skip to main content

Trust is on a Rapid Decline… It’s Up to Us to Turn it Around

Karen ImbrognoSeptember 24, 2015

Some of you may remember me as the “insurance geek” from my recent blog posts: “Buckle Up” and “Loyalty Can Change in an Instant.” Today I want to talk about “trust.” Trust is the most difficult five letter word to achieve. As marketers we struggle with it, and very few of us are successful at building it with customers. So I’d like to provide you arguably the most important tip on how to build trust. Spoiler alert – it’s called transparency.

It’s been said over and over again: “People don’t trust brands.” They also don’t trust commercials or spokespeople, and they certainly don’t trust media in general, in communicating a brand. Instead, they trust anyone who’s had experiences with a brand or knows something about the brand. It’s these people, the ones with tangible brand interaction, on whom others rely for perspective, and this is especially true for Millennials (or Gen Y). In fact, Gen Yers in particular are generally skeptical when it comes to brand pitches, and Gen Z will be even more skeptical. They will find what they need, when they want it, and will engage on their terms not yours. They will also demand complete transparency. You need to pay attention to their needs and how they purchase because they are your future customers.

One thing is certain: trust is on the decline. This is true whether you are selling clothing, shoes, a lawn mower, or insurance. Everywhere you turn someone has something to say about a brand. Yesterday, my Consumer Reports magazine arrived. On the cover was an image of a popular insurance ad icon pictured alongside someone shopping for auto insurance. BTW – he didn’t look happy. The title of the cover story was “The Truth about Car Insurance.” Whether the article has truth to it or not, it’s clear that skepticism is at an all-time high relative to car insurance thanks to the media and to a lack of transparency.

Today I want to share with you a quick story on transparency in insurance, or should I say a lack thereof, and how the carrier could have turned something negative into a positive.

Ten years ago I purchased auto, home, and umbrella policies from a carrier all on the same day. I guess you could say I was the picture-perfect customer. Years went by without me filing a claim and without my premium increasing. There was no need for me to shop, until I got my last renewal letter. As I reviewed it something didn’t feel quite right. It seemed as if my premium increased, but I couldn’t tell because they didn’t print my previous premium on the bill. Anyway, it prompted a half hour call to a CSR asking them what happened, what my last rate was, why it increased, and what I could do to bring it down. Now I knew the right questions to ask, however the average consumer who doesn’t really know auto insurance wouldn’t have known what to ask. Instead, they may have just walked away and purchased from another carrier. My thought was why? Why couldn’t they just tell me? They also caused me to question my level of trust for them. Sure, they will be around to pay my claim, but can I trust other actions they take?

Today we live in an age where the availability of data is extremely high. We can connect what a person does online with what they do offline. We can assess the value they represent to our business. In addition, we can see when they are shopping with other carriers and assess their tolerance level for a rate increase. We also live in an age where we can deliver one-to-one personalized messaging instead of a canned communication piece. Whether or not it was intentional to not disclose my prior premium, isn’t it time that we recognize that consumers are much smarter and more empowered than ever? They deserve honesty, personalization, recognition, and transparency if we want to keep their business.

Here’s how they could have turned the situation around with my renewal bill and premium increase, creating a positive experience that builds trust:

Hi Karen,

Thank you for being a loyal and valued customer. We see you have been with us ten years and have your auto, home and umbrella policies with us. We realize that your auto premium went from $550 to $675. This was due to a state-level premium increase that affected all insured. A state rate change happens when we experience a large number of claims across the state. We see you are getting the following discounts: Safe Driver, Ten Year Renewal, and Good Student. Here are some other discounts we can offer to help you bring your premium down even more: Paperless Billing, Mature Driver, Driving Device Installation in any or all of your vehicles. 

We realize you have options but hope you will continue to stay with us because we provide [x, y and z].

Thank you again for your business. If you have any more questions or something we can help you with, please don’t hesitate to call me personally. I am here to help you.

John Smith

Customer Service Representative

(216) 555-5555

You can see there is personalization throughout. If I would have received this instead, it would have been enough for me to make the necessary changes and send in my payment without a conversation taking place.

In my opinion it’s really not that difficult to build trust. It’s about being up-front, personal, and transparent in all your interactions. Whether it’s how you handle a claim, process a renewal bill, or for that matter any action you take. I can almost guarantee that if you do some of these things your customers will trust you more. When trust increases so do many of your other KPI’s and more importantly overall satisfaction ratings.