You don’t retain your customers by ignoring them

Elephant Insurance
Seriously good car insurance.....really?

I find it amazing how some companies treat their customers. Particularly, those that are existing customers and have been for a number of years.

Let me tell you a story.

The other week I received my car insurance renewal quote from Elephant. In the renewal letter it states the new premium price for the coming year and then tells me that if I am happy to renew then I need do nothing and the policy will auto renew.

Now, I have been with them for 6 years and have been happy to renew with them every year but this year I thought that I’d shop around to check that my quote was still competitive.

Shopping around on the GoCompare site around proved to be a very fruitful exercise as I was able to find the same if not slightly better policy for around 15-20% less than the premium that I had been quoted from Elephant. I was surprised at this and wondered how long I had possibly been paying too much for my insurance. I’m not alone in feeling like this. Here’s another Elephant story.

So, I called up Elephant intent on cancelling my policy or, at least, seeing what they had to say.

When I called and after the call had finished I was left with a puzzling question: Is it Elephant’s customer retention policy to ignore customers?

You see when I called the customer service number I got through to the menu and pressed the button to signal that I would like to talk to someone about cancelling my policy. This resulted in me being put on hold, where every couple of minutes I heard the hated message “your call is important to us….”.

Twelve times I heard that message that it became perversely funny in the end.

How important is my call, I wondered.

When the call centre agent did finally answer the phone she did apologise for the wait and told me that they were experiencing a ‘high volume of calls’. Is that another stock answer in call centre speak?

Anyway, as a customer, that means nothing to me.

What matters to me as a customer and a customer experience and service consultant is how a business responds when I or someone calls to cancel a policy. Isn’t it an opportunity to see what you can do to hold onto them as a customer?

I mean if we believe the old maxim that it is between 6-8 times more expensive to acquire a customer than to keep one then, surely, a cancellation signals an alert that you are about to lose a customer. I believe a customer focused company would be prioritising those calls as opportunities not placing them on hold and trying to placate them with twelve messages that their call is important.

Elephant claim to have smart people – they say that here(bottom of the page) on their website.

What do you think?

12 comments On You don’t retain your customers by ignoring them

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  • These smart people play a stupid game

    Buy your customers in by offering low prices

    Hope they don’t notice that you bump the price up year on year

    Don’t answer the call when they ring in to cancel (maybe they won’t cancel if they can’t get through?) and the customer is gone anyway so why get too excited about serving them?

    Unfortunately because they are all playing the same game it is a race to the bottom.

    Unless of course you are a consumer, in which case shop around



    • Hi James,
      Thanks for that. The issue for me is that I feel slightly duped as I thought they were different. I sound like a jilted lover 😉 Guess I should know different. But, I do live in hope that someone will rise above the rest.


  • Well said Adrian! Unfortunately your experience is far from unusual and I’m beginning to prefer typing into online ‘chat’ boxes as a way of communicating with customer service departments.

    What really bugs me, as I’m sure it does you, is that loyal customers are nearly always penalised with higher premiums. Probably because the companies think we won’t want the hassle of shopping around for better rates.

    Customer service still has a long way to go in most organisations!


    • Hi Louise,
      Thanks for your comment and well said by you too. I always find it surprising when something like this happens and it makes me realise (like you have) that putting service, a service mentality and the customer at the heart of your business does not happen for many organisations as much as they talk about it and we really do still have a long way to go.



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  • Hi Adrian
    I think this post does a good job of highlighting the behaviour we’d prefer – which is that loyal customers should be rewarded not punished.

    You also have a good solution – if customer acquisition is 6-8 times as expensive as customer retention, then the money spent on sales and marketing to fill the sales funnel could better be spent on keeping premiums keen for loyal customers…without reducing long term profitability (though it can impact short term cashflow).

    I know the pressures in large companies, I have experienced them first hand. I know it is (almost) impossible for them to switch tactics and so this has become the de facto business model for mobile phones, utilities, insurance…there is no shortage of companies who should be named and shamed.

    I wonder if the answer might be to trumpet the good examples and reward the suppliers who reciprocate their customers’ loyalty? For my part I am now a strong proponent of GiffGaff for mobiles. It’s early days but EDF have so far pleasantly surprised me with their pro-active communications on pricing and better customer service responsiveness than their reputation had led me to expect. I don’t yet have a candidate for insurance.

    • Hi Guy,
      Thanks for your comment. I think you are right that we should have a balance of naming and shaming the poor performers and trumpeting the stand out performers.

      If you can think of no stand out performers in the insurance market then that sounds like an opportunity to me.


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