answered the call. She assured me that yes, the rate did include the promised reduction. She also said the relief benefit would be applied separately, and I’ll get another email explaining that. She agreed it would have been helpful if the letter spelled this out.

How many other people wasted the time of “our” insurance agents by calling to ask something that could have been answered in the cover letter? There was already a letter, and it was already personalized with name, address, policy number, client number and premium rates. Another line of explanation wouldn’t be a big deal.

Here’s my advice for companies sending out similar communications:

  1. Think about the people who will receive your message. Will they understand why you’re making a change? What are the questions they might have? Is anything confusing? Don’t assume people have seen or heard what you’ve said elsewhere.
  2. Use the letter/email to connect the dots. Explain how you’re making a change in response to current events, legislation, promises you’ve made or other reasons. Show how you’re doing what you said, or explain what outside factors are involved.
  3. Lead with the good news, if appropriate. Many of us bash the insurance industry, so here’s a rare chance to win some brownie points. “Good news, we’re recognizing your reduced driving with reduced rates.”
  4. Don’t hide the bad news, if there is any. (There wasn’t, in this case, at least as far as I can tell!)
  5. Talk to the people answering your toll-free number after you send out the first wave of a mass mailing or email. Are customers or members calling with the same questions, over and over? What was confusing? Update your templates accordingly.

What else would you suggest companies do? How else can call centre staff improve customer relations? And what’s happened with your insurance? Please share in the comments.

Image, because of course you need a dog in a car: Karl Allen Lugmayer and Pixabay.