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March 23 2017 | Deb Smallwood

“Hello, undefined:  How are you?”  We’ve all seen bad marketing emails where what was supposed to be a personalized greeting or communication goes terribly wrong. These failed attempts at personalizing the customer experience have the exact opposite effect that they are supposed to when the data is bad. It would be better to go back to the rules we use in face-to-face communications: if you can’t remember someone’s name, better not mention it at all.  

undefinedThe same high standards apply to marketing principles in the insurance world when you aim to personalize interactions with policyholders. You have to get it right. Today, customer expectations are at an all-time high. Personalized experience is a key differentiator that sets insurers apart, but they really only have one shot to get it right. And one slip-up can spell disaster for customer loyalty and brand reputation.

Recently, I got my renewal package for my homeowner’s policy from a large insurer. In big bold typeface I was greeted with, “Thank you for being our customer since 1989.” Okay … But, I have had a homeowner’s policy with this insurer since 1980!

In 1989, we sold our first home and bought a second home. So, I can understand a different location or possibly a different policy number, but I am still the same customer! I got fixated on how they could be wrong. It is clear that insurers manage customers by line of business or a policy number in a policy admin system, not by customer data. Then, I started to examine the entire renewal package, and they were adding new benefits and coverages in simple language – those were positives. But I could not get past the front page. The overall quality of the renewal document was marred by the flawed opening. 

So, to insurers, regardless of your size, if you want to personalize – you better get it right. Never assume personalized, exported data is correct. You must be sure of it. In my case, a simple tweaking would have been all that was necessary to rephrase the statement, “Thank you for being a customer at this address since 1989.” As a customer, I expect more. As insurers, we should demand more, provide more, and ensure that personalized data is right. Otherwise, you look sloppy, and the veil into your organization (or lack of organization) is lifted. Don’t be another bad data story, and don’t make your customers feel undefined when they interact with you.

After all, first impressions still count, big-time. And customer loyalty can change as quickly as you can say, “Hello, undefined…”