Are You Ready for the New Seller Beware World?

We live in dangerous times. Mind boggling target centric companies are taking investors for a ride. I am not talking about any chit fund or MLM or other out and out cheating companies.

I am sharing my experience with a leading Life Insurance company in the country. Two incidences took place during the last 30 days. In fact, the 2nd incident is the trigger for this post. The 1st incidence I considered as a one-off.

Incident 1st – Time: Feb 2019

A representative from Reliance Nippon Life Insurance Company, Ghatkopar Branch approached me with a new ULIP product.

(They give customer contact details to every branch. People keep calling the customer from different branches at different times, irritating the customers. They need to appoint a relationship manager with a prior intimation to the customer.)

In the personal meeting, I was advised to surrender the existing plan of the company and go for the new plan. So far so good.

I was asked to sign the blank application form, which I refused.  I filled the form and asked about the form of medical history. I was told that the process is online, and she would do it.  I just need to inform her about medical history and medicines. I informed her and she wrote it down. I completed the new plan application process.

With age and medical history usually, I get a medical test before an Insurance company considers my case. I was told I may get additional premium if the company feels so considering the overall application.

I gave my consent.

On the next working day, I get a message that my policy is issued.   I inquired whether the complete information of my medical history was a part of my application? I was told yes. I was even given assurance by a senior branch manager also.

I was skeptical. I insisted that I doubt that the right data might not be incorporated into the policy.  When I insisted, I got a policy correction message from the company the next day. Where was the question of correction when I had already given all the information in the beginning and the policy was issued?

I was assured by the lady who attended me and the manager about the right details in the policy. Finally, when I receive the policy, I did not find the correct information in the policy.

I found the customer care email and call center number from the policy. Both were not working.  I had to find an email ID of the CEO to escalate the matter. When I wrote to the CEO, I got a call from customer service. The person asked me where I found the email id and customer care number. Both these were part of the policy received a day ago.

After the escalation to the highest level, the matter was sorted out.

In a hurry to achieve the target the policy was sold without correct details. When the claim comes if any, the customer will face the music for not disclosing the right information.

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Incident 2nd – Time March 2019

The same company, another branch at Kandivali. I handed over policy redemption documents to the branch on 1st March 2019. The documents were verified and were found to be in order.

Usually, companies send messages about the status of the processing. The same company used to send me in the above 1st instance even after my policy was cancelled.

Hereafter the submission on the 1st which was Friday I did not receive any message till Tuesday.  I was again skeptical.

I called the lady who attended me, and I was told the same is under process.  I called again the next day and got the same response.   I wrote a mail to their customer care email ID asking the specific status of my surrender request.

After 2 days I am getting a 2 feet long email informing everything under the sun about the policy but asking me to get in touch with the branch for my specific query.

I again called the lady executive. She said she had given the documents to the team and she is not responsible for any delay.  When I threatened to escalate the matter, she said she would revert by next day morning. This was at 6 in the evening.

At 9.30 in the night, I received the following message which should have been received on 1st March 2019

Dear Premier Customer, Your Full Surrender – payout with RNLIC Policy No. XXXXX has been registered on 08/03/2019. Reference ID is XXXXX. It will be resolved within 5 working days.

From 1st March to 8th March my documents were kept aside for the reason known to them. Maybe this surrender could have affected their March targets or they might have other mischiefs in mind. This is how they deal with the so-called Premier customer!

Only when I threatened to escalate, things moved within 4 hours.

After the incidence, I searched the Net for other customer reviews. If one reads the reviews on  mouthshut.com,  no one would ever deal with the company.

There is a basic issue of company culture which is responsible for such incidences. Customer first is just a display slogan not inculcated within the staff. The culture at the top percolates down to the lower level. There is no fear or deterrent for wrong conducts as long as the business objectives are met.

Insurance may be a subject matter of solicitation but certainly, insurance is not a subject matter of cheating and fooling people.

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Consider the failure at multiple levels:

  • Salesperson and branch manager working with malafide intentions – 1st Incidence
  • Call Center number not working and email bouncing – 1st Incidence
  • I keep getting messages for a policy which was cancelled and payment was received back. – 1st Incidence
  • Irresponsible operations team at the branch – 2nd Incidence
  • Emails answering unwanted information ignoring the actual concerns – 2nd Incidence
  • Getting a call from the call center on 12th March asking me to pay the premium for a policy which they have accepted for redemption on 8th. – 2nd Incidence

These all are service level failures, I have not evaluated their fund level performance yet.

The purpose of this write up is to create an awareness of how vigilant one needs to be while dealing with aggressive only sales focussed companies. They can do anything with your money to achieve their objectives.

Fortunately for the investors, there are strong regulators, strong consumer protection laws, and the power of social media.

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Customer reviews on social media can change the fortunes of the company. Good reviews can ease their marketing and sales efforts while many bad reviews make it difficult to survive in completive time.

No company can afford to mistreat customers and takes the focus away from customers. The Internet has given power to customers. The route to achieve company targets goes through better customer experience. Anything less than this will be a myopic approach and will be short-lived.

Buyer beware is obsolete now, it is now seller beware. (yet buyers beware is in customers own interest to avoid mental harassment of dealing with inhuman companies and avoid higher blood pressure.)

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The following video by a leading financial journalist Sucheta Dalal is worth watching to become aware of how companies cheat and how you can fight back.

You may also like to read: Service Design – Why you can’t ignore it?

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