When customer experience isn’t joined up…

The customer experience doesn’t end when the product has been sold.  Yeah, so you’ve got a compelling proposition, your web site is beautiful to look at, is easy to use and would have Jacob Nielsen giving you accolades for its usability.  But how does the off-line fulfilment match your on-line capability?  Sadly with Norwich Union the answer is not much.  Water dripping through the ceiling and no obvious source (I pulled up floor boards hunting the leak, but it was spouting out of a joist under a wall…) I called the insurance company.  The call was answered pretty promptly by a friendly chappy (especially given that he was working late on a Sunday night).  He took my details and informed me of a great service whereby a building services company (Mowlam) would be sent an emergency notification and send someone out first thing in the morning.  Rather bizarrely this company would find the source of the leak but it would be down to me to finds a plumber to fix the leak.  (Norwich Union did not seem to think it worthwhile trying to cross sell me a more comprehensive policy that would cover me for them to sort out plumbing problems – I mean if I’ve got a flood, chances are I’d like someone to fix it…)

Monday morning and I ring the building services company to be told that they had no record of my problem- I should ring NU to confirm the issue had been logged.  I rang NU, unfortunately when I left the house this morning I scribbled down the wrong number – I had the customer services number.  Usual wait to be connected and then was transferred to the claims department.  This was in India, the woman I spoke to seemed clueless, knew nothing of my claim and put me on hold for an age. She told me I should be speaking to the new claims department, took my details again (I’d already given them the previous night, to the guy who initially took my call and again when I first started talking to her.  She put me on hold again.  Five minutes later she informed me that a fax was sent to the company the previous night and I should ring them again to confirm this had happened.

I rang Mowlam again and was again told that no emergency had been logged.

Back on the phone to NU.  A bit more savvy I ask to be put through to the new claims department.  I get put through to new motor insurance claims.  I ask to be put through to home insurance, wait a couple of minutes and the line goes dead.

I try again.  Once again I get routed to India, explain my situation and get routed back to the UK where I once again give my details (can’t they follow be round the telephony system?) and am informed that yes, a fax was sent to Mowlam, but maybe they didn’t receive it so she’ll send another fax just to make sure.

An hour later I ring Mowlam to find out when the plumber is coming.  “Sorry Sir” I am told, we have no record of a emergency at your postcode.

Back on the phone to NU.  More time spent getting pushed around departments.  This time the lady I speak to tells me she’ll phone Mowlam and verbally inform them of the job.  She puts me on hold.  And the battery on my phone runs flat.  I immediately find a charger and plug it in.  I wait for the customer service agent to ring me back (she has my number) with the outcome of the call but she never gets back to me.  I assume the call has been made.  Half an hour later I ring Mowlam.  Still no notification.  I’m wasting time here.

Back on the phone to NU.  Finally I’m told that a third fax has been sent to Mowlam.

An hour later another company calls me informing me they are about to send a plumber out.  But I don’t want a plumber.  I want someone to find the rout cause of my problem (because NU don’t fix plumbing problems) and besides, I’ve already contacted my mate who is a plumber who says he will fix the problem once it’s source has been identified.  I get transferred to someone else who tells me that the insurance will cover temporarily fixing the problem.  Which leaves me wondering what the meaning of the word “temporarily” is, a bit of tape around the pipe?

Eventually the plumber comes round and finds the problem (it was a shower pump hidden beneath a staircase).  He fixes it and switches the heating back on, but it’s been a day of distraction and stress that a joined up approach to customer service at NU (and it’s suppliers) could have avoided.


  1. Darren Cornish · Tuesday, 4 April, 2006

    Hi Marc. I am the Head of Customer Experience at NU. Sorry you had such a crappy experience. Would love to talk more. Send me a mail if you get a chance. Thanks, Darren

  2. dancingmango » The Total Experience · Thursday, 15 February, 2007

    […] Operational excellence So the on-line experience may be compelling, but what happens then. Is the fulfilment channel fulfilling? Is there a promise to deliver goods and is the promised delivered upon? What about support channels? Do they support or do they just pay lip service to the concept? Does the web experience go beyond the web and cross other channels? Can consumers start a journey on the website and seamlessly conclude the experience in store? My blogs on Early Learning Centre, Norwich Union and a seamless experience all touch on operational excellence. Test – measure – refine Underpinning these factors is the need to constantly test what we do. We can all learn from Test Driven Development (TDD); write the test first and only have the confidence to proceed when it passes. How do we know it has passed? Well we need to measure it; we can only know success if we can quantify it. Based upon the feedback we refine; test – measure – refine, a concept core to agile software development practices. […]

  3. What’s your social strategy? | dancingmango · Wednesday, 28 January, 2009

    […] while back I posted about a negative experience with Norwich Union. I blogged about the experience – a few days later I had a comment from their Head of Customer […]

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