Column: Roger's Soapbox

Desperately Seeking Service

By: | April 7, 2017 • 3 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

Every financial services provider promises first-class service. Yet, broadly speaking, the 21st century service mantra is: The customer is always wrong. And is usually a pain in the neck.

The insurance industry has somewhat unfairly had a poor reputation in this regard since the 18th century, because it only pays claims for risks it has insured, which has not proved to be a hugely popular policy.

Customers have grown accustomed to the run-around (please hold); the denial (see paragraph 14b); the refusal (claim denied); and finally, if the stars are aligned, the settlement (now go away).

These tactics often offend retail customers who live in a delusional world where they expect attention, but lawyerless and ignorant, find that when service is denied, they do not stand equal in power to the giant corporations.

It’s based on a revolutionary model: treating customers as if they were not vermin. Imagine that!

The extent to which I expect laughably poor service has been driven home to me by my bank of the past 49 years, from whom, like Rodney Dangerfield, I don’t get no respect …
— in search of which I first visited another old-style retail bank. Wait three weeks for an appointment, they said. Nah, I thought.

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On a whim, I waltzed into Metro Bank, a newcomer, and breezed out half an hour later with a new checking account — and a smile.

My old bank couldn’t tell me if my debit card would be renewed, and bridled when I suggested that was no help. Metro made me a card on the spot, and I’d never been in the store before. From customer services rep Michael Jones’s window, I could see my old bank, 200 years across the road.

Metro is the first national retail bank opened in Britain in a century, apparently. It’s based on a revolutionary model: treating customers as if they were not vermin. Imagine that!

Mr. Jones was downright friendly, even charming. He called my home later, to make sure everything was OK. Experiencing actual customer service almost brought me to tears, and I’m impermeable.

Oddly, Metro Bank doesn’t refer to itself as a bank. It’s a group of stores, which is exactly what retail banks are in the here and now. It’s where people who don’t bank online obtain the necessaries. American founder Vernon W. Hill II runs the stores, which are open seven days a week. Other banks, until recently, opened for only a few hours, five days a week.

If this sounds like an ad for Metro Bank, it isn’t. Come to think of it, I had to give them money (to put in my account).

It’s banking 2.01, an industry disrupter. The hardest part for Mr. Hill must have been persuading potential investors that treating customers as if they mattered made any kind of economic sense at all.

Insurers of personal lines, take note. We, the people, are widely starved of first-class service. Offer us some, and we’re yours. Do it soon, or someone will disrupt you.

Once the dust had settled, Metro sent me a letter. It said, “Thanks for joining the revolution.” Now I’m a comrade, not a customer. Dasvidaniya. &

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